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How to host a gift exchange

Abbi Perets lives in Houston, TX, with her husband and five children.






secret santa

It's easy to let the holidays break your budget if you're not careful. And all that good cheer can quickly dissipate when you see the credit card receipts start piling up. One way to keep your spending at a more manageable level is to host a gift exchange. Here's how.

Organize your information.

The first thing you'll need to do is determine your participants. Think about the areas where you end up spending the most on gifts. Is it for a large extended family? A group of close friends? The office gang? Figure out which group -- or groups -- you'd like to engage in a gift exchange. Put together a list and start talking to people.

Most people like the idea of a gift exchange, because it saves time and money. You can set a spending limit to help ensure fairness. Also, talk about how you'll divvy up names -- will there be a "Secret Santa" element, or will things be out in the open?

Kick off the season right.

The decisions you make early on will affect how you do things over the course of the gift exchange. For example, if you're planning a Secret Santa exchange, you'll probably want to get everyone together and draw names from a bowl. If there's no element of secrecy -- or if you're managing far-flung family members -- you can start off with an emailed list.

Once the names have been divided, make sure everyone knows any applicable ground rules. Minimum and maximum spending amounts, the date of the gift exchange, and whether or not people know who the givers are.

Lighten the mood with a White Elephant

A White Elephant can be a fun gift exchange to host. Participants can purchase a gift for a specific amount of money, wrap it, and bring it to a gathering. Everyone draws numbers from a hat; the numbers determine the order of gift selection. The guests then choose gifts in order, but with several twists: after the first person chooses and unwraps a gift, then the next person can either take that gift or choose a new one from the pile. You can set a maximum number of times a gift can be stolen. After the last person opens or chooses a gift, the first person then has a chance to hold onto what he has or swap with someone else.

Some White Elephants encourage people to bring silly gifts; others suggest that guests bring something they would be happy to receive.

Remember to keep in mind the spirit of the season -- it's not about how much money you spend, but rather the time you share with those you care about most.?

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HOLIDAY TIPS and ideas:

10 Holiday etiquette dont's

13 Indoor activities for kids during winter

Gift ideas for teachers

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