20 Secret Santa gift ideas for under $50 (2023)

Secret Santa

Secret Santa (or Kris Kringle as it is sometimes referred to) is getting more popular as people try to keep the cost of Christmas down whilst still enjoying the fun of gifting.

Whether it’s between family, friends or work colleagues, knowing what to buy can be hard.

We’ve put together some ideas which are useful, fun and sure to bring a smile to the recipient of your mystery gift.

But first a bit about Secret Santa …

Where does Secret Santa originate from?

According to Wikipedia, Secret Santa originated from the West and was derived from the Christian tradition as well as gift-givers on Christmas day. The custom of Secret Santa or exchanging gifts anonymously is known by other names in different countries.

In the United States and the United Kingdom for example, the mystery gift exchange is named after Santa Claus. In Austria, Kris Kringle is named after Christkindl, the Austrian gift bringer. Secret Santa may also have been popularised by local characters. A Kansas City philanthropist called Larry Dean Stewart was called Secret Santa for giving small cash gifts (usually $100 bills) to needy people. In addition to donating to charitable foundations, Stewart loved giving gifts anonymously, especially during the holiday season. He also trained other secret Santas to give away money in 2006.

How does it work?

Secret Santa or Kris Kringle is a fun way to give gifts and receive them! Whether it’s among family, friends, or coworkers, this popular holiday game adds an extra layer of excitement to the usual gift exchange. You can even have a Secret Santa party on Zoom with participants around the world.

The basic rule of Secret Santa is simple: It has to be anonymous. The identity of the giftee is only revealed on the day of the exchange. All participant names are written on a piece of paper (or posted on a social media page, blog, or website) and mixed up. Each person gets a match and has to buy a gift for that match. A wishlist for every participant is optional, but highly recommended! This ensures that everyone gets what they want.

Here are more helpful tips to help you plan your own Secret Santa:

  • For smaller groups, the names of the participants should be enough.
  • For larger groups, it can be helpful to add a short bio with likes/dislikes for each participant.
  • Start by writing the names on a piece of paper. Put the names in a box and mix them up. Each person draws a name from the box. This is who they will buy gifts for.
  • It’s important to set a price limit that everyone agrees on so that no one feels stiffed or buy way too expensive gifts.

Why Secret Santa is such a great way of gifting

It’s more fun than your traditional gift exchange. Most of the excitement comes from not knowing who the gift giver is. And then there’s choosing and buying the best present for your match based on their wishlist.

  • It’s location-independent. You can do Secret Santa at home at work. And you can have as many participants as you want. You can have an online Secret Santa for international participants. It’s easy to create wishlists, find inspiration and buy gifts on shopping sites across the web.
  • It’s all about connection. Have friends you haven’t seen or talked to in a while? A Secret Santa party is a brilliant way to bring everyone together for some holiday fun and laughs, even if you are physically distant.
  • It’s all about the mystery. Guessing who your Santa is can be a fun game in itself.
  • There’s a price limit. Christmas can be hard on your wallet, but the limit will help you stick to your budget. Of course, you can always go over the limit if you’re feeling extra generous.
  • You can pick a theme, any theme. A themed gift exchange means double the fun because you get to wear silly costumes. The sky’s the limit here, so don’t be afraid to go all out. Examples of good themes are Roaring 20s, cyberpunk, movies, and fantasy. Or why not have an eco-friendly Secret Santa bash to help the planet?
  • It’s a fun way to exchange gifts any time of the year, not just at Christmas. You can have a Secret Santa at a birthday party, book party or for Halloween!
  • Secret Santa is a great way to pool gifts for charities or the less fortunate. Throw a festive, feel-good party where each guest brings two presents, one for their Secret Santa match and one for the needy.

What to think about when buying your Secret Santa gift

Check the Secret Santa wishlist

Now that you know who you’re buying for, it’s time to do some serious research.

Your first stop should be the recipient’s wishlist. If they don’t have one or you know them well, think back on their likes and dislikes, their hobbies/interests, or what movies/books/pop culture they are into to help you nail down the perfect present.

If they made a wishlist, good for you! You can buy one gift off their list and call it a day.

But, if you really want to make your match happy, you can go the extra mile and throw in a surprise present that’s not on their list.

Ask about for ideas

If unsure, ask their friends.

If you have absolutely no clue what to get your recipient, it can’t hurt to ask someone they’re close to, like a friend or family member. Tell them you’re buying a gift for Secret Santa and want to know what kind of gift they would love to receive.

If all else fails, and you still have no idea what they would like, get a thoughtful, neutral, or personalised gift.

Think about the Secret Santa spend

Decide how much you will spend. The spending limit that everyone agreed on is a guide.

Naturally, you don’t want to be a Scrooge and spend less than the minimum, but consider if you are willing to go over the limit and by how much.

By planning ahead, you’ll have a little wiggle room in your holiday budget.

