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How to be a Great Secret Santa

Updated on September 23, 2012
That Grrl profile image

Laura believes holidays and events should be celebrated whether you are alone or with family & friends. Celebrate yourself & being alive.

It's not easy being a Secret Santa, especially at the office, shop, factory (or whatever your place of employment may be).

First, you may not know anything about the person you are giving the gift to.

Second, there is a spending limit which is a good thing for your budget, but also limits you in your choices.

Third, you have to consider how the gift you give will be received and viewed by everyone, not just the person you are giving it to. Any gift horse you give is sure to have it's teeth checked and commented on behind your back. So don't buy something you will regret later.

So, what can you do? Now that you're trapped as a Secret Santa?

Think a little generically. But, you do know a little about the person you are giving the gift to. Knowing gender, age, and anything about their lifestyle are all clues to help you decide on a suitable gift.

Stop to Shop on Etsy for Handmade Gifts


Put your Santa Hat on

A woman with kids is pretty easy to please... think pampering! Not bubble bath, chances are she doesn't have time for a long soak in the tub. But, there are excellent shower gels/ body wash soaps which you can get for under $10 or $20. Don't go to the local drug store, try a specialty shop like The Body Shop. You get better quality and their soap are ok for sensitive skin.

The single woman, especially if she is the fashionable type who like to be pretty... think luxury. A scarf, not a knitted winter scarf, but one of those silky scarves women can use in so many ways. Some are big enough to be wrapped around like a bikini top, some are just right for wrapping around her neck, pinned with a gorgeous brooch. She will have the fun of creating a look for it. Choose a simple pattern, or a solid colour. The less complicated the pattern, the more likely she is to like it. (This is not a time for the Dollar Store, go to a nice department store and look in the women's section). If you still have money in the budget pick out a holiday brooch to give with the scarf - you can get a decent brooch for a couple of dollars.

An older woman who talks about her grandchildren... think party package. Chances are she will be spending some time with the grandchildren over the holidays. You can pick up a set of cookie cutters, some sparkles and such to decorate cookies, a Christmas looking tea towel to wrap them in with a bow. If you have enough in the budget put them all in a cookie container. If you have a favourite sugar cookie recipe, add that too.

The woman who seems to have everything or the one you just don't like all that much... There are some people who are going to nitpick about anything you buy them. They will spoil Christmas, or try darn hard, if you let them. There are other people who don't seem to need anything and will tell you not to get them anything... then later complain that you didn't get them anything or just feel left out and not say anything. (I know men who do this too!) They are hard to shop for if you are their Secret Santa. So get them the birthday package: birthday candles, balloons, a cake mix, icing sugar, and a cake baking pan if it's in the budget. Add a generic birthday card, unsigned and not sealed in the envelope. It's a gift she can regift, use for a friend's birthday or her own. If you want to spend her birthday with her add a note promising to be there and bake the cake for her on her birthday. If not, it's a very subtle way of saying what a party she is to have around. (Don't actually say or write that, Christmas isn't a time to be mean spirited).

A young man... think fun and action. A good, durable backpack can't go too wrong. Side pockets for small things like his keys or bus pass, and a sturdy interior for whatever he fills it up with: school books, video games, camping gear, sports equipment, rocks, small animals... I have a teen aged nephew who really needs a new backpack, again. He loves video games but he's very active and busy too.

Children... Avoid getting them small toys. A book is nice but if you don't know the child you really can't guess at what they like to read. Instead get them arts and crafts supplies like colouring books and crayons. They don't make a mess and they can keep kids busy. I just get plain paper and then draw and colour with my nieces and nephews. They like using their imagination to draw and they especially love the time I give them. If you don't know the kids you won't be giving them the time yourself but their parents might like a quiet activity they can do indoors or use it as a way to wind down before bedtime. You might give them the idea by adding pencil crayons and a sharpener which are a bit more adult friendly and give them cause to be there with the kids while they colour.

An older man... listen to what he talks about: sports, books, his health?... If you don't have a clue what his interests are send him to the movies or the theatre. How much can your budget stretch? Enough for a ticket at the local theatre or just the cinema? If the local theatre will let you get a gift certificate so he can pick his own time and show that is great. If not, there is always the movies/ cinema. It should be in your budget for him to have enough for the ticket and some popcorn. (If he's married, do you have enough for two tickets?)

An older man or woman... I used to get nice stationary for an older woman, you might consider that but I think most people are emailing now. Most of us like to bring something to drink to the computer as we do our emailing, play games, etc. Take a look for a good quality coffee mug. It should have some weight to it, those light ones are best avoided. You can find a coffee mug for most budgets. If you have left over money add Earl Grey tea, or a sample of coffee beans, maybe a gift card for the store that sells the coffee and coffee beans so they can choose their own favourites.

A woman who has recently bought a house...think garden. If you know they actually like gardening you can give them vegetable seeds but if they may just be container gardeners get packages of seeds like violas/ johnny-jump-ups, any perennial or biennial seeds which are easy to grow and give a nice bloom. Wrap the seeds by putting them all in a flower pot with garden gloves (for the outdoor gardeners) and a trowel. I love giving seeds to be planted outside to anyone who has bought their first house, any time of year, not just Christmas. Don't get tempted to buy them a poinsettia. Most people can't keep them alive until Spring, so they become a disappointment, whereas the seeds are something they can look forward to.

