gift exchange friends

Looking for fresh inspiration for giving to friends? Try a gift exchange this Christmas season! Here are some tips from Josie Ortega that will help you pitch the idea to your friends.

Before Oprah created shopping frenzies with her annual Favorite Things show, Julie Andrews sang about “Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens.” And today, the Favorite Things concept has taken on yet another life of its own in the form of the gift exchange.

Gift Exchanges

Organized gift exchanges offer a great way to cut down on the stress and expense of finding gifts for everyone in a group. Instead of purchasing for each and every family member or coworker, you might draw names for something like Secret Santa or Secret Angel. Then you’re responsible for only one person’s gift.

My mom’s book club has enjoyed their ornament swap for many years running. And once, during our family’s Dirty Santa gift exchange – also known as Yankee Swap in some regions – the intensity rose to a level at which, somehow, the trunk of a decorative wooden elephant punched my younger brother in the face.

My latest preference is the Favorite Things gift exchange, which need not get so heated. It’s perfect for a handful of friends to enjoy time together, while still bagging fun new goodies.

How-To: Favorite Things Gift Exchange

Here’s how it worked for me. We regularly get together with three other families—basically our Urban Family. The moms in the group scheduled our own time for holiday festivities, and agreed to make it a Favorite Things gift exchange for the second year in a row.

The four of us each began thinking about small items that we’ve loved this year, little things that make life better.

We chose a dollar limit, maybe $10 or even $5. (Gifts for three close friends for $15? A total bargain.)

I bought three of the same item—no need to tax our Mom Brains with creative individualized gifts—and wrapped them.

At our gift exchange, we took turns opening one friend’s presents all at the same time, while the gift giver explained why she chose that item and why she loves it.

Each of us left with three special little treats, plus the joy of hanging out together, and maybe even learning something new about what makes our friends tick.

Gift Exchange: Give Me The Good Stuff

Still wondering what this actually looks like?

Here are the favorites we brought to the table this year:

  • From the fun Bachelor/-ette fan: blue nail polish wonderfully named “Fantasy Suite.”
  • From the hydrated friend: a colorful tumbler to get our “bevy-train “ going.  [My beverage train: coffee to LaCroix to wine . . . what’s yours?]
  • From the stylish friend: a trendy leather cuff that goes with everything.
  • From the Nun in Another Life: a sand timer. [Excellent for meditation, or kid timeouts.]

Other gift exchange ideas might include: a great chapstick, lotion, a candle, trendy hair ties, an awesome pen, earrings, paper clips, chocolates. These ideas are similar to what you might put in a stocking or Easter basket. But with the added benefit that they’ve been tested and tried and found to be, in fact, someone’s Favorite Thing.

If you’re wondering whether this gift exchange idea only applies to the ladies, there’s no need for limitations! The husbands in our group came up with their particular version. Everyone brings a six-pack of beer; they trade them around; go home with a variety pack.

Honestly, the wives spend a much longer time chatting about our selections that the husbands do. What’s more important is that we laugh together and enjoy learning what each friend loves.

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