It’s pretty much inevitable each year that someone asks me to explain our family’s “Draw Names” Christmas gift exchange, and so I thought it was past time that I jot the whole thing down in blog post format so I could share that to folks who want all the details. We’ve been following the same format for years and years, and it has been such a game-changer for us. It saves money, makes the gift-buying experience more creatively challenging (in a good way!), and it helps add a little spice to our Christmas morning gift exchange. Here’s how we make it work…
It’s really super simple. We use the website DrawNames.com to add in all of our names (mine, my parents’, my sister, and my hubby), and then the site automatically generates a random person for each one of us to buy gifts for. To be clear, that’s the only person we have to buy a gift for that year. We also laid down a $100 max spending limit to help keep things a little more budget-friendly. We draw new names Christmas morning after that year’s main gift exchange so that everyone has a full year to silently listen to what their person is interested in throughout the next 365 days.
We don’t purely rely on a guessing game, though! The website we use actually allows us to input a specific wish list, so the person who has us is anonymously able to have some direction, if needed, when out hunting for the perfect gifts. You may get everything on your list, or just one or two things. Sometimes you don’t get anything from your list if the gift-giver happens to have a great idea of their own! That’s the fun of this type of gift exchange—you never really know what you’re going to get, and it’s also so much fun to try to guess who everyone has when it comes time for the gift exchange on the morning of December 25.
Aside from the fact that this helps us all save some money, the “one gift each” process also means that we’re not laden down with things we don’t necessarily need. Now that everyone in our family is older, we just don’t need that much stuff, ya know? We’re much more interested in hanging out together, eating, drinking, and chatting. It’s so fun to be surprised with something special from our secret “favorite family member” (that’s code for the gift receiver, no matter who we drew from the website), but that’s all we really need!
I will admit, though, that we do go a little overboard on stockings to compensate since adopting this “one (main) gift each” process. We do still exchange family stockings filled with treasures each Christmas morning, and those stockings generally overflow into paper gift bags, but we really enjoy the collaborative aspect of the stockings since we’re not allowed to ask for help with our main “Draw Names” gifts.
Even still, we always end up with no more than a small box of gifts at the end of the day, and that feels juuuuuust right for us. As you’ll see pictured in today’s post, we have lots and lots of gifts under the tree because we still have a traditional gift exchange with John’s side of the family. I’m hopeful that we can convince them of the merits of a “Draw Names” gift exchange in a year or two.
I know this method isn’t really rocket science. It’s just a play on “Secret Santa,” after all, but I wanted to explain our process because the DrawNames.com website has really been such a nice way to organize things. If you haven’t heard of it, give it a try! We just started using the app this year, and it’s now even easier. When you use the desktop version of the website, your drawn name info is emailed through, and that can sometimes be hard to track down when in need of a reminder as the holidays approach. The app, on the other hand, keeps all the information right there so it’s easy to remind yourself who you drew in the first place, and what your person’s wish list items are.
I’ve already gotten my “favorite family member” their gift, and I can’t wait to see him/her open it in just a couple of weeks time. Tell me in the comments about your gift exchange! Do you go all out with multiple gifts for everyone? Or do you follow a “Secret Santa” style exchange? Maybe you don’t give gifts at all? I’d love to know how you pull it off, so tell us your story!