It’s that time of year when gift exchange ideas are in high demand; however, we have learned in our tea club community that having gift exchanges throughout the year is a wonderful way to learn more about someone else in your tribe and to be surprised with a small treat.
Sometimes, gift exchanges that are meant to be fun end up marred by the stress of trying to choose a gift, or the disappointment of everyone just trading “junk” gifts (you know the ones… from the discount aisle at the drugstore). I’m not judging those gifts — there are some gems in those aisles! — nor am I off-putting participation of a gift swap due to budget concerns.
Instead, I want you to think differently about organizing the gift exchange in the first place. Here are four of my favorite gift swap concepts that you can try instead.
1. A Journal Swap
I heard about this idea from our journaling expert podcast guest, Andrea Leda. It’s such a wonderful idea! Here’s how it works: Each gift swap participant purchases a blank journal for their swap partner; perhaps they know their exchange mate draws a lot, so they get a bigger journal with blank pages, or perhaps you know your swap mate is a part-time poet, so you get a lined journal with a delightfully inspirational cover. On the inside of the front cover, you — as the gifter — write a dedication to the journal. It could be something short and simple, like, “a place to help you dream of future adventures,” or maybe you want to go into more detail about why you picked this journal for them. If your budget suits, you can swap pencils or pens, too!
2. A Book Swap
Now that we have our free monthly book club, I’ve been getting more excited about book swaps. This is a great gift exchange idea because it encourages expanding your mind and opening your horizons to new ideas. What I like to do with book swaps is to have each swap partner include a mention about their favorite book and/or what they like to read. This helps their partner find a great book for them to read in their own stack of books or at a used bookstore. You could have a themed swap (self-help swap, fiction swap, etc.), but I still highly recommend having giftees share some background info. And don’t forget to include a note in your book gift sharing why you picked it for them!
3. A Charity Swap
For a gift swap idea that keeps on giving, do a charity swap. Here’s how it works: You set up your budget, and then do your swap pairings. Then you give the set amount of money to a charity in the name of your gift swap partner. Now, while this charity swap is simple, it can be troublesome, so some suggestions. First, please choose charities responsibly; avoid politics and any charities that could in any way be controversial! (If you support these, that’s fine, but this is not the time.) Secondly, I strongly suggest choosing a charity that has a way to tell you exactly what your donation goes to; for example, Charity Water will tell you which town’s water well you are supporting, or Pencils for Promise lets you know where the school is you are building. This makes for a much more thoughtful exchange. Lastly, as the gifter, you could choose a charity important to you and explain why, but you could find a charity that ties in what is important to you AND what is important to your gift partner. When in doubt, just go for a charity promoting positivity, such as The Joy Team.
4. A Recipe Swap
My last gift exchange idea is my favorite — a recipe swap! Here’s how this one works: You pair up your swap partners, pull one of your favorite recipes from your personal collection, and then make it — and send your swap partner a nice treat as well as a card with the recipe! Obviously, the sending the treat limits the options here to foods that travel well, which I don’t mind; if you want to make it more flexible, throw a potluck at the end and have folks bring in their swap dishes. Do not forget to ask for food allergies for swap mates and use this for your pairings, or you could do a gluten free swap or dairy free swap to help narrow it down a bit. And when sending your recipe, it’s so nice to write it down on a nice recipe card — that’s part of the fun!
Tips for Happy Gift Swaps
Having administered quarterly gift swaps for our tea club members for over a year now, I have several pieces of advice to ensure your gift swap is a happy one:
- Have a gift opening party (virtual or in person) to share in the joy of opening the gifts.
- When pairing up your gift partners, do so thoughtfully if possible. Random pairings are fine, but I like to look for opportunities for perfect swap mates. Ask swap participants to provide a short statement about likes/dislikes to help with this (people love sharing and it helps immensely on picking gifts).
- Make sure that the rules and obligations are very clear, to avoid any confusion. This should include budget, timelines, and suggestions for the gifts themselves. I’m not sure why, but when it comes to gift swaps, people really require specific details.
Lastly, I want to remind both gift exchange organizers and gift swap participants that the joy in gift swaps is the thrill of creating a surprise for another, and the gratitude of receiving. Do not worry about if your gift is good enough, if you spent enough, if you spent too much, if your wrapping wasn’t perfect, if they won’t like it… stop worrying and focus on the joy and the gratitude. That’s all that is important.