14 Great White Elephant Gifts Under $20

White elephant gift-giving can be an entertaining addition to almost any type of celebration or event, from a corporate holiday party to a baby shower. Or a white elephant swap can be an epic failure. In case you’re unclear about what a white elephant exchange is, it’s kind of like a Secret Santa swap. Each guest brings a wrapped gift priced under a certain dollar amount (in this case, white elephant gifts $20 and under) and puts it in a central location like on a table. There is no “from” tag on the gift, so the exchange is anonymous – at least in theory.

In turn, each guest unwraps a randomly selected gift and shows the other guests. The next person in line can either steal that gift or select a different wrapped gift from the table. When guests get their unwrapped gift stolen, they opt to unwrap a new gift or steal someone else’s. Usually, swaps are limited to two, so no brawls break out over a coffee mug. In the end, everyone gets a random object, and laughs and tears abound.

The colloquialism “white elephant” refers to an unwanted burden that is difficult to dispose of. And in today’s age of rampant consumerism, no one wants any more junk to regift or throw away secretly. So, why not bring a white elephant gift that the recipient will feel lucky to have secured? Here’s a list of 14 items that guests will adore – all for less than $20 each at the time of this writing. With each item is a Peerspace venue, in case you’re looking for venues to exchange gifts.

1. Deck of helpful community cards – $12

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Uncommon Goods is a great site to start looking for gifts in all price ranges. Independent artisans around the world make all the items available for sale. This attractive deck of 100 cards suggests ways that anyone can help their community, like pick up litter or check in on a lonely neighbor. It’s both an inspirational and inspired white elephant gift.

2. Optimistic notebook – $12

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Analog is back with a vengeance and working from home is all the rage. This optimistic notebook is a perfect white elephant gift for any recipient who wants to write stuff down by hand while staying positive. The cover reads “What’s the BEST that can happen?” and at a white elephant exchange, receiving this notebook from Society6 just might be the answer.

3. Bali teak spoons – $18

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UNICEF is an international organization that helps needful children in various capacities around the world. The organization’s online and brick-and-mortar markets sell items sourced from artisans who generally live in impoverished conditions. Proceeds from each sale go to various charitable endeavors and help support the artists. For example, anyone at a white elephant exchange would be happy to receive these teak iced teaspoons from Bali. Bonus: gift wrapping is usually free.

4. Virtuous face masks – $15

1800 SqFt SKYLIT Gallery ART STUDIO Event Space los angeles rental
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Face masks don’t appear to be going anywhere any time soon, so you might as well gift one that makes folks as happy as possible. Luckily designers are creating new styles seemingly every second, so there’s no shortage of cool face masks to be found. Check out Tonlé’s zero-waste reusable masks that come in pretty patterns printed on linen and cotton for a thoughtful white elephant present.

5. Wash your hands of it – $20

Downtown Farmhouse Bohemian Bathroom with Bathtub los angeles rental
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DoneGood is a certified B Corporation that prioritizes environmentally and socially conscious finds over profit. Any guest at a white elephant would appreciate this assorted hand soap collection that comes in right under the price limit. There are hundreds of other giftable items at that price point on the website; check it out and get inspired.

6. Succulent sprouter – $17

east austin urban plant shop austin rental
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Plants are cool. You can’t go wrong by gifting a plant grow kit, especially if it matures into something as special as a prickly pear cactus. Visit Verishop, a single-stop source for all kinds of responsible brands doing right in the world, and scoop up this terracotta cactus kit or something equally interesting in the right price range.

7. Local foodie’s gift card

Neighborhood Garden Cafe for Events chicago rental
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Perhaps the best white elephant gift is one that allows the recipient to shop or dine locally. Go by the local gastropub, coffee shop, ice cream parlor, or food truck and grab a $20 gift card for the swap. It’s a win for the business and for whoever’s lucky – or determined – enough to secure it at the party.

8. Delightful candle – $20

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Candles might be the white elephant equivalent of hummus at a potluck – super predictable and played out. But a fine, upscale candle that provides some charitable benefit? That’s another story. Check out the variety at Society B, another responsible website that gives 10 percent of every purchase to charity. This one comes in right at the maximum price point and looks like it smells delicious.

9. Books

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By giving a local bookstore gift certificate, you’re also giving the recipient the chance to take a little time for themselves to meander through the stacks. It might have been a long time since they were treated to a nice read. That $20 goes farther than you might think when it’s spent on good books.

10. Admit 2

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In most US markets, two tickets to the local independent movie theater come in at just about $20. Let the lucky recipient take a date – or see a double feature – by presenting them with two tickets to a film. Alternatively, grab tix for them to go to a museum or other local attraction they might not have otherwise visited.

11. Lottery tickets

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Gifting $20 worth of scratch-off lottery tickets is always an intelligent move. It could make you the most popular white elephant partygoer in history, should the recipient win big.

12. Not Just Any Socks – $16

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These organic, vegan one-size-fits-most socks crafted in India are part of Ten Thousand Villages’ mission to aid Oxfam, which provides relief for natural disaster victims. Ten Thousand Villages supports nearly as many causes as its name indicates. And these socks are just one of the hundreds of great white elephant gift ideas for less than $20 on the site.

13. Funny or … why?

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If you’re lucky enough to have a white elephant party crew with a sense of humor, just head straight over to Always Fits. Sort the items by price, find that $20 maximum, and enjoy yourself. You’re sure to find such gift gems as this compendium of modern slang book for $14 and this $17 flour sack dish towel that every busy person can relate to. No cheap-o gag gifts here – just the cream of the crop when it comes to curating witty presents.

14. Gourmet picnic bag

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Groceries don’t have to cost a billion dollars to be upscale. You can create a lovely food gift basket or bag for less than $20. Try the well-loved Mediterranean route by including a small assortment of cheeses, a nice loaf of bread, and some imported olives. Or gather chips and hot sauces for a mini-Mexican appetizer feast. Be creative with a savory assortment, maybe some mustard and capers and cornichons, or go sweet with pastry and chocolates.

A white elephant gift under $20 doesn’t need to be a tacky throwaway tchotchke. And frankly, no one needs another prefab ceramic coffee mug – they just don’t. You might as well use this list and then have fun watching the other guests fight over the present only you know you brought. And get another one for yourself!

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