Low Cost Gift Games that Maximize Fun

By | 2016-12-12

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us, its time for the late season shoppers to get out and help the US stack on some more consumer debt. WalletHub is projecting that the US will  “end 2016 with a net increase of roughly $80 billion in credit card debt.” If you still have some shopping to do, but don’t want to assist your fellow American with hitting that number, you are in luck. Here are some Low Cost Gift Giving Games that Maximize Fun.

Mrs. AE and I have 3 sides to our family due to a divorce and re-marry, and if we did full gift exchanges for every side we would be spending a ton of money over the holidays. Thankfully we have worked in some really fun traditions over the years that reduce the cost.

Honestly, if I had it my way, we wouldn’t do much for gifts and would book a mini-vacation with each part of our family. A few weekends at a cabin over the summer spending time together sounds a lot better than having other people guess what I would spend money on. But I am not in charge and tend to roll with the punches over the holidays.

My favorite low cost Holiday Games

Dice Game:

This is my personal favorite and one I look forward to playing every year.

Cost: $10-25/Per Person

Materials: 2 containers (we use pie tins) and 4 dice (you can tweak the number of dice/containers to fit your family size)

Setup: Each person brings 10 inexpensive wrapped gifts (usually $1-$5) that get put in a big pile in the middle of the circle. Start the dice on opposite sides of the circle, and each player rolls two dice. If you get doubles you get to grab a gift from the middle of the pile. Continue rolling until all the gifts have been claimed.

Next, everyone unwraps the gifts and then shows everyone the items they have so far. We then set a timer for 7 minutes and start rolling dice again. If you roll doubles you get to steal the unwrapped gift from anyone in the circle. Gifts can be stole as many times as possible.

As soon as the 7 minutes are up, whatever is in front of you is yours. At this point the trading starts, and people generally end up with some items they had their eye on.

Common gifts

 Tupperware, chapstick, candy, hand tools, slippers/socks, lotion, dish towels etc…. Some people find some good gifts on clearance that would normally cost over the $5 max. My grandpa, who probably forgot he was supposed to get gifts in advance, would always wrap lottery tickets in newspaper. The ultimate last minute gas station gift master.

We have about 20 people when we play this game, so there is a pretty impressive pile of gifts in the middle of the group. At first only the parents would buy the gifts, but as we got older all the kids started bringing them. After a few years we know what candies and items people steal and start to form some strategies.

If you want to make it really interesting you can throw a few $20 gift cards in the mix for some extra stealing fun.

Secret Santa with a Twist

Instead of parents buying all their nieces and nephews individual gifts, about 10 years ago we started doing a secret santa between the cousins. To put a little twist on the traditional secret santa game and make it a little more interesting we decided to pick a new theme every year at Thanksgiving.

Themes have ranged from specific colors to gifts from other countries. It brings in some creativity and gets people thinking about the items they are buying. I have a feeling if we didn’t do this it would be last minute gift cards and vikings T-Shirts.

Every year someone decides to take it a step further and buy a gag gift to get some laughs. The year before Mrs AE and I got married, the theme was “yellow” and my younger brother got me 20 lemons, a pitcher and a sign that said “Weddings are expensive, buy some lemonade.”

Cost: $20-$25 per person

The Classic “White Elephant” Game

We do a White Elephant gift swap every year with one side of Mrs. AE’s family. It has escalated into a – “who can find the most ridiculous gift” exchange over the years. We keep our eyes open and make a few thrift store shops to see if there are any gems hanging out.

Its standard practice to wear any clothing items you end up with to christmas the next year. Pretty sure I will be in a pug print T-Shirt this year.

We try to stay away from re-gifting to make sure the items are new every year.

Cost: Under $10

Do you have any fun games/family traditions that out a unique spin on gift giving?

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14 thoughts on “Low Cost Gift Games that Maximize Fun

  1. Miss Mazuma

    Fun! Love your quirky secret Santa! I have a large family too so we’ve paired down the gifts over the years…smell ya later, cousins! We only gift to immediate family now. 🙂

    My moms side does a grab bag every year. $15 gift wrapped. We put them all on the table and pick numbers. 1 for each gift. Then number one opens a gift. #2 can open a new one or steal #1. This continues until the last gift is opened. It gets intense!! 25 Italians around a table yelling at each other. It’s awesome!

    My dads side doesn’t white elephant. One year I picked I unwrapped 3 toothpicks…still not sure if they were used or not. 😉

    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      haha, the one that that is difficult to control is the volume while playing games – loud families getting excited creates even louder families.

      Appreciate the comment!

  2. Amanda @ centsiblyrich

    Great ideas! Love the secret Santa gift exchange idea!

    I always like White Elephant gift exchanges, particularly when the gifts are “creative”…the more ridiculous, the better, in my opinion.

    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      100% agreed, ridiculous gifts make everything better

  3. [email protected]

    Interesting ideas! The dice one sounds like it would be fun for a group of kids. I wish my family did something like a white elephant or something else like it. It would be fun and take some of the gift-giving pressure away!

    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      The dice game is awesome and we have a lot of adults turning into “big” kids during that game.

      Taking the pressure off makes me real happy

  4. Mustard Seed Money

    White elephants are always a blast. Recently I came across a card game called Exploding Kittens and my family loves to play it. It cost us $15 on Black Friday and it’s definitely low cost but really a blast to play. Thanks for sharing all your ideas!!!

    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      I will have to check it out – we usually stick with the basic card games (Pinochle and Cribbage) but like branching out

  5. ChooseBetterLife

    These sound like fun and would be worth it for the entertainment value alone.

    For the gifts, though, we’re trying to declutter and really don’t want anything. I went to a gift exchange with friends last weekend and truly didn’t want ANYTHING that was there. I brought home a gift and will donate it, but at least it was a fun morning with some lovely ladies.

    I actually brought lottery tickets to the exchange- consumables or items that can be used up won’t clutter up your home or give you guilt thinking you have to keep them forever.

  6. Ty

    I love a good white elephant exchange! I’ve walked away from a few where my stomach hurt from all of the laughing.

    Our family always does a BINGO game where grandma and grandpa dumb little gifts for everyone — those gifts can be stolen 2 x though (like a white elephant). The competitiveness that comes out in a BINGO game is always pretty funny.

    Last year, my siblings and I all drew names with only two rules … a gift couldn’t cost more than $25 and it HAD to come from a yard sale or thrift shop. That was pretty fun, but somehow we failed to follow up and do it again this year. Kinda bummed.

  7. Gwen @ Fiery Millennials

    My friends and I do a “WTF for $1” White Elephant gift exchange. The challenge is to find the most bizarre, creepy, WTF item throughout the year for $1 or under. This year I will be contributing a nicely framed Barbie picture (free from Airbnb host) and a cross-eyed, half burnt Santa candle (free from a garage sale). I’m pretty sure I’m going to win. Last year I ended up with goat/unicorn bookends.

  8. Andrew

    Great ideas. I really love the dice game, it sounds so much fun! I’ll see if anyone wants to do that this year haha!


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