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How to make secret Santa fun and stress-free

21st November 2019

Although Christmas is bursting with merriment some festive traditions, such as secret Santa, can feel more like a chore. Just the thought of fighting through crowds of panicked shoppers to find the perfect present can be enough to fill you with dread. 

In a recent survey conducted by GB Posters, more than a quarter of people who have previously participated in secret Santa admitted they struggled to find a suitable gift. A further 15% said they felt obliged to take part.

Rummaging through a bowl filled with the names of your colleagues or friends can consume you with both excitement and nerves. It’s ideal if you choose one of your closest pals, but more often than not, you’ll be assigned to the person you barely know.

Jade Morris, e-commerce executive at GB Posters, says: “It might seem like the easiest route to pick up a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine on your next supermarket trip. But when the Christmas party arrives, you don’t want your giftee to have the worst present in the room.

“Instead, why not give them something a bit more personal and unexpected? It makes the game even more fun if they can’t guess who their secret Santa is.”

Although Christmas shopping can be stressful, if you plan ahead and think outside of the box, it can be an enjoyable experience. Almost half of the survey respondents who had previously engaged in secret Santa said they like buying gifts for people.

Shopping to a budget

The first thing to clarify when arranging secret Santa is the budget. Without this restriction, people might overspend or underspend, which can create an awkward atmosphere and leave some disappointed with their gifts.

A fairly small price limit of £5 to £10 is often set due to December being an expensive time of year. Although this can take the financial pressure away, it makes gift-buying an even bigger challenge.

Mandi Marks-Adler, founder of gift concierge service, Live for the Present says: “I don’t like to waste money but even a small, low-priced gift can be thoughtful and meaningful to the recipient.

“For example, a bar of expensive chocolate can cost less than £5 but be a great treat for a chocoholic. This year, hair slides are really on-trend and don’t have to cost a fortune to update someone’s party look.”

Buy a gift that reflects their interests 

Nobody likes being given a useless gift that is doomed to spend eternity gathering dust. But with budget restraints, it can be difficult to find a functional present, especially if you aren’t chummy with the recipient.

“To avoid buying something generic, do some digging. Spend some time getting to know them better or ask others for tips. You might unveil their hobby, favourite film, idol or drink of choice, providing you with many ideas,” Jade adds.

A further 8% of respondents from the GP Posters survey said they look forward to the tradition of secret Santa as it allows them to make friends and build on relationships.

Jade continues: “Some groups decide to do a themed secret Santa to make it a bit more interesting. Films and music are great themes that can apply to most personalities.

“For the colleague always hogging the office music or the friend who loves a gallery wall, buy them a framed poster of the favourite album cover or band to display in their home.”

Presents that will always go down well in an office

If you’re struggling to uncover information that will help you find the right present, consider what you already know about your recipient.

Are they famous for the many cups of tea they can get through in one working day? If so, get them a new mug that will make them smile whenever they take a sip.

Depending on your budget you could get them a classic mug, a ceramic stein mug or, to impress even further, a heat-changing mug. If you have a coffee connoisseur among your friends or colleagues, buy them a stylish set of espresso mugs.

Mandi adds: “Buying presents based around your colleague’s working habits shows you are paying attention. If they’re a big tea drinker, why not get them a special packet of flavoured teas? There are also personalised notebooks available that can make a boring meeting fun.”

For pop culture fans, a mug with pictures of their favourite film or band printed on is a great way to nod to the recipient’s interests, without going over the top.

Jade says: “Although mugs are ideal for tea and coffee drinkers, there’s always someone that claims they don’t like hot drinks and instead gets through gallons of water each day. A brand new glass or water bottle is something they’ll get a lot of use out of and you could make it more personal by choosing one with a reference to their favourite TV show.”

Joke presents

If you know the recipient well, a joke present can add extra cheer to the gift-opening moment. But if you take the joke too far, you could bring a chill over the party.

Jade continues: “It’s important to not cross any boundaries, especially if you aren’t close friends. A silly joke that teases them for their office antics or nods to an inside joke often goes down well.”

Gag gifts are often great for a momentary chuckle but end up being put in a drawer ready to be re-gifted next year. Instead, consider funny presents that will be used and that everybody can get involved with.

Mandi says: “There are lots of small games available which are great as a stocking filler or a great ice-breaker for an office party or social gathering.”

Be organised

Everybody always claims the festive period comes around too fast, but Christmas is predictable. It takes place at the same time each year, so why are we never prepared?  

Although there’s always that one person who brags about having their presents wrapped before December even arrives, most people leave it until the last minute. To minimise the festive shopping panic, start early and give yourself time to enjoy it.

Mandi concludes: “Make a list and think about who you’re buying for. Do some research online to save your feet. Be focused. Think about where you want to shop, what order you wish to do it and leave time for a nice cup of tea and a mince pie.”

It might not seem achievable to make the gift-buying experience fun but if you’re prepared and put the effort in, you can minimise the stress and heighten the excitement.