tips for a stress-free gift exchange

Courtney Takabayashi
December 04, 2018

If you’re worried about buying gifts for everyone in the office, an anonymous gift exchange may be the answer. Whether you call it Secret Santa, or another name, you’re responsible for getting a gift for just one person in a group. Here are tips from a few friends who’ve participated in or run an anonymous gift exchange. 

Be sensitive
Tai Matsuoka recommends making the gift exchange optional so that those who participate are truly into it. It’s important to agree on a reasonable maximum dollar amount. In Matsuoka’s experience, $10–$15 worked well. However, it’s up to your group to come up with an amount that everyone agrees on. If you can’t agree on an amount, try a free gift exchange that involves cooking a dish for your recipient, writing a poem, or doing something else creative.

Get random
Marysia Wu participated in an activity that was good for reducing clutter. Everyone brought in an item from their house. Preferably an unused item, but as long as it was in good condition, it was fair game. Then, everyone placed their gift in a giant bag and picked one randomly.

Get personal
Lynn Shizumura once participated in an anonymous gift exchange where participants filled out a card with three things they’d like and three things they didn’t want. This made it easier for shoppers to choose something their recipient would actually like. Plus, Shizumura says, “It gave us an opportunity to get to know each other better.”

Get even more personal
To get to know your co-workers even more, have them fill out a form like Tai Matsuoka. In fact, she has her team fill out a form at the beginning of the year. It’s not just for the holiday season. Robyn Kuraoka says the form was helpful and made it easy to buy gifts on birthdays or other special occasions.

Just say “no”
“There’s nothing worse than receiving a secret Santa gift that you don’t like,” says Lisa Chun. To prevent this, she organizes the activity so that each participant lists three items (within the designated dollar amount) that they would want to receive and three items they wouldn’t want to receive. This list is posted somewhere (outside of your workstation or on at a community site) so the participants can check their recipient’s list and buy something that the recipient will appreciate.

No matter how you decide to run your anonymous gift exchange, just remember that the goal of the activity is to have fun. Now get out there and spread the spirit of giving.

Share this article

By commenting, you agree to Island Scene's Terms of Use.