It rolls around every year, and when it does we’re just as stumped for what to pick as last year. We’re of course talking about the office secret Santa. It’s a nice idea in principle, everyone gets a lovely little token from a colleague, but frankly, the stress of picking the perfect thing for someone in a professional context can be a little more than overwhelming. Thankfully help is at hand, because after being faced with the conundrum time after time, we like to think we’ve become 'expert-level' at buying work secret Santa gifts for our work pals.
As we’re sure you already know, come December the deal is that everyone’s assigned the name of a co-worker to buy a gift for. The price-point of the present is pre-determined too usually, so that everyone sticks to the same budget. Typically, the limit set is between £5-10, so it’s not an extravagant show you’re looking to put on, but just a nice gesture of appreciation for a year of hard work. While there are of course plenty of novelty items out there, the true novelty of a secret Santa exchange is getting something you might actually want or like.
We’ve cast aside the usual gimmicky gifts in exchange for a handful of secret Santa ideas that we think are pretty special while remaining affordable. Whether you’re buying for your office bestie or the big boss, these treats are sure to get you in the good books well into the New Year. Once you’ve settled on the perfect gift for your recipient, don’t forget the wrapping. It’s the finishing touches that make gifts extra special, and a beautiful sheet of paper and a few ribbon curls are all it takes to make a big impact. If that sounds like too much effort, however, just pop the gift in a nice bag and tie a ribbon round that instead.
The best secret Santa presents for £5 and under
Hotel Chocolat Chocolate Table Cracker
We’ve met very few people who don’t like chocolate (and we never trust anyone who doesn’t anyway) so think this is a pretty safe secret Santa bet. Filled with three little chocolate shapes, this fun cracker from Hotel Chocolat is sure to get your co-worker in the festive spirit, and if you play your cards right you might even get one of the chocs yourself. As well as the chocolate the cracker also contains the obligatory snap, hat and joke – so be prepared to laugh when they inevitably read it out to you.
How much: £5
Buy it from Hotel Chocolat
T2 Emergency Teabag Gift Pack
Does your secret Santa colleague love a cuppa? These sweet (and cheap) gift packs from T2 could be their perfect present. With ‘emergency’ tea bags included, this makes a great gift for the recipient to stash away in a desk drawer for a rainy day. These aren't just bog-standard brews either, you get a sachet of French Earl Grey, Gorgeous Geisha, Melbourne Breakfast tea, Sleep Tight tea and a packet of Tummy Tea. You never know, you might have unknowingly just introduced them to their next favourite drink and that’s got to come with some good kudos.
How much: £3
Buy it from T2
Foragers Tea by Native
While you might be aware of our love of the restaurant Native, you might not be aware of the physical products it sells. This sustainability-focused enterprise, as one might expect, sells a tea to match. This brew is a foraged blend of leaves, petals and fruits that will transport your secret Santa to meadows and forests in an instant. Brew with hot water for 8-10 minutes, then enjoy.
How much: £5
Buy it from Native
The best secret Santa presents for £10 and under
Kocktail Single Gingerbread Espresso Martini Giftbox
A delicious tipple for one! This budget-friendly gift by ready-made cocktail company Kocktail includes a single-serve bottle of everyone's favourite cocktail - an Espresso Martini - but with a festive twist! Spruced up with notes of gingerbread, simply shake over ice and top with coffee beans (included in the box). We're sure the recipient will be chuffed with this one.
How much: £9
Buy it from Kocktail
Belazu Signature Trio
If you haven't heard of Belazu, get ready for your world to change. Experience flavours of the Mediterranean, condensed into three unique jars, then bundled up together in an all-star trio. If your secret Santa isn't that into cooking, don't worry! These jars are just as good spread on toast or served as a dip. If they are into cooking, the harissa is brilliant for tagines or marinades, while the other two are great in many Italian dishes.
How much: £10
Buy it from Waitrose
Aesop Resurrection Rinse-Free Hand Wash
Okay, we get it, this isn’t exactly what constitutes a glamorous present. But what it may lack in glamour it makes up for in usefulness. It's something many people carry around all day, so why not make it a little boujie? This rinse-free hand wash by Aesop looks trendy for one, is small enough to stash away in a handbag or pocket for two, and smells incredibly fresh, with citrus, woody and herbaceous notes, for three. A real all-rounder.
