Think Outside the (Gift) Box: 5 Unique Ways to Give Presents

published Dec 1, 2016
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(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

When it comes to doing gift exchanges, you know the standard options—Secret Santa and White Elephant exchanges are fun ways to celebrate the holidays with friends, coworkers and family, but you’ve probably done them dozens of times. If you’re in want of a more creative way to give gifts this year, here are a few ways you can liven things up a little, while still giving fun, thoughtful gifts to your friends and loved ones.

Choose a theme

A super easy way to spice up the gift exchange process is to throw in a theme for the gifts you buy—and there’s no limit to what you can do with it. You can buy gifts based on color, utility, pop culture references, inside jokes, and more. Pick something that’s both fun and practical—don’t pick a theme that will be too challenging to actually shop for, or that will result in a bunch of gag gifts you’ll never use—so you can all get the most out of the exchange.

Shop together (with a limit)

This works best for one-on-one exchanges, but if you and a loved one don’t know what to get each other, you can combat that by setting a price limit that you’re both comfortable with, and going shopping together—your gifts won’t be a surprise, but you’ll have fun picking things out together, and you’ll get to spend more quality time together during the holidays (which is really the best gift anyway, right?). Plus, you’ll both end up with gifts that you actually want and will use, no returns necessary.

Have a DIY gift party

A fun way to exchange gifts with a group of friends, especially if you and your friends are crafty, is to throw a DIY gift party—have everyone bring in supplies for making gifts (think things like photo books, jewelry, etc.) and work on them together. Much like going shopping together, your gifts won’t be a surprise, but you’ll get to spend way more time with your friends and create thoughtful gifts they’ll love. Bonus: You might also learn how to do a new DIY project you didn’t know you needed in your life.

Do a secret book exchange

This works well whether you’re exchanging gifts with close loved ones or people you don’t know, but it’s a lot like the concept of “blind date books.” (If you’re unfamiliar, it’s when bookstores wrap books in paper and give only a few clues to what they’re about, so you can’t “judge a book by its cover.”) Have everyone participating in the gift exchange buy a book that they love or think is interesting, wrap it, and write a couple of clues on the paper or in an attached card as to what the book is about. How you exchange them is up to you, but you have options (for example, you can number the books and have people pick corresponding numbers out of a hat).

Give to give back

It’s not so much of a game like some of the other suggestions on this list, but getting a group of friends or loved ones to agree to forego gifts and instead making donations to charities and organizations they care about on their behalf is a thoughtful and generous way to give back while you give. Instead of worrying about shopping for or making gifts, everyone in the group can get together, pick a person (you can draw from a hat, like in Secret Santa) to donate for and a set amount to give—find out an organization or cause they’re passionate about, and donate to that organization on their behalf.