Have a large extended family that buys gifts for everyone? Does it cause stress and overwhelm to your sanity and your budget? The Gift Exchange Game will eliminate that stress, but add loads of laughs, smiles, and memories to your next holiday gathering.
I belong to many frugal living Facebook groups and so often people rant about how expensive and overwhelming gift giving can be for the extended family. Group members ask for advice on how to bring up the topic with their family members who are expecting an exchange of gifts with everyone in the family. They want to celebrate Christmas with their families, but feel pressure to buy gifts for everyone, and often, they simply can’t afford it.
Family budgets can get strained this time of year, and this pressure to make other family members happy ends up making some people really stressed. And nobody wants to feel like the Grinch.
Years ago, my extended family decided to play a gift exchange game. It has turned out to be the highlight of everyone’s Christmas and has become a beloved tradition. Instead of buying gifts for EVERYONE, each participating person brings just one gift. For example, my family of 4 takes 4 gifts to the exchange.
The first year we had this gift exchange, everyone was really polite, but now it has turned into a game of belly laughs and gift snatching! It turns out poppy has no problem snatching a gift right out of his granddaughter’s sweet hands. And I may or may not have taken a coveted Chick-fil-A gift card from my grandmother! And we’re not a mean bunch, I promise you, but everyone leaves the gathering giggling from the thievery.
The Gift Exchange Game Rules:
Gift exchanges, also known as Yankee or White Elephant exchange, can be any type of gift (see theme ideas below), and when things get rolling, the exchange becomes more about the game and less about the gift.
Start by choosing a theme. Some ideas:
- New gifts/gift cards
- Handmade gifts
- Thrift store finds
- Gifts of food/baked goods
- Unused items from your home
Set some guidelines:
- Choose a dollar minimum/limit. The gifts don’t have to be expensive to be fun and often times hilarious.
- Gifts should be wrapped.
- As guests arrive, have them place their gifts in a central location.
- Determine the gift- snatching choosing order. Once you know how many people are participating, write their names on small pieces of paper and place it in a hat or bowl. Choose one person to start the game by pulling the first name from the hat. Other ways: go in birth order, birthdate order, height order, etc.
- Start playing! Once you determine the first person (and they actually have the best position), they choose a gift from the pile. They open the gift for everyone to see and then pull the next person’s name from the hat. The next person has the opportunity to take the first person’s gift OR choose from the pile. This continues until the last person’s name is picked. At the very end, the FIRST person can decide to either keep their gift OR snatch the final gift of the game.
- There are a few crucial rules: You can’t snatch your gift back. Also, you should put a limit on how many people can steal a gift before someone has to pick from the pile, otherwise the snatching takes over the game and the game lasts forever. We learned this from experience when one particular gift kept going back and forth before we had to stop the game and create the rule. We limit 2 steals before someone has to pick from pile. Of course, you can also make up your own crazy rules too.
How to Bring Up the Subject with Family
If large gift exchanges are stressful to you, and more than your budget can handle, you MUST be honest with your family. I’m blown away when I hear people are afraid to approach this subject with their family–the people they are the closest to. There just might be other family members who feel the same way, so be honest with your family and suggest The Gift Exchange Game. It’s a fun way to still have gift giving at your Christmas gathering, but keep your costs down.
How does your family handle gift giving? Do you give to everyone in the family, or do you have some type of gift exchange? Let us know your family’s traditions in the comments.
Related Reading: 10 Frugal Christmas Party Ideas