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Secret Santa Gifts for $20 or Less

Updated on August 11, 2012

If you are invited to participate in a Secret Santa gift exchange or a Christmas party with a gift swap -- particularly ones that take place at the office -- run like the wind. If that's not possible, make sure you put every effort into selecting the perfect gift for your chosen gift recipient or risk being publicly ridiculed by your co-workers.

Stay away from very generic Secret Santa gifts, like socks, and avoid gifts that are too personal, like a rhinestone-studded brassiere. Try to achieve a balance in your holiday offering that is personal but respectful, and one that shows the recipient that you gave your gift selection thought prior to purchasing. Although a nice desk set or gift certificate is always welcomed, you have to admit that they are not gifts that take a lot of thought.

Start by finding out what they do in their off hours and what their secret passions are. If your gift recipient is an avid reader, a gift certificate to a local bookstore is appropriate. Buy a small tripod for the photography enthusiast or a subscription to Equus magazine for the horse enthusiast. Just remember the key here to the perfect Secret Santa gift is balance -- make it personal but not too personal.


The Tea Lover

If your giftee enjoys her tea, there are plenty of options for you to choose from that are $20 or less including tea cozies, kettles, cups and infusers as well as tea bags and loose tea from all over the world. Tea accessories are available in every style including traditional, ornate, contemporary or Asian. Buy a ceramic teapot for one, or a travel mug tea set for someone on the go.


The Coffee Connoisseur

There is a world of difference between someone who enjoys a good cup of coffee and a true coffee connoisseur. For the casual coffee drinker, a gift certificate to Starbucks might be an appropriate gift. For the coffeeholic, get a bit more fancy. Whatever you do, stay away from powdered or granulated coffees unless the Secret Santa gift recipient is from South America, as they do love their Nescafe. Go for a humorous mug, a chic travel tumbler, a set of imported coffee beans, a coffee bean grinder or mug warmer. The possibilities are endless for less than $20.


The Sports Fanatic

Ah, the life of a sports fanatic... Since you won't find a personally autographed picture or jersey of their favorite player for $20 or less, it's time to get a little creative with your Secret Santa gift. Wall art, desk lamps, magazine subscriptions and jewelry will all be appreciated. Get to know their sports habits. Are they a player, a TV watcher or a live game attendee? The more information you get, the better position you are in to choose a Secret Santa gift that they will cherish.


Glitter Girl

Every office has one -- the woman who loves rhinestones, anything pink, animal prints, beads, bangles and long nails. You know she's there. This woman wants shiny things and accessories that are sparkly or look expensive. She is the quintessential glitzy girl, and there are very few things that might be too frilly for her. Look for accessories with rhinestones, glitter, shiny beads and feathers. This woman reads Cosmopolitan magazine, eats salad for lunch and has a secret penchant for gourmet chocolates. Think "girly girl," and you are sure to purchase the perfect Secret Santa gift.


The Prankster

For this guy, think whoopie cushions, disappearing ink and pepper gum. The prankster loves to make people laugh. Eternally the office clown, his co-workers have come to love and to fear him. Buy him small, classic toys for his desk to keep a light atmosphere in those ad hoc meetings, a Nerf dartboard or office-sized basketball set. Whatever you do, don't get him anything serious. And if you feel super creative, make his own Secret Santa gift a prank. Wrap a small box in a series of progressively larger boxes, or give him a gift-wrapped empty box and pretend there's an invisible gift in it. Just make sure you let everyone else in on the gag first.


The Closet Chef

If your Secret Santa recipient has a bit of Gordon Ramsey in her, go with the flow and support her culinary dreams. Although you might be tempted to buy her a cheap blender, there are plenty of kitchen gifts that every chef wants that fall on the "nice to have" list. Think nutmeg grater, mini-chopper or fancy cutting board. If the budding chef is into gourmet foods, go for the gusto with some clotted cream from England or curry powder from India.


The Bean Counter

Quiet, methodical and analytical, the Bean Counter deserves special attention. He is more than likely in charge of the company's finances or auditing your expense account. In either case, you want him to be happy. Geometric patterns, anything to do with numbers, money or a classic game of Trivial Pursuit is right up his alley. Don't get too cliche, though, with your Secret Santa gift or your gesture of kindness could backfire quickly. He knows he's a bean counter, but wants to be seen as just one of the guys.


The Drama Queen

You all know the Drama Queen. No matter what story she tells, it is fantastic. A trip to the grocery store is a life or death situation, and an innocent "good morning" holds an ominous message. Play to her strengths. She wants attention, so give it to her -- in a kind way. Although in all honesty, it really doesn't matter what you get her for a Secret Santa gift -- it's sure to be the subject of pure, unadulterated drama tomorrow.