Go Secret Santa shopping

Who doesn’t love Christmas shopping?

For many, it’s the most exciting part. You can go to a physical store or buy your gift online on shopping sites like Amazon or your favourite retailer.

Just make sure to shop early to avoid the holiday rush. Online shopping is perfect if you’re pressed for time, and it’s also convenient.

You can address the package directly to your recipient if you’re doing something like an online gift exchange.

Secret Santa gifts ideas

1. Mindfulness puzzles or colouring

For the puzzle lover and zen master, this mindfulness colouring book is a winner. The fourth in a series by bestselling author Dr. Gareth Moore, this book features multiple types of relaxing and challenging puzzles to de-stress your exhausted brain. The games are fun and just the right level of difficulty so you can reap the endorphin rewards after. Talk about stimulating Secret Santa gift ideas.

Mindfulness puzzles or colouring | secret santa gift ideas

We found this at: Booktopia

Further reading: 20 Perfect gifts for people with anxiety.

2. Chocolate fountain

A chocolate fountain for Christmas? Your giftee will absolutely love you. Here’s why this fountain is a brilliant gift: you can use it on any occasion (perfect for NYE parties!), you and your guests can dip practically anything edible in the fountain, you can use cheese instead of chocolate, and it takes minutes to set up and use. Plus, it comes with a 1-year warranty in case it breaks.

 Chocolate fountain

We found this at: Kogan

3. A Secret Santa mug

When it comes to Secret Santa gift ideas, a sh*t mug is a classic. You’ve probably given and received countless mugs during the holidays. It’s a great neutral gift, if uninspired, for someone you don’t know or don’t want to get to know better. It’s also a brilliant silly gift for a frenemy or someone you can’t stand. This mug is double-walled, dishwasher and microwave safe, and shipped in a smash-proof box.

A secret Santa mug | secret santa gift ideas

We found this at: Etsy

4. For the coffee lover at Christmas

Looking for a Secret Santa gift for the javaholic? Look no further than this handbook of coffee and everything to do with it, including choosing, grinding and brewing your own beans. The book is a gold mine of coffee culture, coffee trivia and info, recipes, and how-tos for coffee lovers, from beginner to expert. Let’s just say that anyone who can’t start their day without a steaming cup will appreciate this.

For the coffee lover at Christmas

We found this at: Booktopia

5. The cute pompom jumper

Jumper-wearing ladies, huzzah! When it comes to a Secret Santa gift idea for a snappy dresser, nothing beats the tacky jumper trend. This colourful pompom reindeer jumper is too cute for words and is definitely an upgrade to your granny’s closet. Pair it with jeans or tuck into a skirt, along with your favourite boots, and look way too cool in the wintry festive season.

The cute  pompom jumper |secret santa gift ideas

We found this at: AU Shein

6. Funny card game

Are you ready for some Game-of-Thrones-esque card match? If the lucky person on your list has a thing for building an army, going into battle against friends and then destroying them in the process (in a friendly way though), then this game from Crazy Sales is a great kick off for Secret Santa gift ideas… and Christmas game night. Everyone must think strategically, or risk the gallows of failure.

Funny card game

We found this at: Crazy Sales

7. A boxtail

Whoever invented cocktails in a box deserves some kind of medal. We like this one from MSC that is 99% sugar-free and blends alcohol, lime and mint flavours perfectly to tickle your taste buds. And it’s the perfect size (4 liters of boxtail goodness) for drinking with your booze buddies at Christmas. Or alone, whatever you prefer (we won’t judge).

A boxtail | secret santa gift ideas

We found this at: Dan Murphys

8. A growing project

Grow your very own kitchen herbs from scratch without breaking a sweat. This Boutique Gardens Herb Windowsill kit is a complete growing container with seeds, soil, wooden labels, chalk, drip tray, and easy-to-follow instructions. Even if your giftee is not much of a green thumb, they’ll have a chance to get their hands dirty trying to grow tasty herbs or pretty flowers.

A growing project

We found this at: Spotlight Stores

9. Cute socks

Everybody needs socks, right? Though they can be overkill as a Christmas gift idea, that garment for the foot is very handy and useful. Besides, socks are not always boring, you can throw in a fun fruity and vegetable spin on your classic present contender. Made from polyester and elastane, this one has 5 cute sets (one for each weekday), a perfect gift (or reminder) for kids and even adults to always go for green!

cute socks| secret santa gift ideas

We found this at: AU Shein

10. A festive candle

Got a thing for pumpkin spice? Serve your Secret Santa giftee with a festive candle that perfectly captures the autumnal blend of cosy jumpers and coffee shop favourites. We love the warming mix of spices in this one, it smells as good (perhaps better) as your go-to local café — perfect for the colder season.

A festive candle

We found this at: Etsy

Kris Kringle present ideas (cont.)

