Secret Santa Gifts Anyone Will Love
Secret Santa is a great way for large groups of friends, family, and coworkers to affordably exchange gifts in an organized manner. But this inclusive swap can sometimes stump even the best gifters, especially when paired with someone they’re not that close with. Our tips? Veer away from giving the recipient another coffee cup, bottle of wine, box of chocolate, or gift card. Instead, opt for small, luxurious gifts for their home—like a fragrant candle, an elegant kitchen towel, or a luscious hand cream. Most people will appreciate upscale versions of items they wouldn’t necessarily spend the money on if buying for themselves. Not so sure that’s the right angle for your pair? You could also give an item they can use while entertaining—like an artisanal cocktail mixer, a novelty board game, or a stylish serving tray. These are the gifts that will keep on giving, as they’re likely to share these items with guests during special occasions. To help jumpstart your search, Real Simple editors have scoured the market looking for unique finds to suit for everyone on your list. And though financial limits might feel restrictive, there are a host of great items for all price ranges (and all are under $50, too). Each piece is sure to please even the most discerning person, so there’s no need to stress about what to get for the grab bag. From candles to coloring books to games, any coworker, friend, or family member will appreciate receiving one of these presents.
Mini Foosball Table
Want to score with your Secret Santa match? Give them this miniature foosball set. Not only is it adorable—at just under 4 inches long by 7 inches wide, it’s smaller than your standard sheet of paper—this felt, paper, and wood kit is also fully customizable. The set comes with six markers (in black, red, orange, green, yellow, and blue) and two rolls of colored tape (red and blue), so you can adorn your stadium’s flags and jerseys with your favorite sport team’s colors. Once complete, it’s fully functional—so they can grab a friend and battle head-to-head.
To buy: $40, uncommongoods.com.
Merrit Solid Wood Taper
Spark woodsy wanderlust with these hourglass-inspired solid wood candleholders. Each voluptuous taper is handcrafted in India, and features native seesham timber topped off with a brass metal cap. The deep finish looks stately against bold red and greens for a holiday table setting. Or pair with neutrals in summer to help create a light, earthy vibe. The taper holders come in three sizes (5 inches, 7 inches, and 9 inches), so she can mix and match different heights to create a dynamic display. Each holds a standard taper candle, so we suggest tucking in one or two when wrapping.
To buy: Starting from $17, crateandbarrel.com.
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Give them a reason to relax with these Mississippi-made soy wax candles. Each option comes in an on-trend burnished metal and recycled glass vessel with a marbleized soapstone lid. Giving it to an outdoorsy person? Try the mountainous volcano scent, made with notes of citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes) and greenery. It’s hand-poured into a golden-hued container. Are they more of a beach person? Opt for the Lagoon scent in the copper-hued holder. It’s a delightful mix of sea-inspired floral and spice notes. Each scent is available in two sizes, too: the small candle burns for 30 hours, and the large for 60 hours.
To buy: $18 for a small candle, $30 for a large, anthropologie.com.
American Road Trip Coloring Book
The benefits of coloring books are really catching on. In fact, a 2016 study from Drexel University said that we should all color and create art more for its stress reducing effects. So why not share the rewards with this coloring book? Featuring American landmarks big and small, each page shows your recipient a different sight from the East Coast to the West Coast. They’ll see their hometown monuments, as well as the places they’ve always wanted to visit. Highlights include coloring pages of Chicago’s Willis Tower, Seattle’s Space Needle, New York’s Times Square, and even the best barbecue restaurants in Memphis. It’s guaranteed to be the most calming trip they’ve ever taken.
To buy: $12, amazon.com.
Notice your recipient is never without her notebook? Wrap up this shimmering trellis journal. Though the durable polyurethane outside may be geometric, the orderly interior is perfect for both note jotters and doodlers alike. Choose from the small ocean-hued navy, light blue, and orange combo or the slightly larger one, which comes in a soothing (and on-trend) mustard yellow with pink and gray accents. The pretty built-in satin bookmark means she’ll never lose her place. And who knows? Maybe your gift will give birth to the next great American novel (or comic).
To buy: Starting at $20, anthropologie.com.
Wood and Slate Cheeseboard
Looking for something sophisticated? How about this timeless, handmade cheese board? This slab’s mix of light mango wood and slate make for a rustic look that’s a great entertaining staple year-round. The slate does more than just add contrast to the platter. It also acts as a chalkboard, providing space to write down exactly what cheese is placed next to it—whether it’s Edam, gruyere, brie, or cheddar. That means he won’t have to constantly answer the inevitable “what is this one?” when standing next to the snack table. Note: Make sure you remind him that, though sturdy, the mixture of slate and wood means they’ll need to wash by hand.
