The kids are getting excited, colourful lights are shining, and even grocery stores are Jingle Bell-ing. Yep, the holiday season is officially underway. This is a time of merriment for many, but those of us struggling to maintain a budget can find the holidays—and the expenses that come with them—quite stressful. And while Secret Santa gift-giving often spares us from having to buy a gift for everyone, it can still add to seasonal stress, because we may not know what to buy or how much to spend.But fear not, Secret Santas! Here are ten inexpensive gift ideas you won't need to pick up a seasonal job to afford, and they can work for just about anyone—from your siblings and close friends to your partner-in-crime at the office.
Top Ten Secret Santa Gifts For Anyone On Your list
1. Scratch-Off Tickets
How can you turn a $5 gift into a $50 gift? By picking some winning scratch-off tickets! They’re not always going to be winners, but scratch-off gifts offer some fun and excitement as you scratch away at the card, hoping for a big cha-ching!
Have someone who’s impossible to shop for? Consider making a donation to a charity in their name. This can be especially impactful if you know a cause they're passionate about. Many charities will let you make a donation online via their website, and you can choose the “gift” or "dedicate in honour of" option to have it put in someone else’s name. (Just make sure it's a legitimate charity. Unfortunately, there are a lot of scams this time of year.) Most will then email you a certificate that you can print out and put inside a card. Not sure what charities are out there? Canada Helps is a great site that lets you browse charities by category and give a donation in honour of someone else. Minimum donations are just $3 if you can’t afford much, but ultimately, every penny counts when it comes to charity.
Help your relative, friend, or co-worker get into the holiday spirit with, well, spirits! Now, we're not suggesting a $40 Amarone from Italy, but more like a $10-15 Pinot Noir from Chile or Argentina. Stanley Bernard, Toronto wine expert and curator, recently shared his secrets with The Loop for finding really good but really cheap wine.
4. Magazine Subscription
Feed someone's hobby this holiday season with a magazine subscription about something they love. Whether it’s cars or cooking, fashion or fishing, hockey or Haikus, you name it, there’s a magazine for it. Many magazine subscriptions cost less than $25, plus they’ll think of you all year-round when they get their latest issue in the mail. (Remember how nice it was to get something in the mail, like a real magazine, with real pages you can flip?) Pro tip: look for discounts online or through Discount Mags; if the gift recipient is adverse to anything printed, this site also offers discounted digital subscriptions on many favourite magazines!
5. Themed Gift Basket
This is a great idea from Busy Budgeter. One example featured is a "car care" gift basket, which can include air fresheners, wipes, hand sanitizer, tissue travel packs, gum, ChapStick, a phone clip for the car, a travel mug, etc. Sure, one of these items on its own might seem chintzy, but when paired with other inexpensive like-items, it becomes a thoughtful theme! For example, you can create a “movie basket” and include a couple DVDs from the $1 bin at Walmart, Giant Tiger or the Dollar Store, microwave popcorn, a box of Glosette Raisins or other theater-style candy. And if you’re feeling really generous, maybe a ticket to the local movie theater. Or how about a “meal basket,” including pasta noodles, pasta sauce, Parmesan cheese, and an inexpensive bottle of wine (an Italian theme, of course, but this works for any type of meal).
Between the stress of the holidays and the cold air outside, who doesn’t want to warm up to a wonderfully aromatic candle? Think scented candles are just for women? Not anymore! They now make man candles, with scents like bacon, golf course, and pumpkin pie. You can find man candles from Original Man Candle (the owner even pitched them on Shark Tank, the US-version of Dragon’s Den). For a bit more money, you can support Alberta-based company Natural Soylights. Their Canadian man candles come in scents like Cedarwood Tobacco, Woodsmoke & Gin, Vanilla Bourbon, and Black Absinthe. That’ll put some hair on your chest!
7. Tree Ornament or Other Holiday Decor
Some ornaments and decor can get pretty pricey, but there are plenty of cute and inexpensive items you can pick up at a Dollarama or Michaels and put together yourself. Plus, you can personalize it with something that only you and your friend/co-worker/relative share, like an inside joke or anecdote. (A co-worker once personalized the gift wrapping paper of a Secret Santa gift with an anecdote from an inside joke. The wrapping paper ended up being a bigger hit than the gift itself —they couldn't stop laughing.)
8. Daily Calendar
These desktop calendars are mostly known for the popular “word of the day” versions. And while helping boost someone’s vocabulary is great, there are many more daily calendars that might be more appropriate for your recipient, such as “If Animals Could Talk”—perfect for pet lovers; “Daily Fashion”—ideal for fashionistas; “Witty One-Liners”—great for that sarcastic cube-mate at work; or “Life Hacks,” for those who like clever tricks to get by in life!
9. Gift Card
Gift cards for specific restaurants, stores, movie theaters, even iTunes or XBox cards are always a win—just stay away from those general-use Visa, Mastercard or American Express cards. The “big three” have an activation fee ranging from about $3.95-$5.95, which often increases the higher the value of the card. Paying nearly $6 just to “activate” a $20 card is a big waste of money.
Really want to save money? DIY! If your gift recipient has a sweet tooth, they’re sure to love getting some home-baked cookies. (I know I would.) They’ll know you put some time and energy into the gift, and you’ll save a bundle. Now how sweet is that?
There you have it, ten Secret Santa gift ideas that will keep your holiday budget in check. And if you’ve got some gift ideas of your own, we'd love to hear them! Share them in the comments below.