11. Joke toilet paper

Time in the loo should be well spent. This roll of toilet paper will give you something to ponder and laugh about. Each sheet has a different crappy joke so you can “giggle while you go.” When it comes to novelty gifts, this Secret Santa gift idea is perfect for dads.

Joke toilet paper | secret santa gift ideas

We found this at: City Beach

12. Something to calm

The humble back scratcher just got an upgrade, and we are digging it. This luxury, calming head tickler and scratcher set is great for gifting year-round, not just at Christmas. Add more comfort and luxury to your life with a head tickler that gently massages and soothes your scalp. The back scratcher has an extendable handle so you can reach spots on your back no matter your height.

Something to calm

We found this at: Lime Tree Kids

13. Christmas spices kit

Spices and everything that smells nice, are what excites a foodie, or what? So, what’s inside this festive spice kit? Well, everything that would spur frolic to a gourmet: Star anise, cardamom pods, Ceylon cinnamon, cloves, orange peel and Allspice that comes along with 6 empty tea bags. And oh, the packaging is in this cute glass tube with a cork top and a jute rope box, complete with crafty tag paper.

Christmas spices kit | secret santa gift ideas

We found this at: Etsy

14. A motivational water bottle

Make it easier to hydrate and keep track of your liquid intake throughout the day with a motivational water bottle from Avanti. The Drink More Water Bottle is reusable and comes with capacity markings and reminders to stay on top of your hydration. Made from borosilicate glass and silicone, with a leak-proof bamboo cap to keep your drinks from spilling. A perfect Secret Santa gift for your eco-conscious friends.

A motivational water bottle

We found this at: Oz Sale

15. Noise cancelling earbuds

If your Secret Santa giftee is into great music and sound, then try this wireless noise-canceling earbuds from Kogan. It eliminates background clatter completely for 8 hours, so you can enjoy uninterrupted listening, whatever it is you’re doing. Comes with Bluetooth, a charging case and full touch control features, allowing you to skip songs and answer calls effortlessly.

Noise cancelling earbuds | secret santa gift ideas

We found this at: Kogan

16. Some toilet fun

More toilet humour for your Secret Santa giftee! Do you live with people who take forever to use the bathroom? What are they doing in there? More importantly, is it safe to enter after they’ve just done a number 2? This timer will tell you. It comes with five coloured sectors, ranging from a blue “All Clear” to a fire engine red “Toxic,” to let you know when it’s okay to use the loo.

Some toilet fun

We found this at: Gifts Australia

17. Kit to make your favourite booze for Christmas

This Christmas, you can create your own London dry-style gin and enjoy it with your drinking buddies. The Mad Millie Handcrafted Gin Kit has everything you need to turn regular vodka into tasty botanical-infused gin. The botanical blend combines juniper berries, coriander, licorice root and citrus peel to flavour your gin with aromatics. Also comes with bottles and vintage labels for gifting.

Kit to make your favourite booze for Christmas | secret santa gift ideas

We found this at: Biome

18. Puppy pooping puzzle (well why not?)

Do you love puppies? What about pooping puppies? If you know someone who thinks they’re a hoot, give them this Secret Santa gift. This funny jigsaw puzzle will exercise their brain as they wait to complete the magnificent picture of 101 dogs (from terriers to schnauzers to mutts) about to do their business. And don’t be fooled by the cute dogs, this puzzle is a real brain bender.

Puppy pooping puzzle (well why not?)

We found this at: Oz Sale

19. Funny calendar for 2024

If you’re running out of Christmas present ideas, you can never go wrong with a calendar. But, be wary, this one’s going to throw plenty of shenanigans your way, on full phallic formations, every month from all parts of the globe. As it turns out, mother nature has been throwing explicit shots since the beginning of time. And she can get really, really naughty, so please, mind the kids — this calendar crack is for adults only.

Funny calendar for 2024 | secret santa gift ideas

We found this at: eBay

20. This umbrella!

Do you hate rain as much as the maker of this sassy umbrella? We can relate. Because rain ruins everything! The F#ck the Rain Umbrella is the perfect gift for your Secret Santa match who shares your feelings about crummy weather. Made from 100% polyester and printed with a huge (we mean huge) photo of a hand giving the finger. Definitely not safe for work.

This umbrella!

We found this at: Ali Express

Final words on our list of Secret Santa gifts

This was definitely one of the most fun gift lists we’ve put together. Secret Santa gifting is great because you can have a real laugh with your colleagues, friends or family … and they won’t even know it’s you!

It’s always worth trying to find a gift that is not only funny but useful to. Something the recipient needs and that doesn’t end up in the bin by the end of the evening. Or even something they can re-gift once the joke is over.

If you’re in a Secret Santa group and have brain-block on what to buy, I hope our list has provided either the perfect gift, or at the least inspiration to find it elsewhere.

Happy gifting Secret Santas!


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