Dirty Dice: A Fun and Frugal Way To Exchange Gifts

Image courtesy of James Barker / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Over the weekend Vonnie and I hosted a family Christmas gathering for her side of the family. We sent the invite out via Facebook several weeks ago, and it didn’t take long for the RSVPs to start rolling in. We also started getting questions regarding whether we were going to have a gift exchange, but with over 30 people expected to show up, we weren’t sure how to do it and keep it economical. Talking about it for awhile we remembered a game that we’ve played at Christmas gatherings before, and decided it would be perfect for this one as well. We decided to play a little dirty dice.

Because nothing screams family Christmas like a little gambling, right?

We requested that each person that wanted to participate bring a gift with a maximum value of $10. When it was time to play, all the gifts were placed in the middle of our living room, and the participants formed a circle around the gifts.

A pair of dice and a plastic bowl was passed around the circle having everyone take turns rolling the dice. By rolling doubles a person earns the gift of choice from the pile. This continues, skipping anyone who already has already rolled doubles, until everyone has a gift. Once all the gifts have been chosen, everyone opens their gift and reveals what they have.

This is where the crazy fun kicks in!

The dice are again passed around the circle, each player taking a shot at rolling doubles. If they don’t, they just pass the dice on to the next person. If doubles are rolled, they can keep what they have, OR they can steal from anyone else, trading gifts with their victim.

You can even customize the game to make it more interesting. For example when we got to the stealing round, we added a second pair of dice to increase the chances of doubles being rolled. Or, a time limit could be set on the stealing round. It’s fun to watch people move slower or faster depending upon how much they like the item they have!

I bet you’re wondering what kind of gifts were in the pot for our family Christmas dice game that clocked in at under $10 – here are some examples:

Of course one person put two crisp $5 bills in a tin container. Who doesn’t like cash????


What do you think about these bad boys?  Those are two ½ pound Reese’s Peanut Butter cups won by my nephew. Since there were two, he shared with my son, Tristan. YUM!

I won a sausage and cracker combo, which I exchanged after the game with my mother-in-law’s fiancee’s package of AXE products. He didn’t want it because he’s “not a teenage boy looking to pick up girls.” I figured I could give it to Tristan because he IS a teenage boy looking to pick up girls.

Since I traded my item away for something I was going to give to my son, you might think I ended the game empty handed.

So wrong!

The sausage and cracker package also included this jar of Inglehoffer stone ground mustard, which I LOVE!  My mother-in-law’s fiancee isn’t a fan of mustard, so he gave it back to me!

I ended up with an afternoon of fun, a ton of awesome memories, and a jar of kick ass mustard. What else I could I have asked for?

What about you, readers? Do you play any fun games at your family Christmas gatherings, or have a unique way of doing the gift exchange?

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22 Responses to “Dirty Dice: A Fun and Frugal Way To Exchange Gifts”

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  1. Ha! I love it. Every game can be improved with a little gambling added to the mix. If my husband and I weren’t going to be stuck at home alone on baby watch this Christmas, I’d be insisting that we play this with family. But things in our families get super competitive super fast, so maybe it’s for the best…

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Travis says:

      Oh, a gift exchange game gone too competitive….that’s not good for anyone’s Christmas spirit, Joanna. LOL. Baby watch? Would I be putting my foot in my mouth by thinking I should say, “Congratulations?”

  2. I LOVE this idea, and had never heard of it before.

    • Travis says:

      It’s so fun, L Bee…..we had a couple people that were quite skeptical about the whole thing, but even they ended up having a great time! Great to hear from you!

  3. Scott says:

    When I was younger we played this with some family friends a couple years and it was always fun. As a 12 year old, I ended up with the White Russian mix. BWAHAHAAH!

    Its fun becuase with a medium-big group, you can get funny gifts, useful gifts, or stupid gifts. The dice aspect of it and stealing from each other makes the $10 limit worth far more in fun value than if everyone did a $25 gift.

    • Travis says:

      White Russian mix as a 12 year old? I would have ran from the room yelling, “It’s MIIIIIIIIINE!” 🙂 You’re absolutely right, a mix of people and a mix of gifts makes the game even more fun. The amount of money the item costs doesn’t really matter. Thanks for sharing your story!

  4. Great idea! I’ve never heard of it, it sounds like a White Elephant exchange with a twist.

    • Travis says:

      Absolutely, John – although we do try to get something that’s worthwhile. Hey, I’d have taken the gigantic Reese’s peanut butter cups any day!

