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Secret Santa is a Christmas tradition that many offices and large families carry on year after year. It is meant to be a fun gift-exchange game, but shopping for these annual events can be a bit stressful. This is either because people have to buy presents for coworkers they don’t know very well or because they struggle to find a gender-neutral gift for under $20 that will suit different age groups and interests.
Great Secret Santa Gifts for $20 or Less
Here are various ideas under $20 that make great unisex Secret Santa gifts for coworkers, friends, or family members.
- Food or Sweets
- Cute or Funny Mug
- Tea Steeper
- Flashy Bike Lights
- Board or Card Game
- Scratch-Off Poster
- Package-Opening Tool
- Water Bottle With Infuser
- Wine Bottle Pump and Stopper
- Cheese Knives
- Succulent, Bonsai, or Cactus
- Fancy Hand Warmers
- Novelty Piñata
- Organizer for Small Items
- Portable Power Bank for Phone
- Remote-Controlled Color-Changing Bulbs
- Lens-Care Kit
- Mini Flashlight With Tripod
At the end of this article, you'll also find a list of tips on what gifts not to get for Secret Santa.
Edible Gifts (Food and Sweets)
If you have got one of those Secret Santa parties where you need to bring a $20 gift and you’ve got the co-worker you don’t really know, then getting food gift is a good idea.
Chocolates are generally a safe, gender-neutral gift, but they're also a little predictable. To make a gift of chocolates special, pick a box with festive and creative design, such as a box in the shape of a Christmas ornament, tree, or house. Macarons are also a nice choice.
Another more interesting option is a jar of organic, raw honey. It is a natural alternative to chocolates and candy, doesn't spoil over time and everyone will like it.
Cute or Funny Mug
Is the recipient of your gift a total caffeine addict? Then get them their own mug! From nerdy to sassy ones, there's something out there for everyone.
If you're not sure where to start, try thinking of that person's hobbies or favorite things. If they're not a morning person, get them a sassy mug with something that captures how much they don't want to be awake. If they're a rabid Harry Potter fan who's always on the go, get them this awesome traveler mug that changes with heat. You get the idea!
Silly Tea Steeper
If your giftee loves caffeine but isn't a fan of coffee, a tea-related gift are a great idea. From dinosaurs and manatees to astronauts and submarines, there are tea steepers to suit every interest.
Note: Well under your $20 limit and want to go the extra mile? This gift pairs nicely with some loose-leaf tea.
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Snazzy Bike Lights
If the recipient of your gift is a commute biker, consider getting them a set of wheel lights. This small and inexpensive gift is sure to please someone who often bikes at night, and it's far more fun than your standard set of red and white lights.
This set of easy-to-install spoke lights includes six lights (two each in blue, red and green) as well as 6 batteries and zip ties, and each light has three settings (full light, slow flash and fast flash).
Board Game or Card Game
This is a gift best given to someone you know well, as not everyone enjoys board games, and the last thing you want is to get someone a gift they'll never use. But if you know that the recipient of your gift is a big fan of games, one or two simple ones make for a fun and entertaining gift.
Great Board Games Under $20
- Munchkin: This board game is a dungeon-based adventure that revolves around beating monsters and stealing from or otherwise screwing over the other players. Munchkin has many genre-specific spinoffs, so you can choose whichever you think the recipient would like best (or simply go for the classic version).
- Catan: The Dice Game: Those who love Catan often already own the main board game, and perhaps even one or two of the expansion packs, but they might not have one of the other games based on the classic.
- Intrigue: This game involves lots of trust and negotiating . . . along with plenty of betrayal and backstabbing, but whereas similar games can take hours to play, Intrigue takes a mere 45 minutes.
- Chrononauts: Anyone with an interest in time travel and history will love this game, as it requires competing time travelers to make their own unique timeline a reality. The game features real events from history, which makes it twice the fun.
Fun Card Games Under $20
- Monopoly Deal: This gift is as good for you as it is for its recipient. It's a high-speed version of Monopoly that involves stealing from your opponents and a lot less teeth grinding and thumb twiddling than the multi-hour classic.
- Quiddler: This one is for the word-game lovers out there. A twist on Gin Rummy, this multi-round card game is a fun alternative to classic word games like Scrabble.
- Anomia: This high-speed game revolves around spontaneous word-retrieval. While some might consider it mildly anxiety-inducing, it's a perfect game for the competitive and quick minded.
- Set: For those who prefer visuals to words, Set is a fantastic (if mind-bending) game. Each player races to find three-card sets among the patterned cards before their opponents do. See who has the biggest stack at the end!
This is the perfect gift for the hip movie buff, bookworm, traveler, or hophead in your life. A scratch-off poster of the top 100 films, books, places or beers is a fun and original gift that they're highly unlikely to already own.
Tool That Can Open Any Package
Who hasn’t gone nuts and suffered plastic cuts when trying to open gifts out of those clamshell packages? A universal tool, such as the “Open-It” from Zibra, which can open just about any package, would be a hit at a Secret Santa gift exchange. All genders will appreciate the tool, especially on Christmas Day, when all kinds of gifts in impenetrable packages have to be opened.
