Secret Santa is basically the Olympic Games of gift giving.
You’re generally restricted to a low dollar amount, limiting your options right off the bat.
There’s also a good chance you won’t know the person very well, so you might have to keep it generic (but not lame). Oh, and it’s also holiday time, when you’re already overwhelmed with shopping for the other people in your life.
So what’s a secret Santa to do?
We’ve rounded up 12 fun ideas to keep your gift exchange interesting, thoughtful and under budget.
Before there were fitbits and smartphone apps, we had Tamagotchis.
Who among us didn’t get way too invested in the health and happiness of their pretend pet?
Now we’re adults and have actual lives and people to tend to, but let’s remind ourselves of the simple days by gifting digital animals to nurture.
Now anyone can learn the ancient art of reading tea leaves.
This is perfect for the coworker who’s never far from his cup of Earl Grey. The set comes with a special tea cup and saucer, plus a book for interpreting your fortune based on the pattern of your tea leaves.
Apparently a heart shape near the edge indicates love in the future — a cake shape hints at exciting events in the future. There’s probably a certain amount of subjectivity involved in reading tea leaves, though.
3. Kinetic Sand
I don’t care how old you are, this crazy sand is a blast. It sticks together — you can mold it, squish it and just get weird with it.
And it’s surprisingly easy to clean up. It’s perfect for a kids’ gift exchange, but could work just as well for grown-ups.
Aside from the shock value of the title, there’s a lot to love about this game.
First, it was the most-backed project in Kickstarter history. It also features illustrations by the hilarious Oatmeal.
This works for all manner of secret Santa participants: the game enthusiast, the cat lover, the cat hater, the web comic fan — and the person you don’t even know.
Who doesn’t love a nice tube of hand cream? During secret Santa season, it’s nice to add a touch of the unexpected to your gift.
Fancy lotion in a banana-shaped dispenser ticks all of the boxes. Plus it’s easy to pop in your purse (or lunch bag) on your way out the door.
No one needs a stick of solid perfume shaped like a bunny. So the odds of the recipient already owning the gift is pretty much nonexistent.
This little bunny is the chapstick of fragrances and you can choose from a variety of scents. On second thought, I’ll just keep this one for myself.
This is the perfect gift for your office pal with a green thumb and a penchant for mixed drinks.
It’s the next best thing to growing a cocktail (can you even imagine?) — this set contains everything you need to start planting cocktail garnishes.
Grow herbs like thyme, basil, mint and lavender today and garnish your favorite cocktail with the crops from your tiny garden.
If you’re going to be using oven mitts anyway, there’s no excuse not to make them bear claws.
This gift also subtly suggests to the wearer they should make you a batch of holiday cookies.
If you need a circular saw to cut your pizza, you’re doing it wrong.
But this is still a must-have in the kitchen.
The average smartphone has a pretty impressive camera, and this lens kit will help your favorite Instagram fiend up their photo game.
The fish eye, macro and wide angle lenses each offer a unique effect for your photos. And there actually isn’t an app for that (yet).
Your classy coworker will appreciate this one.
Who even knows what half of the cheeses are at any given party. She can jot down the names with the chalk to take the guesswork out of the the cheese at the New Year’s party.
Help your friend stay cozy this winter with a woodsy firestarter kit.
This handy gift helps them start a toasty fire in the fireplace, at a cook out or in a wood-burning stove.
But instead of the chemical smell from lighter fluid, the 100% biodegradable firestarters give off a nice, woodsy, pine aroma.
Your Turn: Will you be using any of these as Secret Santa gifts?
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. We would have shared them with you anyway, but a true “penny hoarder” would be a fool not to take the company’s money.
Lyndsee Simpson is a writer and editor living in Washington, D.C. Her secret Santa gave her a collection of hot sauces this year.