Have you ever been to a Yankee Swap party?  (You might call it a White Elephant exchange or Dirty Santa.)  You show up with a gift and wind up with a random gift from someone else.

There always seems to be one gift that is fought over.  The gift that appeals to everyone.  It’s fun to be the winner who brings home the coveted gift.  But it’s also fun to be the one who brought the gift that’s sought after.



Truthfully, having a list of cheap gift ideas that appeal to a wide variety of people is handy for a lot of reasons.  Teachers, coworkers, coaches, and whoever else you’d like to show appreciation to (without breaking the bank).

You can go for the usual gifts such as candles, body wash, and blankets.  But if you’re concerned that your giftee already has too many of those things, here’s a list of inexpensive gifts you can try this year.

14 Cheap Christmas Gift Ideas They’ll Love

14 Cheap Gift Ideas Guaranteed to Be Winners. Need cheap gift ideas for your Yankee Swap, Dirty Santa, White Elephant, or whatever you call it? These gifts also work for teachers, coworkers, or anyone you want to show some appreciation to (without going into debt). Some different ideas here.

Lotto Tickets

You can spend a little or spend a bit more.  Give them multiple chances to hit it big.  If they win?  Best gift ever!  If it’s a losing ticket, it hits the trash can (rather than becoming more clutter).

Car Kit

There are many ways you can go with this one.

  • Give them a basket of car cleaners to spiff up their drive.
  • Make a bag of items that would be needed in an emergency (a small flashlight, hand warmers, granola bars, a 99 cent poncho).
  • Tools that would be handy to keep in the car for small repairs.

Box of Teas

Pull together a box of teas.  Use a variety of flavors or choose teas with benefits such as stress relief or sore throats.

Get details here.

Frugal Gift Idea: A Box of Teas


Unless you know your giftee really well, you might not be able to choose an actual book that fits their taste.  But there are plenty of other options that appeal to a wide audience.

You’ll find coloring books geared towards people of every age and interest.  My own children prefer activity books (such as dot to dots or mazes).  Mad Libs, sudoku, logic puzzles, crossword puzzles…there are plenty of options out there.

Live Plants

The gloomy days of January make the cheer of a living plant even better.  Even people with a brown thumb will enjoy a small plant or flower for their window sill.  If your giftee is notorious for killing plants, opt for fresh cut flowers.

Christmas cookies

Gifts from the Chef

Are you great in the kitchen?  People love home baked goods.  A plate of cookies can be nice.  But keep in mind that some people have reached their fill of cookies by Christmas.  A special treat of caramel corn or puppy chow can be a nice change.  Or bring out your own specialty!


You can find board games on sale at great prices this time of year.  For extra fun, get a game that the whole group can enjoy playing.  Catchphrase is a lot of fun.

Specialized T-shirts

Who doesn’t love being part of a good inside joke?  Find a specialty t-shirt that matches a favorite hobby or subject of your gift recipient.  Baseballism sells some great shirts for the baseball lover in your life.

You’ll also find a ton of options for everything from “Moms” to “firefighters” to “29-year-olds” (wink, wink) at Teespring.

Lawn Ornaments

At a white elephant party I attended, there was a garden gnome based on Duck Dynasty.  It was a unique item based on a popular show.  Everyone wanted it!  Consider lawn ornaments or desktop decor for your gift idea.  Look for something featuring a heavily favored local sports team or a well-loved character.

Alcohol, If Reasonable

Alcoholic gifts are only an option if you are 110% confident that the entire crowd will be receptive.  This can go bad very quickly.  On the job or in the schools is risky.  Unless you work in a “Mad Men” style office, don’t risk your job.

Otherwise, I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.

Make a Mix

You’ve seen all the varieties of gifts in a jar.  You can also set up mixes in cones for some variety.  Check out ideas on Pinterest.  Give the gift of cookies they can make later (after they’ve detoxed from a sugary December).  Or try a soup mix for something different.

Cheap Gift Ideas: Buy Them Dinner Buy Them Dinner

Don’t worry.  I remember that this is “Cheap Gift Ideas”.  I’m not asking you to buy them dinner at a fancy restaurant, or even a gift card.  What if you gave them a basket filled with groceries ready to go on a busy night?  Spaghetti, sauce, and a corn bread mix would be frugal, but nice to have on hand.

Pre-Care Kit

Winter is also cold and flu season.  Put together a small care package that they can keep on hand in case they take home more than just presents.  An ice pack (I love this old school style ice pack), a can of chicken noodle soup, soft tissues, mints, and a magazine.

Holiday Decor

To me, it’s a downer to get Christmas items as a Christmas gift.  Unless I’m getting it several weeks in advance, I’m always bummed that I’ll have to wait a whole year to use it.

But if the person you’re giving to loves the holidays, they’d probably enjoy something new to display for Valentine’s Day.  Or St. Patrick’s Day.  Something they’ll be able to use soon-ish.

I don’t want to tell you that I saw Valentine’s Day decorations at the store several days before Christmas last year (but it’s totally true).  Another option is to check out the clearance on these items this year and keep them on hand for gifting next year.

These cheap gift ideas will simplify your gift giving this year.

Make them feel appreciated without going into debt to do it.  And who knows?  Maybe they’ll fight over your gift this year.

You’ll also want to check out these simple DIY gift ideas:

9 Ideas for totally doable DIY Christmas gifts for family. A variety of ideas that just about anyone can handle making on their own!

My popular series, 7 Ways to Pile Up Christmas Money has lots of tips for finding cash for gifts.

No Money for Christmas? 7 Ways to Pile Up Christmas Money

What’s the best cheap gift idea you’ve ever been given?

14 Cheap Gift Ideas Guaranteed to Be Winners
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14 Cheap Gift Ideas Guaranteed to Be Winners
Do you need cheap gift ideas for your Christmas party? Maybe for coworkers, teachers, or friends? Don't go into debt to fund Christmas this year.
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