The “Open-It” is a multi-functional tool that has several very useful features:
- Angled Cutting Jaw. Its cutting jaw slices through dreadful clamshell packages, blister packs and zip ties like butter. The jaw is angled and designed with an offset, which keeps your hands in a safe distance from the sharp plastic edges.
- Safety Latch. Because the cutting jaws have very sharp blades, there is a safety latch that keeps them closed when not in use by locking the handles.
- Retractable Knife. One of the handles houses a retractable utility knife that is meant for cutting cellophane wrapping and paper. It is not designed to be used as a "box cutter." The utility knife also comes with a safety latch that needs to be pushed out and hold in order for the blade to stay out.
- Detachable Screwdriver. The other handle houses a little dual-ended screwdriver that can turn from flat-head to Phillips-head. The screwdriver will come in handy, especially around Christmas, for opening the battery compartments of the kids’ toys.
Bonus: Nestle this gift in a series of hard-to-open packages to make the eventual reveal funnier.
Bottle That Makes Flavored Water
Many people tell themselves every day to drink more water, but it's hard to do. This is because plain water can be boring. But getting enough water is really important, so a bottle with a reusable water infuser is a gift that anyone will appreciate and use.
This is not just a regular bottle. It is one that allows you to add flavor to your water by putting fruits, vegetables, or anything else into the infuser. The fruit holder also acts as a strainer, so there is no need to worry about drinking seeds, pulp, or herbs.
Because the holder is shaped like a tube and stretches all the way down the bottle, it helps to infuse the water evenly, so you get flavor with every sip. Another neat thing about this bottle is that you can set the infuser in its cap while filling it with fruits and veggies.
This gift will save people money and improve their health at the same time, as there will be no need to buy expensive bottles of flavored water that are (usually) loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Bonus: Although it is meant for water, you can use it to flavor alcohol too.
Pump That Keeps Wine Fresh for Days
A wine saver vacuum pump is a small pump that extracts the air from an opened bottle of wine. This stops the oxidization process and preserves the wine for a longer period of time. Obviously, this gift is more suitable for office parties or other gift exchanges that do not include small children.
Look for the Vacu Vin Wine Saver Pump. Theirs includes a very useful vacuum indicator feature: The pump makes a clicking sound when you have pumped all the air out of the bottle. With other pumps, you have to guess when to stop pumping. This pump also comes with two reusable bottle stoppers, which are needed for sealing the bottle and for the pump to work.
Don’t forget that this gift would go nicely with a bottle of wine!
Set of Quality Cheese Knives
Everyone can use cheese knifes in their home, but not everyone will necessarily think of buying a full set for themselves, which makes this idea very appropriate for an adult gift exchange at work or at home.
Since many people like the shiny look of stainless steel, the Jetty Home four-piece knife set will probably appeal to most of your colleagues or family members. The knives are engraved with labels for what kind of cheese they are intended to be used with, which makes them a bit more interesting than other gift sets. For example, the large spatula is labeled "Crumbly" and is meant for cheeses like Gorgonzola. The thinner spatula is labeled “Soft” and is for cheeses like Camembert or Brie. The engraved labels are great for when you have guests over and they are not too sure about which knife to use with the different type of cheeses you are serving.
The set is also packed in a beautiful box that has a vintage vibe to it. You won't be embarrassed to give this to anyone—even your boss—as a gift.
Succulent, Bonsai, or Cactus
Getting a gift for a notorious plant killer? On top of being absolutely adorable, Bonsais, cactuses and succulents are relatively easy to care for. Plus, whereas some gifts lose their luster before the new year has even arrived, these plants can provide years of joy.
Sleek-Looking Hand Warmers
With the weather getting colder and colder around Christmas, hand warmers make a very practical gift. They can add a lot of comfort on brisk days when you have to go outside and walk your dog, watch outdoor events or play with the kids in the park.
There are many types of hand warmers out there, but they are not all created equal. You definitely don’t want to get the disposable ones that you throw away after one use. Look for ones like this Zippo hand warmer, which has a sleek-looking design made of metal.
Although the Zippo works with lighter fluid and has to be lit with matches, they won’t burn your pockets or gloves because the heat is generated by a catalytic reaction, not an actual flame. The reaction occurs at temperatures that don’t get even close to the temperature of an open flame. In addition, the hand warmer comes with a small carrying pouch, which controls the air flow and so the temperature. It can run up to 12 hours on a single charge!
According to Zippo, the hand warmer can't be put out once lit. Instead, it needs to be left to burn out. This is not very convenient if you are only going to use it for short periods of time. However, many people have found a way around it. Some wrap it in tinfoil to stop the air flow and cool it down. Others stop the air flow by putting it inside the carrying pouch and into a sealed zip lock bag.