To buy: $25, surlatable.com.
Rooster Tea Towel
This gift is perfect for the person who lives in an old farmhouse—or the person who just wishes they did. Tea towels are a great way to add an artful touch to a kitchen with minimal space, and this colorful rooster is so pretty, it’s likely to find a permanent home over the oven door. Austin artist Starla Michelle Halfmann’s distinct swirls and strokes offer a vibrant take on the perennial kitchen favorite. And the unexpected benefits of its rainbow palette? It will match a number of kitchen colors. Though exceptionally beautiful, it makes a great everyday dishtowel, too—it’s made with machine-washable cotton.
To buy: $20, anthropologie.com.
Mercury Moon Glow Candle
Drop one of these copper mercury glass candles into your grab bag, and anyone will be happy to be on the receiving end. Each size comes with its own distinct scent: The large cylinder comes in fireside, a fragrant mix of geranium, nutmeg, patchouli, cedar, leather, and vetiver. The small cone comes in harvest pumpkin, a blend of almond, clove, saffron, pumpkin, and plum. The small cylinder comes in mulled wine, a blend of orange, cinnamon, vanilla, leather, and cedar. And finally, the large cone comes in sweet vanilla cinnamon, which includes ginger, nutmeg, caramel, and a touch of berry. The range of sizes means you can give just one (it will work as a tabletop accent) or bundle a few as a set (together, they create a striking multidimensional display.)
To buy: Starting at $18, anthropologie.com.
Swirled Bud Vase
Let them know you think they rock with a vase made of, well, rock. Choose an angular vase from either swirled marble in pink and green, or striped granite in gray and ivory. We especially love the speckled rose quartz hue for its soothing effect (it was also Pantone’s color of the year). But both look stunning with a single stem of vivid greenery. Each piece hovers between 4.25 and 4.75 inches tall, with a diameter of between 2 and 2.5 inches—meaning that if they’re placed on the same surface, there’s a pleasing, subtle contrast of thickness and height. Or choose to amplify their angles by arranging them on different levels.
To buy: $28, anthropologie.com.
Little Quote Jar
Matched with a coworker, friend, or family member who always knows what to say? Give them a special place to stash their favorite phrases and words of wisdom with this glass “little quote jar.” This clever set comes with two patterned pads—with dedicated spaces for the date, name, and quote—and a wooden pencil. Both fit neatly in the cork top. She can keep it on her desk for when she needs a little pick me up, or on her nightstand to start or end the day with good thoughts. (Think they might need some inspiring quotes to put in their little jar? Tell them to sign up for our Daily Thought newsletter.)
To buy: $44, anthropologie.com.
Sunflower in a Bag Grow Kit
Matched with someone who’s known for her green thumb? Why not give her a reminder that days filled with summer sunshine will be here before she knows it? Ensure her garden is filled with happy, towering sunflowers with this all-in-one kit. All she has to do is plant the included seeds directly in the jute bag. Once it starts to grow, she can just plant the bag (it’s biodegradable!) directly in the soil. Come blooming time, the sunflowers will tower over 10 feet. The kit makes growing these joyful flowers so easy that it makes a great first foray for aspirational gardeners, too.
To buy: $13, uncommongoods.com.
Hot Sauce To Go
Do you have a friend who asks the server for hot sauce no matter where you go and what they’re eating, be it eggs, a chicken sandwich, or udon noodles? Give them a gift that keeps on giving—and saves them time and energy while out and about. With this miniature squeeze bottle, they can add a dash of heat to any dish, anywhere, with a clip-on supply of Sriracha. The set comes complete with two sizes of clip-on dispensers and one nine-ounce bottle of Sriracha for filling up the empty travel containers and refilling them when necessary.
To buy: $15, sriracha2go.com.
Grocery Compromises Tote Bag
Grocery shopping can be a battle of self-control (especially when the kids are along for the ride and want all the snacks): Can you convince yourself to pick the fruit when what you really want is strawberry ice cream? Or select the almonds over the candy when those Skittles would be the perfect accompaniment to movie night? This quirky tote not only helps you find a happy medium (well, sort of!), but it also provides an eco-friendly bag for the items you do buy—and gives everyone in line with you a laugh at the same time.
To buy: $20, emilymcdowell.com.
Beer Opening Glass
You’ve finally found time to relax with a cold beer, so you walk over to the couch and sink into those soft, comfy cushions, kick off your shoes…and then you realize your brew isn’t a twist off. So it’s back to the kitchen for you. Major buzzkill! This sleek, modern 12-ounce pint glass features a stainless steel bottom that has two built-in bottle openers: the bottom swiftly removes twist-off caps (no more sore hands from those sharp ridges) and the side will pop open the rest. Available in two colors: silver and champagne (shown here).
