Yankee Swap – What It Is
Every year our family does a “Yankee Swap” gift exchange for our holiday party. For those of you who haven’t heard of a “Yankee Swap” (also sometimes called “White Elephant”), there are a few different variations of how it can work, but essentially everybody purchases a gift within a specified price range (typically -30). When you are ready to start the exchange, all of the wrapped gifts are placed in the center of the room. Everybody then picks a number out of a hat, bowl or bag. The person who chooses #1 will choose a gift from the pile, and will open it in plain view of everybody. After person #1 has opened their gift, person #2 picks a wrapped gift. They can then choose to keep that gift or take the gift that person #1 has opened. After person #2 has finished, person #3 then takes a wrapped gift, and can choose to keep the gift or take a wrapped gift from person #1 or #2. This continues until all of the gifts have been distributed. At the end, person #1 (the lucky number), then gets to make a final decision to keep his/her gift or to take somebody else’s gift. The swap then ends.
What to bring: As you can probably imagine, it is ideal to bring a gift that is desireable, useful and funny. This can sometimes be difficult when working within a small budget of -30. We usually end up running around making a “last minute” purchase for the Yankee Swap, which can be stressful. For those of you needing some help, here are some ideas:
1. Tool Bucket Organizer: This is probably my favorite gift that we purchased. It is a 5 gallon bucket with a tool belt organizer. Bucket Boss makes a wide variety of these organizers, and they range in price from -50, depending on how fancy you want the organizer. You will just need to purchase a 5 gallon bucket and the organizer, and if you have extra money to spend, you can also purchase tools for the bucket (or a gift card for your local home improvement store). You can find a bunch of the tool organizers at the following website: http://www.constructiongear.com/bucket-boss-bucket-tool-organizers.html
2. Gift Cards w/a funny gift attached: The advantage of giving a gift card is that it is easy, but the disadvantages are (1) it is somewhat boring and (2) it is lightweight and small, and therefore needs to be wrapped in a manner that makes it look desireable for somebody to choose from the pile. In order to make it less boring, you should also include an inexpensive and funny novelty or gag gift. You can find a bunch on http://www.prankplace.com or http://www.stupid.com. In order to make the packaging look more appealing, you can put it in a larger box/bag with weights. We have purchased gift cards for gas stations, liquor stores, home improvement stores and restaurants. I once included a “flying monkey” toy that was purchased from “Bed, Bath and Beyond,” which provided hours of entertainment during the remainder of the holiday party.
3. Wine/Liquor: You can never go wrong with wine/alcohol, but the problem of giving this gift is that it seems like EVERYBODY brings wine or a bottle of liquor because it is easy. If you are going to purchase wine or liquor for the exchange, I would recommend making the gift unique by attaching something special such as wine glasses, a flask, bottle opener, etc.
4. Gift Basket: This takes some work, but can be a great gift. To make it more simple, I would recommend creating a “gift bag” from your local natural and organic grocery store such as Whole Foods or Trader Joes. You can simply buy a reuseable grocery bag for .00, and then fill it up with delicious gourmet treats such as dry pastas, sauces and desserts.
5. Three Wolf Moon T-Shirt: For anybody looking to purchase the most popular t-shirt sold on amazon.com (which has become a sensation, and was recently worn by Dwight Schrute during the Wedding episode of “The Office”), I would highly recommend purchasing the “Three Wolf Moon T-Shirt” made by The Mountain. In fact, this is what I am planning to purchase this year as my Yankee Swap gift (I am going to buy an x-large — which should fit most of the crowd). Here is the link for the t-shirt on amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Mountain-Mens-Three-Short-Sleeve/dp/B002HJ377A/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
6. Coffee Lovers Delight: Most coffee lovers enjoy Starbucks coffee, so you can make an easy “coffee package” by purchasing a gift certificate for Starbucks, and then including mug(s) and a bag of coffee.
7. Fruitcake: This is a gift that can be passed along for generations, and regifted at many following Yankee Swaps. You just might want to include a more “serious” gift (such as a gift card or something else).
8. Kitchen Items: An assortment of small kitchen items (such as vegetable peelers, knives, measuring cups, etc.) can make a great gift. To wrap them, try using a nice looking dish towel.
Finally, on one last note, you might consider having a nontraditional Yankee Swap this year. Rather than spending -30, you can have a “junk swap” by swapping an item from your house that you want to get rid of (foot soaker, old salad spinner, awful lamp). You can then take the money you were going to spend, and have everybody provide a -30 check to be donated to a local community organization. The “payee” line on the checks can be left blank, and the organization can be chosen during the party by having everybody’s name put into a hat, and the person whose name is drawn can choose the organization.