This is just the right amount of silly for a Secret Santa gift. It's totally unexpected, and while it's large and cumbersome, it's also a blast to "open" and bound to get some laughs. What's more, you can get one in almost any theme you can imagine, making the possibilities almost endless.
Clever Organizer for Small Items
Practical gadget organizers like Cocoon’s Grid-It are another good, gender-neutral gift. This organizer has a simple, but very clever design. It is a reinforced board covered with rubberized elastic straps. The straps are interwoven in a way that allows for endless configurations to organize all sorts of small items and accessories. There is also a zipper pocket in the back to hold larger items that might be too big for the straps.
The Grid-It is a perfect gift not only for people who need a way to store all of their gadgets, USB cables, and chargers while traveling, but for just about everyone. Students can use it to organize pens, pencils and computer cords. Guys can use it to organize small specialty tools that usually end up in a “junk” drawer. And ladies can use it for things like craft tools, personal items, or even as a purse organizer.
Battery Pack That Fits in a Pocket
Nowadays, almost everyone has a cell phone. We've all had the battery run out of juice at some inconvenient moment when we're away from home. A portable battery charger with good charging speed, a sleek design, and a compact size will surely be a welcome Secret Santa gift that won't be thrown in the trash several days later.
One good and super inexpensive battery charger is the Anker Power Core+ Mini. It is a very compact unit that can literally charge up your phone while it sits in your pocket. It has an aluminum casing that feels really premium, so it definitely does not look like something that was bought at a gas station on the way to the Secret Santa party.
The Anker has a capacity of 3350 mAh, which means that an average iPhone user can get at least a couple of charges out of it. If you have devices with smaller batteries, like Bluetooth headphones, for example, you will get even more charges out of it.
Tailor-made for your forgetful friend, this set of four "keyfinders" will help them keep track of all the most important little items in their lives. Each color-coded button on the remote is connected to a receiver which beeps when the corresponding button is pressed. There is also a light on the remote to make it even easier to find lost items.
The receiver and remote work up to 30 meters apart, even if the lost item is buried under a couch cushion or multiple rooms away.
Color-Changing Bulb With Remote Control
Everyone loves color-changing LED bulbs. Hit Lights Multicolor LED bulbs are inexpensive and remote-controlled to make a room glow in all the colors of the rainbow. They are perfect for adding ambience, especially around the holidays.
These bulbs will provide your Secret Santa with more than just “on” and “off” functionality. People can program them to smoothly cycle through the different colors or flash through every color. They can fade, dim and create all kinds of awesome color schemes and effects.
A lens-care kit is not something that many people would think to give as a gift at the Secret Santa party. But these kits are very practical. They can be used for cleaning prescription glasses, safety and sports goggles, camera lenses, computer screens, cell phones, tablets and many other glass and plastic surfaces.
Consider getting a kit from a brand like Zeiss because they are the best on the market. Their cleaning solutions leave no residue and won’t fog up lenses as many others do.
Mini Flashlight With a Tripod
Flashlights are very handy to have at home or in the car. An LED flashlight with a built-in tripod makes a great gift for anyone, regardless of their gender. They're useful for everything from DIY projects to emergency situations.
Secret Santa Gifts You May Want to Avoid
- Useless Novelties. Cheap novelties are gifts that everyone finds hilarious when they see them in a picture, but no one actually likes receiving.
- Candles. Everyone loves candles, right? No, everyone does not. Many scented candles are too strong for some people, and the fact that you like a particular scent doesn’t mean that the gift recipient will also like it. The same goes for bath salts.
- Gift Cards. Giving a gift card to a family member that you know well is one thing, but giving a gift card to a coworker is another. With a gift card, you are limiting their options by choosing only one place where they can spend your money. And they may not even like or shop at that place. Another good point is: why bring a $20 gift card to Target, just to walk home with a $20 gift card to Best Buy? If you really can't think of anything better than a gift card, at least give cash instead.
- Lottery and Scratch-Off Tickets. The vast majority of lottery tickets win nothing, so the odds are high that a lottery ticket given as a gift will be worthless. People would prefer to get the cash, instead of a gift that is most likely of no value at all.
- Desk Calendar. Everyone has at least several electronic gadgets that can tell them the date—computer, mobile phone, iCal, even a day planner.
- CDs and DVDs. Everyone has different tastes in music and movies, and the chances are high that your Secret Santa doesn’t share yours. Even a CD or DVD of their favorite band or movie can be a useless gift, because people usually have everything they like, especially from their favorite artists.
- Donating Money. Do not assume that your Secret Santa would like to donate money to the same charities that you do, especially if they are related to some political or religious cause. Even if you know they won’t mind, it is still better to let them make the decision and donate the money.
- Personal Items. Ties, cufflinks, perfumes, clothing and jewelry are always bad gift ideas for coworkers and people you don’t know well. These are items that people like choosing for themselves. Unless you have very specific instructions on exactly what someone likes, don't go down this road.
© 2011 iZeko
abdullahi yusuf on November 22, 2018: