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What Should I Consider When Buying Grab Bag Gifts for Gift Exchanges?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 17, 2024
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Have you been invited to participate in a gift exchange at the office, at the company Christmas party, at church or a club gathering? Are your children participating in gift exchanges at school, scouts, or church? A grab bag gift exchange can be a lot of fun but sometimes it’s hard to know what type of gift to purchase. Much depends on the price range, the people involved, and the atmosphere in which the grab bag exchange will take place.

The first thing you’ll need to consider is the price range. You don’t want to under-spend and end up being embarrassed but at the same time, overspending can cause someone else to feel uncomfortable. Each grab bag gift should be within the specified price range. If there is no specified price range, feel free to contact the organizer of the event and suggest that a specified price range be made known.

Next, consider the atmosphere and the people participating. Are co-workers in your office fairly conservative or are they notorious pranksters? For the business-minded colleague, serious or executive gifts are appropriate, while pranksters will likely enjoy gag gifts, joke books, or light-hearted calendars.

These issues may also apply at the company Christmas party, but it can be a little trickier, since you may have a mix of fun-loving co-workers and rather serious people in management positions. This is where the atmosphere of the exchange will help you decide what type of grab bag gift to purchase. If the party is casual, you can give something fun. If the party is formal, it is better to give something very tasteful.

Apply these same guidelines to grab bag exchanges at club meetings and other activities. These ideas may also help you choose gifts for the church grab bag, although you may need to entertain further considerations. You don’t want to give something that may be seen as offensive to other people of faith, so it may be better to choose something religious or semi-religious in nature. A desktop calendar filled with inspirational or devotional verses may be a good choice.

When it comes to a grab bag item for your child’s gift exchanges, keep age appropriateness in mind. Be sure to check labels on toys for age guidelines. Also find out if the grab bag gift should be gender neutral or if should be specifically for a boy or a girl. Another issue is whether treats are allowed or prohibited. Candies or sugary snacks may not be recommended, and edible gifts may also cause concerns regarding food allergies.

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Discussion Comments

By Crispety — On Nov 16, 2010

Bhutan-Oh I love that idea. I sometimes look for special gifts like that in order to get ideas. I know that when Oprah Winfrey has her “Favorite things show” I try to jot down a few ideas that I might want to explore.

She often has a lot of gourmet food like popcorn and cheesecake. It is really nice to be able to enjoy your gift.

I think that a gift card idea is also nice, but I would be afraid that the gift would not be memorable because I would want the person to buy something fun and enjoyable not something practical.

Sometimes remembering a special detail about the person that you are buying for can lead you to buy a very thoughtful gift. For example, if the person is an avid reader and has a favorite author, it would be thoughtful to get an autographed copy of their recent book.

It is not the cost that matters, but the thought and effort put into the gift that does.

By Bhutan — On Nov 16, 2010

Comfyshoes-A great idea for a holiday grab bag is to buy a gag gift and a traditional gift. If you have a good relationship with the people in your office and most people have a great sense of humor this would work well.

You should have the recipient of the gift open the gag gift first and then present them with the real gift. This way they think that their gift is the gag gift.

Other choices that are great for holiday exchanges are gourmet food. There is a company called Shari’s Berries that sells the most delicious chocolate dipped strawberries.

This type of gift would be a real treat because it is something luxurious that a person would enjoy but would not buy for themselves.

I would always buy something thoughtful and as generous as I could afford because I think that the recipient would appreciate a thoughtful gift and maybe next time someone will be thoughtful with me.

By comfyshoes — On Nov 16, 2010

Sunny27- I agree that gift cards are a great exchange idea. You really can not go wrong with restaurant gift cards, or department store gift cards.

My favorite gift cards of all are the bookstore gift cards. These are great because you can buy a book read it and then go back and buy another book with your gift card.

I get more enjoyment from books then I would clothes or electronics.

If you really want to be safe, you can always purchase a Target gift card. With a Target gift card you pretty much cover your bases with all types of gifts because Target sells just about everything.

But if you want to go online, Red Envelope sells beautiful gifts that are not too expensive. My husband received a basket from this site from his boss, and to this day I still remember it because the contents were so thoughtful and uniquely beautiful.

Often a lot of these sites will categorize their gifts by gender, price, and occasion. Some go so far as to narrow down the type of gift recipient.

By Sunny27 — On Nov 16, 2010

I think when you are doing a holiday grab bag it is a great idea to stick to the higher end of the budgetary allowance for the gift.

Holiday gifts should be somewhat thoughtful, but if you are not sure what to get you can always buy any number of gift cards available.

Gift cards are great because the recipient of the gift can go out and buy something for themselves. It also leaves them with something to look forward to after they have opened up their other presents.

In addition, many retailers continue to have sales beyond the immediate Christmas holiday, so it actuality the gift recipient can actually get more bang for their buck.

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