Picture it: the office holiday party, 2014.
It was a tradition to play Secret Santa, the game we all know and love, in which we’d all draw a name at random and secretly give that person a gift at the annual holiday party.
When it was my turn to draw a name, my worst fear came true. (Ok, my worst fear is getting stuck at the top of a roller coaster, but this is a close second.)
I drew my coworker Sally.
Sally (whose name I’ve changed just in case she’s reading this article and learns the truth about my 2014 Secret Santa snafu) was a perfectly nice person. The only problem was that I knew literally nothing about her!
Seriously, not one thing.
She kept no personal mementos on her desk. Even her computer desktop background was a plain blue screen.
The only intel I had on Sally was that she ate a tuna melt every single day, which did not endear her to the office.
So, it was safe to say I was at a total loss when faced with the pressure of buying her a Secret Santa gift.
For weeks I tried to find out more about her, to no avail.
Finally, the day before the holiday party, I spied a coffee-table craft cocktail guide at TJ Maxx and thought, “Good enough.” It seemed like a generic gift almost anyone would enjoy.
Fast forward to the party, where Sally opens up her Secret Santa gift.
I could immediately tell she didn’t like it.
To her credit, she politely put on a brave face and tried to guess who’d gifted her the book.
Later, I found out that Sally didn’t drink at all due to her religious background, and while she wasn’t offended by the gift, it wasn’t exactly something she could use.
Since then, I’ve become an expert Secret Santa gift-giver. I don’t want to let anymore Sallies down with lackluster Secret Santa picks.
If you have no idea what to give your Secret Santa recipient this year, I’ve got you covered.
From your mystery coworker to your dad, here are the best Secret Santa gifts under $30 that are sure to impress this year:
1. Birch Box Subscription
I love subscription boxes. One of my personal favorites is Birch Box—the popular beauty product subscription that can be gifted to just about anyone: your work wife, best girlfriend, or mom will all love getting a personalized box of goodies each month.
Starting at $30 for a three-month subscription, Birch Box now offers men’s subscription boxes, truly making them a gift anyone will enjoy.
2. Nuns Having Fun
“A wall calendar? But that’s so boring!”
Au contraire, my friend.
My roommates and I stumbled across the Nuns Having Fun calendar in college, and it has been my go-to wall calendar for the past decade. It’s a great gift for someone you don’t know very well because, seriously, can you imagine anyone who wouldn’t smile seeing nuns having fun?
At under $15, this is an affordable gift that can easily be paired with another item, like a gourmet chocolate bar, for the perfect office Secret Santa gift.
3. Essential Oil Diffuser
Is your work bestie stressed about a big upcoming project? How about giving her an essential oil diffuser this year?
Diffusers like this one from URPOWER are pretty inexpensive but can be used at home or in the office. Along with the diffuser, gift your Secret Santa a couple of different essential oils. Just make sure you buy oils from a reputable source.
4. Bacon, Bacon, Bacon
Does your Secret Santa love bacon?
Who am I kidding?
Everyone loves bacon.
No time to assemble something yourself? While Man Crates are designed for men, they’re really a great gift idea for any whiskey-drinking, meat-eating guy or gal and they aren’t just for Secret Santa either. When Valentine’s Day rolls around, send your boo a delicious heart filled with gourmet jerky.
5. Have Mug, Will Travel
Everyone can use a good travel mug (especially if they’re like me and can never find a clean one in sight).
Not only does it keep drinks hot or cold for 18 hours, but it even has diffuser options for bag or loose leaf tea. It’s the perfect Secret Santa gift for a coworker or your dad (whose 30-year-old thermos probably needs an update).
6. Cozy Slippers
Studies show that the more comfortable you are, the more productive and happier you are at work. Alan Hedge, PhD, found that employees who were warm enough were more productive than those who worked in the chilly conditions of most office buildings.
You may not be able to change the thermostat in your office, but you can gift your Secret Santa a cute pair of slippers to slip on under their desk. These rose gold Minnetonka slippers will be sure to keep your Secret Santa’s feet feeling toasty and looking fabulous, even when the office feels like the frozen tundra.
7. Ready, Set, Write!
With New Year’s Eve right around the corner, this journal is a great gift idea for your coworker, friend, or anyone you know who is working toward a specific goal. While it does come in just a few dollars above the $30 price point, it’s well worth the extra expense (less than a cup of coffee!) for the motivation it provides.
8. There’s no place like home.
Is your Secret Santa homesick over the holidays? Cheer them up with these Homesick Scented Candles. Each state’s candle smells like a bit of home. I love to light my beloved North Carolina candle, which smells a little sweet and a little bitter, just like the perfect bite of NC barbeque.
Homesick candles cost between $25 and $35 each and can be purchased on Amazon.
9. Grow your own tree.
Give a gift that keeps on giving (in a good way) by gifting your Secret Santa a Bonsai Garden Starter Kit from Nature’s Blossom. In addition to giving them reason to slow down and take the time to plant and tend to their little bonsai, as the tree grows, it will enhance their space, whether it finds its home at the office or somewhere around their house or apartment.
An added bonus? Houseplants help rid the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and release oxygen thanks to photosynthesis, which means, in a way, you’ll be gifting them a breath of fresh air for the new year!
10. Stylish Reusable Tote
This solid jute tote from MudPie is a stylish, versatile take on the reusable tote. It’s a steal that can be used to carry everything from groceries to beach gear.
Want to make this gift extra thoughtful? Consider having your Secret Santa’s initials monogrammed on the side as a special touch.