How much: £9
Buy it from Aesop
Perfect Night's Sleep Pillow Mist
Work can be stressful at the best of times, so why not give your secret Santa the gift of a good night’s sleep? We’re pretty sure that would be universally welcomed. This neat spray from Neom Organics is small enough to carry on the go and quickly transforms a space into a little spa-like haven with just a couple of pumps. This would be great if you have a colleague who has to travel a lot for work and doesn’t love living out of a hotel. The calming fragrance makes anywhere seem more inviting and can help to induce a deep sleep in some cases too.
How much: £8
Buy it from Neom Organics
Tea Pigs Taster Box
Another one for tea lovers, this little treat box is packed with three different tea types to allow your colleague a taste of some delicious new beverages. We love Tea Pigs because they’re packaging is plastic free, including the tea bags themselves, and they use whole leaves and flowers rather than dust (which, spoiler alert, lots of other cheaper brands use). Next time your secret Santa goes to the kettle, they'll think of you and what an amazing gift-giver you are.
How much: £8
Buy it from Teapigs
Personalised Symbol Hobby Coaster
Not sure what to get your boss but know they love cycling? This could be the answer to your secret Santa prayers. These fun coasters are made to order with your preference of hobby symbol – with choices of everything from ice cream (a personal favourite hobby of ours) to camping. They’re made from leather, so this isn’t one for vegans, but for meat-eaters, we think these are pretty stylish additions to any desk or tabletop, either in the office or back at home.
How much: £8.50
Buy it from Not on the High Street
The best secret Santa presents for £20 and under
Cryo rubber™ with Moisturising Hyaluronic Acid Mask
The older we get, the more the idea of a night in with a glass of wine and a face pack appeals to us. If you think your colleague might be in our over-the-hill camp then why not treat them to one of the best face packs on the market with this little Dr Jart number? This two-step moisturising technique gives you visible results in lovely plump skin that feels smooth and hydrated. Weirdly, the cooling sensation of the rubber mask itself is also pretty dreamy, and we’ve been known to get a couple of uses out of these as you can rinse and re-use if you’re feeling thrifty.
How much: £11
Buy it from Dr Jart
Neal's Yard Remedies Shower Collection
We all love a bit of pampering, especially in the bleak winter months. This year, give the gift of pampering to your secret Santa with this set, featuring three different products: geranium and orange shower gel, lavender bath and shower gel and aromatic aloe vera shower gel. Each one is carefully formulated to soothe the skin (and smell amazing), so this is the perfect gift for just about anyone this Christmas.
How much: £20
Buy it from Waitrose
Zing Christmas Cocktail Baubles
For some, decorating the tree is one of the best parts of the festive season. To them we say, why not make it boozy? These cocktail baubles are a brilliant gift for a colleague and much more fun than a boring old bottle of wine. The seasonal selection includes a winter-spiced margarita, pa assionfruit martini, a rhubarb cosmopolitan and a mince pie rumhattan.
How much: £20
Buy it Not on the High Street
Patch Plants Herboo Balcony Grow Box
Know someone with green-fingered aspirations? Set them up for horticultural nirvana with this all-inclusive kit that would work as well to brighten up a large garden as it would a windowsill in a flat. With seeds for growing sweet peas, nasturtium, rudbeckia, cornflowers, Moroccan mint and cosmos, this will allow the recipient to enjoy herbs and flowers from late spring all the way through to early autumn – the gift that keeps on giving.
How much: £16
Buy it from Patch Plants
Rowen and Wren Florence Scalloped Candle Holder
Beautifully made and pleasingly tactical, these pretty candle holders are ideal for bringing a bit of cosiness to your colleague’s home this Christmas. While you can treat them to a single one, a pair would be an extra special gift, and Rowen and Wren also sell candles that fit the slim holders – something to add if there’s the budget to do so. Each candlestick comes neatly wrapped in tissue so is easy to gift straight away.
How much: £14
Buy it from Rowen and Wren
Chilly’s Original Water Bottle
Let it never be said that you didn’t care for the hydration levels of your teammates. Buying plastic bottles of water is so last year, so help keep your colleague’s water levels topped up while helping to minimise their environmental impact with a reusable bottle. The Chilly's bottles come in all kinds of colours, so can be completely tailored to your workmate’s tastes, and they come in a few sizes too.
How much: £17
Buy it from Chilly's
Of course, your colleagues aren't the only ones you need to buy for. Here are the best foodie advent calendars this year.