To buy: $12, uncommongoods.com.
When she’s trapped inside from nine to five every single day, she’s bound to miss the great outdoors. To her rescue: A mini version of the classic outdoor game, which measures three feet long and five inches wide, that she can play in between tasks, all year round, rain or shine. To play, lift each board to an angle and then use the launchpad to fling your beanbag across the way. The goal is to catapult your bag into the hole on your opponent’s board. Use the scoreboard in the middle to keep track of points.
To buy: $45, uncommongoods.com.
Cupcake Pops Kit
For the baker of the bunch: Cake pops—upgraded. This flexible, nonstick silicone mold makes 24 mini cupcakes (no liners required—one less step!). Once the goods are out of the oven and cooled, reusable sticks transform the bite-sized confections into a single-serve, party-worthy treat. The kit also includes a lid for the mold, a squeeze bottle for filling, three pastry tips for frosting, and a recipe book. Here’s to hoping they share their first batch. Don’t think this is quite right? Keep searching. We have a host of other gifts hand-picked especially for the person who loves to bake.
To buy: $25, bedbathandbeyond.com.
Portable Mini Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
This powerful speaker is no bigger than an acorn (and it just so happens to look like one, too), but it delivers clear sound—no matter where the party is. The small but mighty device comes with an attached portable sling that can be hung on a branch (perfect for barbecues), on a hook (for basement bashes), or attached to a key ring (that’ll do just about anywhere) for easy transport. The two-toned natural wood speaker syncs with iPhones, iPads, laptops, Androids, and other bluetooth-enabled devices for up to six hours of continuous tunes. The device charges using the included USB cable.
To buy: $17, amazon.com.
‘My Brain Has Too Many Tabs Open’ Mug
Ideal for the the friend who says she has time for dinner, but inevitably shows up 15 minutes late because she’s so busy, this funny grab bag gift features a message everyone at the office can relate to: There’s just so much to do and so little time to do it. The best part? The lucky recipient will use the mug over and over again to get his or her morning caffeine fix. Available in two sizes—11 ounces and 15 ounces—but we think the person who needs this mug the most is going to need the larger size.
To buy: $16.50, bluesparrowdesignsco.etsy.com.
Easy Flower Arranger
For the gardener extraordinaire (or anyone who simply loves flowers), these steel wire grids make it easy to create an artful arrangement in mere minutes. The set comes in three sizes to accommodate nearly any vase up to about six inches in diameter. We recommend using lush flowers to keep the wire from showing—or, if she simply can’t resist those tulips—add extra greenery to the arrangement to fill it out. Those who are extra thoughtful will gift this clever tool with a bundle of the recipient’s favorite variety of fresh flowers and a pretty vase.
To buy: $9 for three, amazon.com.
Portable Wine Glass
You know what they say: It’s always five o’clock somewhere. With this collapsible wine glass, happy hour is, quite fortunately, wherever she is: at an outdoor concert or at the office, working long hours. We like to think it’s ideal for the avid traveler, too. That in-air mini bottle of vino feels way more luxe when served in an actual wine glass (even if it isn’t real glass). Pair a set of the flexible glasses, which hold 11.5 ounces each, with a bottle of pinot, and you’ll have a gift everyone at the party can appreciate.
To buy: $12, containerstore.com.
Writing instruments that are noteworthy for their ability to live on. When you’re down to the stubby ends that are way too short to use, don’t toss them. Instead put them back to good use, and plant each one in soil to grow basil, cilantro, dill, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Seeds should sprout within one to three weeks. For the friend who can’t get enough of the adult coloring book trend, select a set of sprouting colored pencils instead. As a bonus, for every tree felled for the making of these pencils, a new one is planted.
To buy: $18 for eight assorted, amazon.com.
‘You’re Soy Amazing’ Candle
A scented hand-poured soy candle is sure to delight. Made by Ms. Betty’s Original Bad-Ass Candles in Virginia, it will burn for up to 50 hours, which is lovely, particularly during the darker, chillier months of the year. Plus, you can’t beat the ego boost that comes along with that candlelight reading session: “You’re Soy Amazing!” Choose from eight delicious aromas—like bergamot and jasmine, brown sugar and fig, lavender and cucumber, mimosa and mandarin, oakmoss and amber, and spearmint and eucalyptus. Fourteen other silly phrases—some flattering and others, well, not so much (we’ll let you decide for yourself)—also available.
To buy: $18, badasscandles.etsy.com.