Shopping for genuine presents for your friends is difficult at best and bank-breaking at worst, but a funny or personal gag gift can be either a cheaper alternative or an entertaining addition to a more traditional holiday gift.
Whether you’re looking for a jokingly mean gift or just a silly present to make your friends laugh, there are countless creative and cheap ways to give a hilarious gag gift this holiday season.
1. Frame a terrible picture
Remember the triple-chinned Snapchat selfie your friend thought would never see the light of day? This is your chance to embarrass them with an elegantly framed picture of their most unattractive facial expression. You can buy frames of decent quality for five dollars and under at Target or Walmart, and developing a picture costs less than a dollar at both places, so this is a cheap and easy way to eternalize a memory your friend never wanted to remember.
A more self-sacrificing route would be to frame a terrible picture of yourself, or to print out a wallet-sized version of the worst picture ever taken of you. The old-fashioned romantic connotations of a wallet photo are funny to begin with, but when the picture is horrendous, the stupid humor of the gift is amplified.
2. Find a pet rock
This may seem like a childish gift, but nothing says “I care about you and our friendship” like a stray rock rescued from behind your dorm. You may think that there is little creativity involved in giving a rock as a gift, but you are wrong. You can draw little faces on the rocks to make them into dogs, cats, birds, aliens or your friend’s favorite animal, and you can tie a string around each rock so they can go on walks with their human. Luckily, most colleges don’t have rules against adopting inanimate objects as dorm room pets.
If your friend isn’t much of an animal person, you can make a cactus out of rocks. Granted, this is a more time-consuming project than drawing whiskers on a rock and calling it a cat, but it’s too adorable not to mention.
Find some flat, circular pebbles, paint them green with white dots to resemble spikes and stick them upright in a small pot full of sand. This is less of a gag gift and more of a sweet gesture, especially if your friend doesn’t have much of a green thumb, but it bears mentioning anyway for its cuteness.
3. Put food and drinks in misleading containers
Getting back to slightly mean but funny gifts, the possibilities with misleadingly labeled foods are endless. If you ever scrolled through Facebook in middle school, you probably saw some of the pranks people pulled by eating pudding out of a mayonnaise jar or drinking Powerade from a Windex bottle. But if you funnel some creative energy into the concept, you can come up with a stupid (and maybe slightly cruel) gift. For example, if you want to go a route that will make your RAs nervous, you could put a non-alcoholic drink in an alcohol bottle—water in a vodka bottle, grape juice in a wine bottle, apple juice in a six-pack. Just be sure to tell your friend the truth about what’s in the bottle before they try to serve it at a party.
An alternate idea is to commit the most atrocious food crimes imaginable and wrap them up—a mixed jar of M&Ms and Skittles is a particularly cruel and classic prank, and a jar of unwrapped Starbursts will force your friend to peel apart a sticky conglomerate of flavors whenever they want a snack. You could be a good person and just give your friend their favorite candy, no strings attached. But where’s the fun in that?
4. Get rid of the gifts your ex gave you
What better way to move on from your ex than to regift the presents you only pretended to like in the first place? You can either pretend you bought the gift yourself and graciously accept your friend’s heartfelt thanks, or be upfront about the origin of the present and thank your friend for accepting a secondhand gift and taking a reminder of the past off your hands.
If the present was terrible, tasteless, or romantic, it could make for an entertaining gag gift, but if it was nice or useful, your friend may appreciate receiving it. Since the awkward memories that you might associate with the gift don’t apply to your friends, they might have more use for it than you do, and they may actually appreciate the sentiment.
5. Steal something of theirs and wrap it up
Again, I’ve strayed too far into the territory of being nice to your friends. This final gift idea requires some skills of dubious morality and is certainly not a kind thing to do, but it is hilarious. Steal something that belongs to your friend, give it to them as a carefully packaged, beautifully wrapped present and wait in anticipation for the day they’ll finally open the gift and reclaim their “lost” possessions.
Of course, don’t be a completely terrible person—don’t steal something your friend might need, or something that matters enough to them that they would be panicked over its disappearance. Take a shirt they don’t wear very often, or a book they don’t like, or a few pairs of socks, and look forward to the confusion on their face when they open your gift and realize you’ve just given them something of their own.
If you want or need to give a gag gift over the holidays, don’t just buy whoopee cushions or lumps of coal for your friends. Let your creative (and cheap) side shine by coming up with unexpected ideas for sweet or mean gifts that won’t cost you much, if anything, and that will give you and your friends a good laugh. Just don’t let their appreciation of your comedic talents go to your head.
Check out these other gift suggestions here.