White Elephant Gift Ideas: Under $25 for coworkers or friends

I recently participated in a White Elephant with my coworkers, and wanted to share a review of the gifts that were shared, including what was popular and what wasn't. Virtual White Elephants are a bit tougher due to the additional contention of shipping, so this selection of items takes that into account for those looking for good ideas that won't break $25:

Practical Gifts

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most popular / stolen gifts all had a practical lean to them. Below are some practical gift options that received a lot of attention:

Lululemon Power Stride Crew Sock Wool or unbranded option here  - for those runners or walkers in the group. Sounds like a joke, but no, serious exercisers in cold climates know how important warm socks are!

Cast iron pans  - with everyone at home cooking, these were a popular budget option, especially for younger folks who may be stocking their kitchen for the first time. Note that I definitely recommend going no larger than 10 inches for a cast iron, as they get really unwieldy and tough to use and clean due to the weight of anything larger

Hario Cold Brew maker  - this wound up being my win! Can't go wrong with anything coffee themed at this time, especially a Hario Cold Brew Pot. Or if you have more budget you can treat the person to the instagrammable Blue Bottle version of this

Wine glasses  - I know I need a nice set of wine glasses (especially with how often I break mine); these were my original pick during the White Elephant, but alas they quickly got stolen!

Brumate Insulated Can CoolerBrumate is having quite a trendy year, and can't go wrong with this

Brumate wine tumbler / - You can either get one of their iconic wine coolers, or frankly a set is more preferable for most (for people to drink together!)

Glass decanter  - I know I'm on a bit of a drinks theme, but hey this is classy looking and useful for any home!

Cocktail maker set  - My last drink-themed gift- a classic white elephant gift, and always useful 

Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker  - this is probably an internet sensation for a reason. Ended up being surprisingly popular!

Popcorn popper  - Apparently a useful item to have at home, especially if you have kids

myQ Smart Garage Door Opener  - this is only $30 right now (in fact I just got one for myself), and if you input a code once you install you'll get a $30 credit on in-garage deliveries by Amazon. It's compatible with most garage door openers manufactured after 1993 (you can check the list in the description). Generally there should be a colored "Learn" button on the back panel of your garage door opener.

Decorative / Fun Gifts

Now that we're done with the practical gifts, let's discuss some more whimsical / fun gifts that will also be popular:

New Yorker Jigsaw puzzle  - this was a popular choice, because it combines an activity with a very aesthetically pleasing design (New Yorker covers always look classy). Amazon has a wide selection available.

A coffee table book: New York City on Instagram

Books are always a popular treat, as most people will be in need of a good book over the holidays. You can use this as a chance to support emerging authors as well as your local bookstores. Generally any critically acclaimed novel or best seller will be a popular choice!

I've heard so many rave reviews about Pachinko, and especially with none other than Lee Min Ho confirmed to star in the Apple TV+ I couldn't be more excited. Seriously can't wait.

Girl, Woman, Other - have heard good things about this as well

Set of indoor plants or a classy plant holder - everyone's looking to spruce up their place, and now we all have time to raise some oxygen-giving plants.

Himalayan salt lamp - another item I wish I'd thought of. I would personally love one to provide ambiance and positive ions in my home.

Moon Lamp: This was a novel concept to me, but it actually is a pretty great product. Not only is it educational (allowing you to see the surface of the moon) but it's also useful for providing a lovely low-lit ambiance.

Watercolor pens / felt tips for taking colorful notes - Honestly I wish I'd thought of this as my White Elephant gift. I personally would love to receive an artsy pen set, which can come in handy both for my own fun, for kids, or even more practically for diligent note taking if you're a student.

Scratch-off art mini notes - admittedly I personally was not excited by this (and it wasn't a super popular item, hence it going on the bottom of this list), but I could see this being a fun pick for parents. 

Gift cards - Bath & Body Works - I generally recommend against giftcards as you don't want to be that boring person, BUT giftcards are always a true hit because they are guaranteed use. Last year an Amazon giftcard was particularly popular, and this year someone gifted a Bath & Body Works one, which actually feels pretty useful given their beautiful selection of sanitizers and soaps (very timely).

Disappointing gifts (DO NOT GET THESE)

You never want to be the person who's gift gets met with a reluctant sigh, so here are the categories I'd stay away from 

Anything too novelty - e.g., Cocoa tea - things that may seem cute and trendy, but ask yourself if most people actually would enjoy and want this item.

Debatable usability - e.g., Productivity planners or journals - the productivity planner was actually my gift this year, after watching too many YouTube videos on planning and journaling. Boy was it the subject of jokes galore. Being as all of our work is online these days, few people would likely spend the time on a physical planner. So yeah next year I'll be staying away from non-electronic planners or other products!

Super useless / weird - Potato lamp - I think this guy was trending on several white elephant lists, because sure enough he made it into our party. And wow is Urban Outfitters taking advantage - 2 days ago this guy was $14 (I had considered it myself) and now it's a whapping $22! Talk about a rip-off. I just think there's better things you can get people for the cost, although it is a sweet looking gift

Ceramic match striker - this was the gift I almost got, but pawned off. Same comments apply. Unless you're a heavy cigar smoker or candle user who also doesn't have a lighter, there's really no scenario where I can think of a use for this. It's one of those instagrammable things that don't hold water in real life

Alright that was it! I hope this sparked ideas and inspiration! 


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