10 gift ideas for your white elephant game on a budget


Whether it’s an office party or a Christmas gathering between friends, having a white elephant game can be fun. It can also be problematic, especially if a gag gift lands on the wrong person, but it’s mostly about spreading joy.

So what to pick for the perfect present that will make (most) people happy? Here are some suggestions. Be sure to check the rest of our gift guide to find something for everyone on your list.

We chose to highlight items less than $50 just to make sure you are under budget, since most white elephant games have a price limit.

Scented candle

T. Reeves candles are manufactured in Los Angeles and are infused with essential oils and fragrances. The "Tremaine" has notes of cedar wood and palo santo ("holy wood"), native to Central and South America. The wax is a soy-coconut blend. $45.

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Olive oil from Gjusta
(Andrea Chang / Los Angeles Times)

Olive oil from Gjusta

Chef Travis Lett’s perennially packed Gjusta in Venice boasts a sizable marketplace with takeaway jams, housemade hot sauces and nut butters. The marinated olive oil is made with chili, garlic and herbs and bottled in pretty, hipster-approved apothecary-style jars. $13.50.

Browse gift guide topic: Cooking and baking »


Every Los Angeles cook should own a comal. It's the best way to make tortillas and blister chiles for all those taco parties in your future. $19.99.

Browse gift guide topic: Cooking and baking »

Tea towels

Before you try to shut down the idea of tea towels as a gift, check out the offerings at Spitfire Girl (a website and two local stores, 1939 1/2 Hillhurst Ave. and 7401 Melrose Ave.) The gifts and serving pieces are nothing like the stuff you inherited from your Aunt Adele. $14.50.

Browse gift guide topic: Entertaining »

Palm-print scarf

LA Original and Pocket Square Clothing have teamed for a collection of palm-print ties and scarves and this Brentwood pocket square, with a percentage of proceeds benefiting Downtown Women’s Center. $35.

Browse gift guide topic: Fashion forward »

Vintage seed collection

This Vintage Seed Collection from the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants is an excellent starter kit for any gardener who wants to go native, with seeds for five of the foundation’s most popular California native plants, plus tags, photos and sowing instructions, all packaged in an attractive aluminum box with a clear lid so you can see what’s inside. Similar kits include seeds for a child’s garden, medicinal and edible plants and plants that provide habitat for pollinators. $15.

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Habitat restoration

Nature lovers will appreciate offerings from Parks Project, the Los Angeles brand that supports National Parks, contributing to habitat restoration and wildlife conservation. An example from its collection: this enamel drinking cup, $20.

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Fresh plant delivery

While givers might be concerned about the short shelf-life of a fresh flower delivery, the Bouqs online florist, founded in Venice, has a selection of gifts that hang around for longer. Pick from an air plant tucked into a wall-hanging pocket or a set of succulents in eclectic yet coordinated ceramic vessels. From $46.

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RBG action figure

Inspire civic participation with an image of a lauded hero of our time: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, currently the subject of the exhibition “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg” at the Skirball Center. 19.99.

Browse gift guide topic: Kids »

Emergency kit

Pinch Provisions makes a number of small bags and tins filled with essentials. The “States of Emergency” kit carries 14 personal care items such as dental floss, a deodorant towel, stain remover, pain relievers and antacid. The tin is emblazoned with a state-themed design. Only 18 states are available, including California. $16.

Browse gift guide topic: Stocking stuffers »