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Ah, it’s that time of year again. A time for family, spreading joy, being merry, and most importantly, that time of year where we get to experience the debilitating stress of having to buy gifts for people. And to add to that stress imagine shopping for a coworker whom you don’t even know that well!
Well, lucky for you I have built a great list for just such occasions. Check out the best novelty gifts we could find for your upcoming Secret Santa sorted by price tier!
But first a little background (and feel free to skip down if you’re just looking for the gifts).
What’s a Secret Santa Anyway?
A Secret Santa is a fun game in which you and a group of people (sometimes friends, sometimes family, most often coworkers) all agree to buy gifts for one another. Once the group is established, a system of “matching” usually occurs in which people are randomly paired with another person. (I personally like Elfster for this, because they sort out all the logistics for you.) Once everyone is matched, you are the “Secret Santa” and the person receiving your gift is the gift receiver. Also don’t forget, you will be a gift receiver as well!
Often times there is an arranged time in which the entire group opens their gift from their Secret Santa in front of each other, and once opened it is revealed who the Secret Santa was with an accompanying backstory on the gift.
Secret Santas are fun because 1) the gifts are often truly surprising, and 2) because it gives you an opportunity to buy something for someone whom you may not know that well. And who knows, maybe you get them such an awesome gift that you end up being lifelong friends! (I have no evidence of this ever happening.)
What’s a White Elephant Exchange?
Sometimes called an “Indian Exchange” the concept is a little different than your classic Secret Santa exchange for a few key reasons…
- Often times in White Elephant exchanges, you as a gift-giver do not have a gift-receiver assigned to you. Instead, the gift you’re buying is for the pool of people that are participating. So anyone can end up with your gift.
- During the exchange process, everyone puts their gifts in the middle. Then you establish an order to go in (around in a circle, by age, by pulling names out of a hat, etc) and then you go one-by-one and pick a gift out of the circle. You can then either 1) keep that gift, or 2) trade that gift with someone else.
Additional rules state that once a gift has traded hands twice, then that gift can no longer be traded. That of course can be optional—I have sometimes attended White Elephants with no limit on exchanges. Also, the White Elephant exchange ends once everyone is gone once and it returns to the first person to pick. They have one last opportunity to keep or trade your gift (so long as the gift your trading for hasn’t already been traded twice).
Secret Santa and White Elephant Etiquette
It’s crazy that I have to write a section on this, but I feel like there are absolutely unspoken rules to both the Secret Santa and White Elephant gift exchanges, because it’s funny how often I see people break them! Take heed:
- Don’t go too far under the price limit. Going too far under the range can make it seem like you’re being cheap. The reasons why it’s ok to go under is if there is inherent sentimental, humorous, or DIY quality to it. In other words, maybe you knit a homemade scarf that only cost $5 in material, but if you spent a lot of time on it and it’s a cool scarf, then the overall value is much higher than the cost of goods. Also if it’s an inside joke where the laughter and memory are worth the small price tag, that might be ok too. Since those scenarios can be sometimes difficult to judge, I just recommend trying to get close to the limit price, that way there’s no judgemental looks to navigate.
- Don’t go too far over the price limit. You might think that you’re being overly generous by buying something way over the price limit but look no further than Michael Scott to realize why it’s problematic. Yes, not only did he buy a $400 video iPod for a $20 limit exchange, but he left the price tag on! I also don’t think I have to tell you why leaving the price tag on is a no-no as well.
- Don’t be too offensive. Especially if it’s an office Secret Santa exchange, you definitely want to steer clear of offensive gifts. Anything that’s racy, vulgar, or just in bad taste, just don’t do it if you’re thinking it’s borderline. Remember, going over the line will in the best case create an awkward moment, but in the worst case you could lose your job. Just don’t risk it.
- For White Elephants, make sure to read the room. I have attended a few White Elephants where the rule was established early on that anything goes when it comes to stealing gifts. If everyone buys into that, then hey, go crazy. That said, I’ve been to, shall we say, more civil White Elephant exchanges where maybe someone picks out an item and you can tell they absolutely love it, or maybe there’s some sentimental value to it (“Oh my gosh, my grandmother used to make cookies for me using this same cookie-cutter! Unfortunately she passed last year…”). Yeahhh always good to read the room and say to yourself “Is me having this gift going to bring me more pleasure than my coworkers thinking I’m an asshole?” Again, if you have to think about it, just don’t do it.
Ok, with that in mind, let’s get to the gifts already!
Gifts under $10
This is for your low-key secret Santa or White Elephant exchanges.
Top Overall Novelty Gift: Chopstick lightsabers
“Not Novelty, Just Cool” Gift: Swiss Army knife bracelet
Other Good Options:
- Funny socks for him and her
- Cactus coasters with pot
- Reindeer antler ring toss game
- Guinness tucan bottle opener (More Guinness gift ideas here)
- Shakespeare insult bandaids
- Shere cube mold for whiskey
- “Choose Your Own Adventure” Christmas Book
- Wooden USB drive
- Plant Urinal gag gift
- Christmas tree hat with ornaments
Gifts under $20
Top Overall Novelty Gift: Bluetooth speaker beanie
“Not Novelty, Just Cool” Gift: Exploding Kittens card game
Other Good Options:
- Coffee Mug shaped like a camera lens
- Desktop punching bag
- Take a Shot spinner/drinking game
- “Hide-a-beer” fake soda sleeve
- Desktop tetherball
- “Pot Head” coffee mug
- Santa beard facemask
- Bullsh*t button
- “Make it Rain” money shooter
- Remote control cockroach
- String of colorful LED lights
Gifts under $30
Top Overall Novelty Gift: Novelty pizza socks (4 pair)
“Not Novelty, Just Cool” Gift: Amazon Echo Dot
Other Good Options:
- WIne glasses with sharks swimming inside
- Star Wars retro graphic t-shirt
- “Open book” lamp
- Desktop wacky waving inflatable tube man
- Desktop skee ball
- Rake back scratcher
- Magic notebook with wand pencil
- Funny dish towels
- American flag sweatpants
- Turkey hat with moveable legs
Gifts under $50
Top Overall Novelty Gift: Pac Man mini arcade alarm clock
“Not Novelty, Just Cool” Gift: Roku Streaming Stick +
Other Good Options:
- This huge burrito tortilla blanket
- Shark spa kit with bath soaps and real shark teeth
- Retro grilled cheese toater
- Star Wars cake pan
- Dunder Miflin sweatshirt
- Jumbo 20-sided plush die
- Lab drinking vessel and shot set
Gifts under $100
Top Overall Novelty Gift: Light-up old school roller skates
“Not Novelty, Just Cool” Gift: Fire TV Cube, hands-free with Alexa (4K Ultra HD)
Other Good Options:
- German cuckoo clock
- Norse wooden beer mug
- Hanging grape novelty lights
- Jellyfish color changing lava lamp
- 20in novelty decorative wine glass
- Engravable rifle bullet pens
- Homemade cottage birdhouse
Bonus! Biggest WTF novelty secret santa gift goes to…
The Uncanny Bob Ross Waffle Maker! Well isn’t that a happy little waffle maker.
Gift exchanges can be stressful, but once you’ve figured out what you’re going to get (hopefully the list above helped!) they’re a really fun time. And hey, maybe you’ll get something awesome!
Don’t forget to check out our full page of Secret Santa and White Elephant Exchange Gifts on The Novelty Gift Shop!