  5. We have a similar gift exchange, only ours is called “crap from your basement” The primary rule is that you’re not allowed to spend a cent on your gift. Our second round starts after the game is over. Then people start finding clever ways to make someone else bring home the crap they won by hiding it in their stuff, or car. We’ve had a lot of laughs over it.

    • Not to mention it’s a great way to clean out our basement. I always wrap up a few extra gifts so people who forgot can participate. It’s appears that I’m a really organized and thoughtful person. I reality, I’m just cleaning out the basement.

      • Travis says:

        LOL, Mandy…..I bet you go through the whole game trying not to laugh, don’t you? I know I would….knowing that people were about to help declutter my home. 🙂

    • Travis says:

      That’s hilarious, Derek! Your story reminds me of something my neighbors have going with one of their siblings. They have an item that they “hide” in each other’s homes whenever they visit – the goal is to hide it just enough that they don’t notice it’s been placed in their house, but that it’s eventually found so that they know they’ve got the item. That does sound like a ton of fun!

  6. That’s awesome we are doing the same thing as my sister in law set this up for Christmas. We are to go out and buy 2 gag gifts up to $10. My idea was one be a new $10 bill in a tin so they can’t guess and the other item something edible that they might not normally spend money on. We really didn’t want to spend $10 on something that someone won’t use or the last laugh is on us for blowing $10… thanks for sharing this.. I look forward to when we do it. Cheers Mr.CBB

  7. Kimberly says:

    We’ve played this game for years and we all love it. Each person brings 3 cheap gifts so we have a huge pile to start, and everyone usually ends up with at least 1 gift. Each year there is a particular gift that everyone decides they want (usually because it’s big or elaborately wrapped) and it gets “stolen” over and over. It usually ends up being a pack of pens or a can of soup and everybody laughs again. Finally, there is more fun in trading the gifts to end up with stuff you can use — and my practical side loves that.

    • Travis says:

      Ooooh, sounds like you do the “stealing” round even before the presents are opened up! I bet it would be really run to do some stealing before AND After the presents are opened. Thanks for the idea, and for sharing your experiences, Kimberly!

  8. I think this sounds AWESOME!!! My family doesn’t do straight-forward gift exchanges anymore since everyone usually has what they want. So we are only exchanging gifts with our closest friends and we draw Secret Santa names with my husband’s family. Honestly, this is awesome for us and Christmas is coming in at less than $500 total this year and that includes the $100 I spent on my hubby…

    • Travis says:

      Thanks Crystal! I think Christmas is going to be less expensive this year for us too…..we had the kids write their “wish lists” and they each had a total of like 5 or 6 things on them. When I was their age I would fill up pages and pages of wants! Hope you have a great Holiday!

  9. Sue D says:

    And how does the madness end? Till you get tired of it? I just forwarded this link to my family in STL, asking if they are game. We can’t remember what the family does down there, we have only been to one Christmas there and it has been years. My husband works for an airline and holidays are off limits.

    • Travis says:

      We’ve ended it a couple of different ways. One way to end it is certainly until you get tired of it, and then you just say “This is the last round.” Then you go around the circle of people one more time and end it. You could also go around the circle of people a predetermined number of times (like 5 or whatever you want to do). OR you could also do a time limit as well – that’s always fun because people who want to try to get something else really try to hustle. 🙂 I hope you and your family give it a try….and have a great time! Happy Holidays!

  10. Gina says:

    The in-laws do this, we all bring around 10 gifts anywhere from free junk laying around the house to nice stuff not costing more than 5.00. We brought back a wiener dog statue that we got last year, the guy that brought it last year, got it again this year! LOL Candy canes, large choc bars, candles, socks, silly stuff really. There were 90 presents and 30 people, so you don’t leave home empty handed. The table is where you leave stuff for other to pick up, exchanges are made, I got a new christmas mug for some candy. We all pick 4 playing cards, when presents are gone you get to steal, but a gift can only be stolen twice! It is a lots of FUN! I really would like us to incorporate a charity in this game next year, I am working on that one, maybe bring a wrapped food item as well, and its gets donated to a food pantry?

    • Travis says:

      Sounds like you and your in-laws have a blast playing this game as well – which is certainly the point! I love the idea of somehow getting a charity involved in the game – if you figure out a good way to do so, please come back and let us know how you did it!

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