Secret Santa Saved My Family in Exchange for Gifts

My family doesn’t know how to exchange gifts. We tend to buy gifts too late (“Merry Christmas, here’s a printout of what you get in January!”) Or misjudge each other’s tastes. We’re having trouble keeping up with our budgets – do I need to spend as much money on my new cousin boyfriend as on my mother? And if I don’t go home for Christmas this year, do I really need to mail a dozen separate gifts in the mail? One day I just forgot to include a family member, embarrassing everyone.

Over the past few years, we have solved it all with a Secret Santa Claus Exchange where everyone only buys one gift for one family member. Younger and poorer family members are relieved to spend less, and more sentimental members spend more time making this one gift. Secret Santa saved Christmas. And it can save you, your family, colleagues, or a group of friends.

If you’re together all the time, you can pull names out of your hat. Otherwise, there are many sites out there that randomly assign gifts and keep track of wishlists. We use DrawNames , but you can use the slightly more attractive Elfster or the vibrant and friendly . They all do their job.

A few simple rules to follow:

  • Select a responsible person to oversee the exchange. My family’s swap would have fallen apart if my brother hadn’t already written to us to subscribe . And if someone doesn’t follow through, the recipient will feel terrible.
  • Set a budget limit that anyone can meet. We have 40 dollars.
  • Encourage everyone to fill out the wishlist on the site. I like to list half a dozen options, including some easy purchases like your favorite book and some that might take more effort. Then my secret Santa chooses the comfort level.
  • But also encourage people to get off the wishlist if they want to. It’s more fun this way.
  • If you don’t know what to give someone, ask around. Your recipient will only receive one gift, so don’t let it go.
  • If some people really want to refuse and buy gifts for everyone , let them.
  • Skip the Yankee swap (where everyone has a chance to steal each other’s gifts). It’s so inevitably inconvenient that there is an episode about it from Office :


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