A man who has recently bought a house... think yard and outside work. Get bird seed and a bird feeder. If your budget is tight get a quality bird feeder and just add some unsalted sunflower seeds (which you should find cheap at a bulk food store). It gives them a project and a chance to use their tools putting up the bird feeder. Also, my Grandfather was a bird watcher. I think it's a great thing for someone who has their first house to be able to sit and enjoy their patch of land, watching the birds, noticing what type of birds come around and then plotting how to keep the squirrels from taking all the birdseed.

Newlyweds... think of things they can do together, avoid the sensual and romantic stuff (unless you really do know them THAT well). Tools are a good idea: hammer, screwdriver, nails and screws, maybe a leveller and tape measure too. They probably have a lot of household projects like pictures to hang, shelves to set up and so on. If you don't want to listen to immature giggles about hammers and screws... consider a storage bin for all their Christmas ornaments and decorations. Gives them a place to put them all once they come down from the tree and the walls.

The middle aged guy you hardly know, who may or may not have a family... think car (if he has one). Go to an automotive store and look down the aisle for gadgets, see what you can afford in your spending budget. The more gadget-like the better. Likely your budget won't be enough for something like car floor matts but maybe a leather steering wheel cover.

If he doesn't have a car and you don't think he is a family man... go with a gift certificate to one of the electronic/ computer stores. Use the full limit of your budget and let him pick out what he would like. This also gives him the excuse to browse at the store - my Dad would never admit how much he really did like shopping when it came to the electronics aisle.

The boss, or the man who seems to have everything... If you're really stuck and don't have a clue go with something we all use, food. Talk to the staff/ owner of your favourite local restaurant and ask about a gift certificate. If they have a menu print out a copy and give it along with the gift certificate and directions to the restaurant.

A Few More Ideas...

Other ideas for generic gifts are baskets with assorted useful things. You can add as many as you like to a container (a basket, a cookie tin, a glass jar, a cloth shopping bag, tea towels, etc.). Bundle them up like a themed gift or give them individually. Try to think green when you wrap up gifts. Use something reusable or wrap the gift in something that compliments it (like an added gift), be more creative than wrapping paper or Christmas bags that may not get a second use.

  • batteries with a recharger
  • a memory stick or USB drive for storage
  • pens and paper
  • ice scraper/ shovel and road salt
  • card game rules/ instructions and a deck of playing cards
  • boot rack or matt
  • hand soap and guest towels
  • bath matt and scrub brush
  • photo frames, magnetic for the fridge is a plus
  • post office stamps and envelopes
  • scissors, sewing needles and thread
  • can opener and cans of soup
  • travel accessories: luggage tag, secure carrier for passport and some Euros
  • kitchen knife sharpener (with instructions)
  • flash light and candles
  • local or provincial/ state map
  • a calendar for the coming year
  • gift card for a sewing or tailoring service
  • gift card for a flower shop
  • gift card for a pet service
  • gift card for the bookstore


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    • That Grrl profile image

      Laura Brown 6 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

      I think it's hard to let go of something that makes people feel happy and part of the community too. Sometimes I send Seasons Greetings to friends for each new season and of course, Happy New Month! Glad to help with some shopping ideas.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Isn't it funny - people are still looking at Christmas articles and ideas! lol I guess I like shopping and you do have some excellent ideas. I like the crayons and art supplies for the kids. My girls can spend hours doing crafts and I like it because they are busy!

    • That Grrl profile image

      Laura Brown 6 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

      Glad to help with some ideas. I thought I was ok for Christmas but today I am getting out to pick up stocking stuffers. I know my brother needs socks, thick ones for working outside this winter. So I already know where I am going to get them. That will leave me the rest of the afternoon for a latte and a good book!

    • EyesStraightAhead profile image

      Shell Vera 6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Very useful hub! We were invited to a party with Secret Santas and had no clue what to get the two children whose name we received. Your information was helpful for my daughters and I to pick out a decent gift. Thank you!

    • alissaroberts profile image

      Alissa Roberts 6 years ago from Normandy, TN

      Very useful hub for secret santas! My husband struggles every year with his Secret Santa purchases - probably because he is a teacher who works with mostly women. I will have to pass your ideas on to him. Thanks for sharing your suggestions - voted up and useful!

    • That Grrl profile image

      Laura Brown 6 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

      Glad if the ideas help anyone. Just a few days left to Christmas now. I'm down to sewing the last two Xmas stockings.

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 6 years ago from Northern California

      This is a really great and creative way to approach this topic. Thanks so much for sharing this - a very timely Hub!

    • xethonxq profile image

      xethonxq 6 years ago

      Excellent ideas!! I know I always struggle during Secret Santa week at work...I think I might just have to use some of the suggestions you wrote about...great hub!! :)

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 6 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Lots of good suggestions, thanks