This is part of the LA Times 2022 Gift Guide. See the full guide here. If you make a purchase using some of our links, the LA Times may be compensated.
White elephant gift exchanges are among the most popular party activities. The gist of the game is simple: each participant brings a low-cost gift and draws a number to determine the order in which to choose a gift from the pile. However, a participant can choose to choose a new gift or steal one that has already been opened by someone else during their turn – this is when things get competitive.
Here’s a list of items under $20 – some are quirky, some are practical, but none are gag giveaways – that people will actually want. You can buy most of these gifts in person in LA and at the last minute, phew. For planners, there are some to add to your online shopping cart.
Latinx plant with plants
You really can’t go wrong bringing a plant – aka the ever-growing gift – to a white elephant party. To latinx with plantspopular plant Instagram page turned Boyle Heights plant shop, you can buy a small plant for under $15 – think pothos, hoya and calathea – then place it in a Mexican-inspired gift bag or a one-of-a-kind pot that has been handmade by an artisan based in Mexico.
$20 at latinx with plants
Utsuwa-No-Yakata sake set
Utsuwa-No-Yakata, which means “pottery house” in Japanese, has been selling authentic Japanese tableware and ceramics from its storefront inside the Little Tokyo Galleria since 1981. You can purchase any of its great sake sets for $15.99 right now, down from the list price of $35. (The item will stay at that price until it sells out, according to the store owner.) Also, head to the supermarket inside the mall to pick up a bottle of sake for as little as $2.99 to complete the gift.
$15.99 at Utsuwa-No-Yakata
Uniqlo’s colorful socks
You can never have enough socks. Grab a few pairs of Uniqlo’s infamous colorful sock wall, which is known to trigger a dopamine rush with its vibrant hues. The unisex rib-knit socks, available in 50 colors, are comfy enough for lounging around the house or dressing up for a night out on the town.
$3.90 or four for $12.90 at Uniqlo
Wacko Pet Planters
You can easily spend a few hours wandering the aisles of Wacko, a family-run pop culture toy and gift shop based in Los Feliz that boasts an inventory of over 2 million items and has been around since 1971. (The store is also home to Soap Plant and La Luz de Jesus Gallery.) As the name suggests, Wacko is where you can find quirky goodies that no one else at the party will get, like Kikkerland Lloyd the Llama Planter, which is waterproof and perfect for succulents. The store also sells other adorable planters, including those in the shape of hedgehog and one smiling mushroom.
$15 at Mad
Sandalwood Candle Goodies
Goodies, the boho-chic boutique known for its aesthetic homewares and ceramics, sells nothing above $25. Consider gifting Goodies’ best-selling candle, the Santal, which some customers have described as a satisfying copycat of Le Labo’s beloved Santal candle, which would set you back $82. Goodies’ Santal candle, which is made from all-natural coconut soy wax and features a blend of sandalwood, cardamom and cedarwood, retails for $22 (just over $20, but worth it). The fresh smelling candle has a burn time of 60 hours. You can buy the candle online or in person at one of four Goodies stores, in Venice, Costa Mesa, Atwater Village and Santa Monica.
$22 at Candy
AuxGod Karaoke Card Game
Created by Michael Rousseau, who has strived to never attend a boring party again, this musical battle card game will have you jumping out of your seat, showing off your best dance moves and singing your heart out. To play, create three teams, one of which will act as the judging team and draw a question from the playing cards. (This team rotates every turn.) The two remaining teams will respond by playing their selected song in a musical battle showdown. The team with the best song is awarded a point by the judges based on AuxGod’s judging criteria. It’s a bit like karaoke, but much more competitive. AuxGod offers four versions of the game based on musical genres: pop; hip-hop and R&B; soca and dancehall; and country.
$19.99 at Kohls
If you search for “best LED strip lights on Amazon” on TikTok – because the app basically another form of Google — you will inevitably come across the Govee brand at least ten times. The smart home brand is currently selling its 16.4ft colorful LED lights for just $19.99 on Amazon, which can light up and boost your home’s energy. Use Govee’s smartphone app to adjust the color and brightness of the lights and sync them to the music to make it feel like a full-fledged concert.
$19.99 at Amazon
Wine preservatives are exactly what they sound like: an ironic yet practical solution to storing your favorite bottle of pinot or chardonnay. Created by mother-son duo Laura Bartlett and Mitch Strahan, Wine Condom is inspired by an improvised wine cork made from plastic wrap and a rubber band. Presented in elegant black and gold packaging, Wine Condoms, which are made with shrink technology, fit almost any bottle and provide an airtight, leak-free seal for your wine. Unlike regular condoms, they are reusable as long as you don’t break them.
$14.97 for a set of six at Amazon
Blooming Tea from Chado Tea Room
Chado Tea Room offers over 300 tea selections including black, oolong, green, pu-erh and wine-inspired teas. One that would be perfect for a white elephant gift exchange is Chado Blooming Tea, also known as Blooming Tea, which is a treat not only for your palate but also for your eyes. The blooming tea, which comes in a lychee flavor, consists of 1.6 ounces of tea leaves that have been artfully wrapped around a dried flower. Drop the blooming tea into a glass teapot or cup of boiled water and watch it unfurl into a delicious flower. You can buy it at any of Chado’s four locations, in Pasadena, downtown LA (inside the Japanese American National Museum), Torrance, and Hollywood. For 4 ounces of blooming tea, buy through Chado’s website for $35.90. (Chado Tea Room is also mentioned in our guide to cozy gifts.)
$15 at Chado tea room
Momoho’s mini Bluetooth speaker
Momoho sells one of the smallest Bluetooth speakers on the market that actually has decent volume for the price. Its compact size makes it easy to carry in a pocket or bag, or even hang on your key ring. The winner of this gift can bring it on their next picnic or hike.
$14.99 at Amazon
Mini Dash Waffle Maker
Speaking of miniature gifts, Dash offers a wide range of small kitchen products, including its best-selling waffle maker, which comes in various festive shapes like a gingerbread man, Snowflake or Christmas tree (use a matcha waffle mix, like the one from Ghetto Gastro, for the full effect on this one). This compact gadget is easy to use and clean, and it won’t take up too much space on your kitchen counter. Whoever catches this gift during the game can also expand beyond the waffles and do frittatas Where pre-baked cinnamon buns. Alternatively, take Dash’s Mini Bundt Cake Maker, which also sells for less than $20. You can buy the waffle maker in person at Target Where Bed bath and beyondor online through Dash’s website.
Typo Double Dip Bowl
It’s a great gift for the person who loves to entertain or just appreciates having nifty kitchen utensils around the house. Typo, the lifestyle arm of retailer Cotton On, sells a double-dipping bowl with a designated area for fries and a smaller section for a favorite dip. It comes in 14 playful patterns.
$19.99 at Activated Cotton
Baggu reusable bag
Founded by mother-daughter duo Joan and Emily Sugihara in 2007, Baggu makes reusable bags that have been spotted at many local Trader Joe’s. The stylish and durable bags come in whimsical designs like a group of smiley faces, a mushroom sanctuary and a fluffy cat pattern. There are also solid color tote bags for those who prefer a simple design.
Bed Bath & Beyond Simply Essential Solid Plush Blanket
Bed Bath & Beyond’s ultra-soft blanket is available in four neutral colors, including navy and taupe. Fans of all things comfortable will try to steal this.
$20 at Bed bath and beyond
In-N-Out Burger Gift Card
In-N-Out Burger offers festive gift cards for the holiday season. Snag one on the way to the party. White Elephant players who love double doubles or animal style fries will be delighted to receive this gift.