The Techie

Unless you can take a computer apart with your bare hands and know what you're doing while you're doing it, treat the tech folks like the gods that they are. Buying a Secret Santa gift for them that is $20 or under and is one that they will truly appreciate is a challenge, but one that you should meet head on. Go for gadgets -- the cooler the better. Find out if they lean towards World of Warcraft, Star Trek or have more mainstream interests. Do you homework. Your technological future could depend on it.


The Boss

What is there to say about The Boss? After banging your head on a wall for being so cursed with this Secret Santa giftee, you need to decide which way you are going to take this. You can try to impress him, make him laugh, show him how clever you are or send him a subliminal message about a raise. In any case, instead of finding out what he likes, make a concerted effort to find out what he doesn't like -- and then don't buy anything at all related. Best of luck. See you on the unemployment line.


The Intern

The office intern is more than likely your typical starving college student. She will take anything you give her with appreciation -- and then sell it on Craigslist or eBay. The fact that you paid attention to her, and maybe even called her by name, will make her day. If you have a mentor-type personality, give her something that will help her on her journey. If not, just get her anything. She will thank you for it. If gift certificates are your style, go for gift certificates to local restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations or the coffee shop.


The Management Wannabe

There are two kinds of management wannabes -- those that plan to get there through hard work and those that will step on others on their climb to the top. If you know which type your Secret Santa gift recipient is, your gift shopping should be easy. A serious gift having to do with his job or office is perfect for the hard worker. For the back-stabber, a humorous gift might be more appropriate. In other words, don't reward their bad behavior -- make fun of it. And make fun of it in public. They deserve it, don't you think?


The Cat Lady

Middle-aged, quiet and often lonely, the Cat Lady prefers her furry friends to human interaction. Get her an afghan, gourmet tea or hot chocolate, any type of organizer or picture frame that she can fill with her kitty photos. As Secret Santa gifts go, the Cat Lady is fairly easy. If you can't find the perfect gift for her, shop for her cats. Catnip toys, scratching pads and gourmet kitty food is sure to be a hit.



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    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 6 years ago from East Coast

      Thanks Lisa! I did not realize that fancy schmancy kneeling pads existed but I'm definitely going to go look for one now!

    • lrohner profile image

      lrohner 6 years ago from USA

      Thanks Steph! Glad you enjoyed. Now get shopping! :)

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Not only are these great ideas, but I love how you've categorized the gifts in categories - simple, easy to use! Bookmarked!

    • lrohner profile image

      lrohner 7 years ago from USA

      @LilyRose - Absolutely! If she gardens, get her a fancy schmancy kneeling pad. They're affordable and a Godsend for us old folks! :) You could also get her some heirloom seeds for the spring or a few bulbs in nice pots she can force indoors over the winter. Good luck!

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 7 years ago from East Coast

      Came back for updates and I like what I see - got any ideas for gardeners?? I have know idea what to get my M-I-L, but she loves to tinker in the garden...

    • almasi profile image

      almasi 7 years ago

      Wonderful hub full of ideas for different characters/personalitis. Thanks.

    • AaronAdamic profile image

      AaronAdamic 7 years ago from New York

      It is always very difficult to come up with good ideas for gifts. Your hub helped me a lot! Thanks!

    • J Sunhawk profile image

      J Sunhawk 7 years ago from South Carolina

      A good gift for the single person who doesn't have time to cook is the small 3 quart slow cooker. You can drop in a small chuck roast, carrots and spuds at noon and come home to a great dinner at 6. No muss, no fuss, and it's less than $20.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      You have done a great job in selecting super gifts for good prices. Well done.

    • lrohner profile image

      lrohner 7 years ago from USA

      Thanks Lake Erie! And trust me -- I wouldn't touch the in-law gifting issue with a ten-foot pole! :)

    • lakeerieartists profile image

      Paula Atwell 7 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      This is a really great list. Now if you could just come up with a list of items that my in-laws would like. ;P

      Thankfully, I no longer do secret Santa exchanging, but I still have to buy exchange gifts for my in-laws that I can never buy in places near me, nor do I normally shop at any of the stores they prefer, so it is always a chore instead of a pleasure picking out gifts for them. :)

    • lrohner profile image

      lrohner 7 years ago from USA

      @Rosie and @Lily Rose -- Thanks! And keep checking back as I'll be adding more over the next few weeks.

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 7 years ago from East Coast

      Great thinking - some really good ideas here! Love your avatar, btw!

    • Rosie2010 profile image

      Rosie Rose 7 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Hi Irohner, you have some great suggestions here. I find this very useful.

      Have a nice day!