Top Secret Santa Gifts

Top Secret Santa Gifts

In order to get into the spirit of the holiday season, many offices hold Secret Santa gift exchanges. Having your place of employment participate in this activity can alleviate a lot of holiday stress and gift anxiety.

First of all, instead of worrying what to buy for everyone in the office or for whom you should purchase a holiday gift, you only need to buy one present. This is good for your budget! It also takes away the worry of insulting people by purchasing for one but not another, or having people compare the gifts that you give out. (What? She bought you X and me Y? Or She bought us all the same thing? How insulting!)

Even though this Secret Santa tradition is good for the wallet and for managing your time, it also brings a feeling of both fear and dread for many. What if they pull a name out of the hat and they are completely stumped as to what to buy this person? What if you pick a rivals name? What if s/he does not like what I buy?

Fun Gift Ideas

We have all faced having to get someone a gift and we really are unsure what to buy. Food choices can be a challenge, so why not stick to classics that almost everybody loves. While a book is personal, why not some kind of book accessory? I always have a few titles on my bedside and pick them up when I have time. Bookmarks come in handy for me!

Pass The Popcorn Game from Amazon

Perfect for movie buffs!

Coffee Masters Around The World In Twelve Coffees Variety Pack, 1.5-Ounce Packets (Pack of 12) from Amazon

Perfect for coffee loves who want to try new flavors!

108-ct. Ceylon Tea Chest from Amazon

Tea lovers will adore this present!

How to Do a Secret Santa Gift Exchange

The key word in this holiday tradition is “secret”. You do not want anyone knowing whom you have picked as this ruins the element of surprise for everyone, as well as give hints to the others participating who they don’t have. Spoilers take the fun out of it for everyone.

Some offices have people place their hobbies or interests on the slip of paper that goes into the bowl or bag for drawing a name.  Whether or not to do this is entirely up to the organizer.  It helps eliminate the guesswork out of what to buy, but it also takes away the element of surprise.

One person needs to be in charge of the gift selection. S/he needs to send out an email and ask who wants to participate, as you want to make sure that those who want to know about it and those who do not can opt out. In this email, you need to set the Secret Santa gift exchange guidelines. Some may be:

  • Cost of the item-for example, gifts between $10-$15
  • Are gag gifts acceptable or only “nice” gifts (who wants a silly useless novelty gift when someone else may be given a box of Godiva chocolates?)
  • Place and time of when the names will be selected
  • When and where the gifts will be exchanged

You may want to consider putting signs in common office areas, like the break room or even the rest room to make sure everyone knows about this holiday activity. Give everyone a firm deadline for the answer, since the sooner you can start the name selection, the more time people have to shop for just the right gift.

It is a good idea to keep some sort of spreadsheet so no one gets the same person two years in a row. Also, in case someone forgets or does not buy a gift, the guilty party is easily found.

Names can be placed in a bowl or bag and shown to the person in charge of coordinating the event. No one should pick themselves-their name needs to go back into the bowl.

More Unique Gift Ideas

You want to give a stand out gift, but not something that will be tossed into a drawer or deemed useless by the recipient. Try to do some detective work on his or her likes and dislikes so you have a starting point when you go shopping.

And for goodness sake, do not wait for the last minute to buy something! That always leads to a poor choice.

Spa-Therapy Kit Relax from Amazon

For the stressed out person on your slip!

Design Ideas Vinea Magnetic Divided Bin, White from Amazon

The perfect gift for someone who lives in a small space. Fill it with goodies!

Broadway Basketeers Thinking of You Gift Tower from Amazon

Nobody ever buys themselves a gift basket…here is one treat to give anyone who loves sweets!

Things to Remember When Buying Secret Santa Gifts

The Unwritten Rules

The dollar limit has been set. The name has been selected. Is there anything else you need to remember?

Yes, there is.

There are some unwritten rules pertaining to gift exchanges that you should follow. Unlike long distance family that you only see a few times a year, you will be seeing your office mates every single day. This should be a huge factor when selecting a Secret Santa gift.

Don’t Give Anything That Could Be Deemed Offensive

By offensive, I mean sexual or bawdy in nature. The person whose name you draw may not find it funny, and it may cause an uncomfortable feeling between the both of you.

Also avoid alcohol, unless you know for certain that the person you are buying for enjoys a drink now and then.

Don’t Be Cheap

If the dollar limit is between $10-$15, then do not spend $7.75 and think you got off cheap. The only thing that will be considered cheap is YOU. You are violating the good intentions of the exchange. If $15 is not in your budget, then opt not to participate instead of ruining the fun for the person whose name you draw.

Skip the Homemade Gifts

Even if you are an expert jewelry maker or bake the best coffee cake muffins in town, skip anything that is not purchased from a store. People have dietary restrictions and allergies, as well as finicky taste buds. A food gift bought at a store can be regifted or returned, a homemade gift cannot be.

Speaking as someone who has received homemade jewelry gifts, there have been wires sticking in my neck or it broke after wearing it a few times. Although I loved the thought and intention behind it, the person was not as good a jeweler as she thought she was.

Avoid Christmas Themed Gifts

My aunt used to participate in gift exchanges, and almost every year, she would receive some kind of Christmas item.

The problem with that is that she was Jewish and did not celebrate the holiday.

Holiday themed gifts can only be used for a small window of time and then must be stored away for another year. Give something that can be used often.

Make Gift Cards a Last Choice

Gift cards are the most practical and easy gift to give, but you should avoid giving one if you can. Unless you know that a person is hurting financially and could use a gift card to a place they enjoy going to so they can treat themselves (say, a favorite coffee shop or nail salon), then skip this idea.

Finding the perfect Secret Santa gift is not always easy, but if you keep your mind open, you will be able to find just the right gift.

Featured image from and edited by the author in


Hannah Gold is a participant in a number of affiliate programs, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, Zazzle, Commission Junction, Oriental Trading, Viglink, eBay Partner Network, Shareasale and LinkShare, affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites and writers to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and other online affiliates.


  • Great tips here–especially the “Pass the Popcorn” game and the part about making gifts non-Christmad themed (for our Jewish and Muslim friends).

    • Thanks for stopping by, Vic! I always tried to give unique gift that could be used throughout the year or were consumable (I love tea and coffee gifts, myself).


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