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New Secret Santa Ideas Under $20—That Aren’t Gift Cards

affordable Secret Santa gifts

Editor’s Note: This is Part 3 of our Holiday Gifting Series. If you haven’t already, check out Part 1 and Part 2.

When it comes to affordable Secret Santa gifts, are you phoning it in? Perhaps you’ve decided that it’s impossible to find a gift that’s interesting or useful for less than $20. Or maybe you’re afraid of getting too personal, so you stick with a safe (AKA boring) gift card for the local chain coffee shop.

Well, Ninja, we’re about to change the way you look at bowl full of crumpled slips of paper. And it won’t involve waiting in line at Starbucks.

Check out our list of winning Secret Santa gifts, and be the hero of the holiday gift swap!

For a Fellow Office Ninja – $17

Officeninjas Calendar

The beauty of pulling the name of another Ninja is that you can keep it real. You both know that every day at the office is far from perfect, so why should your calendar be from Fantasyland?

The practical OfficeNinjas desk calendar is designed to inspire without sepia tone mountainscapes and cliche pep talks. Each month suggests action-based professional growth tips that focus on modern workplaces and technology. The result? An interactive calendar that does more than display dates (but it does that too).

For the Office Cheerleader – $16

Decorative Ceramic Tray

If there’s an encouraging email, a plate of homemade cookies, or an impromptu celebration, you know this person is behind it. The office cheerleader is bursting with good vibes, which makes this decorative ceramic tray the perfect desk accessory. Whether it’s used to organize odds and ends or just serve as a reminder for less cheerful colleagues, it’s sure to bring a genuine I-love-this smile.

For the Adventure Seeker – $20


When this person’s out-of-office message is on, you know they’re not just out of the office—they’re off the grid. If your Secret Santa giftee recently auditioned for Survivor or is planning to spend the holiday break in a tent, the LifeStraw personal water filter is a worthy addition to their rucksack. It can filter up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water without using chemicals, and it removes over 99% of waterborne bacteria and parasites. Remember: a hydrated adventure seeker is a merry adventure seeker.

For the Scatterbrain – $8

Manage Your Day-to-Day

Not everyone has your knack for focus and prioritization, Ninja. Help a frazzled co-worker develop better organizational skills with a copy of Manage Your Day-to-Day and watch the whole office benefit. This book from The 99U Book Series offers practical tips and advice for reducing business and upping productivity. It’s available in paperback, digital, and audio formats.

For the Pet-Obsessed – $17

Pet Mugs

You don’t just know the name of your pet-obsessed co-worker’s dog (Louie). You know his birthday (July 15th), his preferred treat (peanut butter), and his favorite hobby (long walks). Chances are, your co-worker already has a collection of Louie-themed items … but they’d love to have more! The pet-themed mugs from Fringe Studios feature funky artwork that celebrates cats and dogs of all different breeds. Each mug is dishwasher and microwave-safe. Options include German Shepherds, cats, pugs, chihuahuas, and more!

For the Penny Pincher – $20

Pinata Coin Bank

Does your co-worker jingle when they walk? Is their desk littered with piles of loose change? If you know someone with a penny problem, this porcelain piñata coin bank is the solution. Not only is it a functional piece of desk décor, it’s also an award-winning piece of art; this little guy was a Mexico Design Challenge finalist!

For the Party Planner – $12.50

Work Hard Play Hard Glass
Just like that officemate who plays as hard as they work, this soda can-style glass pulls double duty. From 9 AM to 6 PM, it’s all H20 and green juice. But once it’s quittin’ time, who knows what this glass (and the night) holds? The fun message is written in a frosty white paint, and it holds 16 oz of your resident party planner’s favorite beverage. Bonus: The Created Co. donates a portion of its sales to the nonprofit organization charity: water.

For the Bookworm – $20

Library Bag

You’ve got to love the office bookworm. They’re always ready with a snappy literary reference or a recommendation for your next book club meeting. And it’s never hard to find them during lunch (because they’re definitely in the kitchen reading over a half-eaten sandwich). Enable their habit with this library-themed cotton tote bag. At 18” deep, it will carry Kindles, hardcovers, paperbacks, and periodicals.

For the Techie – $12

Floppy Disk Coasters

Your old floppy disks held book reports and rattled around in the pocket of your Jansport backpack. These floppy disks hold drinks and protect the varnish on wood surfaces! Times have changed, but the office IT pro will definitely appreciate some throwback coasters. They’re made from silicone, which provides protection from hot and cold beverages, and each one has a unique ‘90s message, like “Y2K Update.”

For the Shutterbug – $18

Twine After Time Photo Display

Anyone who actually takes the time to print physical copies of photographs should be recognized for their effort. This charming clothesline-style photo display is the perfect reward. It’s just over a foot high and comes with nine mini clothespins—perfect for a desktop photo collage. It’s also a cute way to organize reminders, greeting cards, and inspirational quotes.

Bonus: Secret Santa Online Gift Exchange

Office Secret Santa

Yes, you could snip and fold dozens of paper slips, search the kitchen cupboards for a sizable bowl, and then chase down each one of your colleagues. Or, you could use Elfster, a gift swap organizer and social networking platform. It simplifies the entire name-swapping process and includes features like wish lists, personalized recommendations, and charitable giving options. And it’s free!

We hope these ideas have changed your feelings about the office gift swap from “meh” to “merry!”

Which items are you adding to your shopping list? Do you have any Secret Santa gifts in mind?