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Secret Santa Do’s and Don’ts

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(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

It’s an annual Christmas tradition — you agree to join in a Secret Santa with friends or co-workers. There are lots of things to consider when choosing a gift for your Secret Santa recipient. So what are the best ways to avoid the usual Secret Santa pitfalls? Here are some great tips to help you select the best Secret Santa gift for your friend or co-worker this year…

Secret Santa Do’s:

  1. Do personalize the gift.  Think about what the person likes.  Are they a sports fan?  Do they love bird feeders?  Personalized gifts will be well received, since it shows you put some thought into it.
  2. Do decorate the gift.  Presentation goes a long way.  If the spending limit is only $ 15, adding a fancy bow and a hand written card can make a small gift even more special.
  3. Do get crafty.  It’s okay to make a gift with your own two hands, if it’s obvious that it took time, care, and creativity like something baked.  Yum.
  4. Do your research.  If you don’t know the person that well, it’s okay to talk to other friends to find out what they want or like.
  5. Do buy something they wouldn’t buy themselves.  A small gift is an indulgence; it doesn’t always have to be practical.  Indulge the senses with a beautiful ornament, soft teddy bear, gourmet chocolate, or scented candle.
  6. Do set a price limit and stick to it. Pick a dollar amount that is reasonable for hourly-paid workers and salaried employees. As a rule of thumb, your limit should be 0.1% of the annual gross income of your lowest-paid employee. For a worker earning $20,000 per year, the amount works out to $20. Don’t go overboard on the gifts, especially for the boss.
  7. Do buy something practical. Even though Christmas is supposed to be about giving not receiving, no one wants to get a Chia Pet. Buy something that people can use or re-give like a pair of slippers or a basket of food.
  8. Do look surprised. When receiving a gift that you hate, you should say cheerfully, “Thank you. I’ve always wanted one of these.”
  9. Do consider edibles when the coworker offers snacks to others regularly, you know they have no food allergies, or if they have a family who might enjoy them together.
  10. Do consider clean humor for the office prankster or relaxation gifts for the subdued.

Secret Santa Don’ts:

  1. Don’t assume that you can give alcohol unless you know the person really well.
  2. Don’t give anything you’re not 100 percent certain about.

  3. Don’t buy clothing, if you don’t know the exact size to get. Buying something too big or too small can be an insult and clothing is very taste specific. The only exception could be something that’s meant for all sizes, like a scarf or shawl.
  4. Don’t get very religious.  The movement to bring holiness back to the holidays doesn’t always apply to the workplace. Generic Christmas items (trees, elves, Santa) are okay, if you know the person celebrates and recognizes Christmas.
  5. Don’t go X rated. Sounds obvious, right? But you’d be surprised!  Keep inappropriate gifts for your best friends, but keep them out of the workplace.  Not all people appreciate bachelor/bachelorette type of party gifts.  They may feel embarrassed or insulted, and it could be considered sexual harassment.
  6. Don’t go over or under-spend, stick to the suggested spending limit. Going over that limit could be seen as insensitive, since the receiver is unlikely to match the price.
  7. Don’t get political.  If you make a donation to a charity in a person’s name, make sure it’s not a controversial charity.  And no one appreciates it if you’re just donating to your own pet cause.
  8. Don’t reveal your pick. They don’t call it a Secret Santa exchange for nothing.
  9. Don’t settle for a boring or typical gifts like a mug full of sweets or a pre-packaged gift set.
  10. Don’t choose food for a secret Santa gift if the co-worker is allergic, on a diet, or a picky eater.

Have any other great Secret Santa tips? Share them in the comments below!

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