Swap Your Way to New Stuff: Swap Party Themes and Hosting Tips

In this article: Tips for hosting swap parties that can enable you and your friends to treat yourselves to new-to-you stuff without spending any money.

by Andrea Norris-McKnight

Host Swap Party photo

Is a tight budget preventing you from treating yourself to a new blouse, a desired kitchen gadget or some updated home decor items? Consider hosting a themed swap party and see if you can’t get yourself some new-to-you item without spending a dime.

Swap parties offer a fun and sustainable way to exchange goods. You invite friends to bring a specified number of gently used items based on a specific theme, such as kitchen items or kids’ toys, and then swap stuff with other party attendees. You can also ask everyone to bring a snack to share. You supply the beverages. The result is a low-cost, fun-filled evening that should leave no one going home empty-handed.

Read on for some popular swap party themes you may want to try and some swap party rules.

Swap Party Themes

Below are some of the more popular swap themes, but they might give you an idea for a unique swap theme you’d like to try.

  • Clothing Swap: Clothing is a popular swap party theme, but there are several other ideas you may want to try, depending on your needs.
  • Book Swap: This swap is perfect for book lovers and a great way to discover new authors and genres.
  • Toy Swap: Ideal for families with children, a toy swap can enable you to refresh your kids’ toy collection without buying new ones.
  • Plant Swap: Gardening enthusiasts can exchange cuttings, seeds, potted plants, gardening tools, and accessories.
  • Art Supplies Swap: Artists and crafters can swap unused or surplus materials like paints, brushes, yarn, fabric, beads, etc.
  • Home Decor Swap: Invite participants to bring home decor items they no longer use, like vases, frames, small furniture, lamps, or wall art.
  • Kitchen Swap: Foodies and cooks can bring kitchen gadgets, cookbooks, specialty ingredients, or homemade items, such as preserves, to swap.
  • Board Game/Card Game Swap: This is a fun way for gamers to find new games and pass along those they no longer play.
  • Accessory Swap: Exchanging accessories like jewelry, scarves, hats, belts, and bags is a fun way for fashionistas to update their look.
  • Holiday Decoration Swap: This swap is ideal for seasonal changes so attendees can trade decorations they no longer want or need for an updated holiday look — including Halloween costumes
  • Sports and Fitness Gear Swap: Athletes and fitness buffs can trade workout clothes, sports equipment, yoga mats, etc.

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Swap Party Rules

To ensure your swap party is fun and fair, set the rules for your party people to follow beforehand. Here are some general rules and guidelines for hosting or participating in a swap party, but you can always modify them as you see fit. The important thing is that invitees understand the rules before they commit to bringing items to the party.

Specify the condition and number of items attendees should bring to qualify for participation.

For example, for a clothing swap, request gently used clean clothing with no significant damage. If it’s a seasonal clothing swap, specify cold or warm-weather clothing. Encourage participants to bring items in good condition — things they’d be proud to give to a friend and not just items they want to get rid of.

Also, determine the number of items each person should bring. The more items there are, the better the swap, but you don’t want to ask that people bring too many items. The number may depend on the number of invitees.

Organize the space for ease of viewing.

Arrange the items in a way that’s easy to browse. If applicable, organize the items by category. For instance, with clothing, you could categorize by type (tops, pants, dresses, etc.), size or color.

If you’re hosting clothing swap, provide a space where guests can try on clothes comfortably. A bathroom works, or set up a temporary changing area with a screen or curtains.

Determine how the swapping will be conducted.

You could have a free-for-all but using a token system (each item gets you a token to exchange for a new item) or take turns. You can also draw numbers to determine the order in which partygoers get to select items per round. If you ask guests to bring five items, you can do five rounds of picking items and choose a new order per round.

Decide what will happen with the unclaimed items.

As the pickings get slimmer, some people will pass rather than choose an item in the final few rounds of swapping. These leftover items can be donated to a charity, or participants can take back what they brought. Once again, it is best to inform people beforehand if you want to donate items.

What Type of Swap Party Will You Host?

Remember, the key to a successful swap is not just about getting new things but also about sustainability, community and fun! Making it a social event with light snacks and music can create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. Remember to set clear guidelines for the condition and type of items everyone will swap to ensure a successful event.

Reviewed January 2024

About the Author

Andrea Norris-McKnight took over as the editor of The Dollar Stretcher and After 50 Finances after working under the site founder and previous editor for almost 15 years. She has also written for Money.com, GOBankingRates.com, HavenLife.com and The Sacramento Bee.

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