Santa’s Little HelperNEW YORK (MainStreet) – Taking part in your office Secret Santa gift exchange always sounds fun, until you realize that you’ve unwittingly added another task to your holiday workload (and another expense to your shopping list). Finding a gift that’s personal but not overly sentimental, and affordable but not exactly cheap, takes some thought and little bit of effort. But if your Secret Santa role has you stressed, you’re probably going about it the wrong way.
“Nobody’s expecting the Hope Diamond,” gift guru Dana Schultze, who runs the recommendation site Gifts.com, points out. “The idea is to keep things light and to celebrate the holiday season with your co-workers.”
To help you stay in the holiday spirit, MainStreet has some gift suggestions only a co-worker would love.
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Pop’s stachesSchultze says you shouldn’t be afraid to give a gag gift to your office Secret Santa beneficiary as long as you stay away from anything that’s politically charged or full of sexual innuendo. One present she suggests that fits the bill is Pop’s Staches, plastic bottle tops that are ostensibly used to differentiate one person’s drink from another, but really just make you look like you have a mustache whenever your sip your beverage. You can get an 8-pack of assorted Pop’s staches on Amazon.com for $10.
Photo Credit: Gifts.com
Super Magnetic PuttyA more obvious route to go is to buy your designated co-worker something they can actually use in the office. Schultze suggests Super Magnetic Putty, which can be used to collect stray paper clips, thumb tacks and staples littering pretty much everyone’s cubicle.
“You can also play with it, using the magnet it comes with,” Schultze says, explaining that desk accessories make great gifts when they have novel spins to them. “People will buy themselves the generic items that they use every day so it’s up to you, Secret Santa, to rescue them from a boring desk.”
Super Magnetic Putty retails online for about $14.
Photo Credit: Gifts.com
Desk PetsIf you happen to pull someone from your IT department (or perhaps that one dude you work with who is inexplicably very into robots), you might want to buy him or her a Desk Pet. This high-tech accessory is described as a micro-robotic bug that can move left, right, forward or backward via a remote control. You get about 15 minutes of play per half hour of charging so if the little bugger is posing too much of a threat to productivity, you can always take the five-button USB charger/remote and run.
There are a few different versions of the Desk Pet, but you can currently get the company’s clear Skitterbot on sale at RadioShack for $9.99. (It typically costs about $20.)
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Covered baking tins“A big trend that we are seeing this year is the sale of baking tins that double as food-carrying cases,” Schultze says. So, if you happen to pull someone who already has a penchant for bringing cookies, brownies or cupcakes into the office, consider this aluminum covered brownie pan from Williams-Sonoma.
The pan retails for $20, a small price to pay considering it just might lead to more cookies for you.
Photo Credit: Gifts.com
Stress CupcakeIf you want to combine practicality, playfulness and an affection for baked goods, then your best bet is probably the Stress Cupcake. Made of foam instead of sugar, the cupcake is meant to be squeezed whenever stress levels go through the roof, making it perfectly at home in the workplace. Plus, it costs just $5.
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iPod Skin with Bottle OpenerIf you drew an officemate with absolutely no sense of humor, give him or her something practical. Many co-workers, men especially, will be happy to get something that they can actually use. A good example of an item that is both fun and functional is this iPhone case that doubles as bottle opener. The aptly-named iBottleopener retails online for $19.95. Just make sure your recipient has an iPhone, or include this Mainstreet tip on how to get a $25 iPhone 4, with your gift. Photo Credit: firstname.lastname@example.org
Charity DonationAnother option is to not get your person anything at all, a feat that can be accomplished by making a small donation to charity in his or her name instead. The nonprofit organization JustGive.org actually has an online tool that allows you to search for a local charity that accepts small donations. Or, you can buy one of their GiveNow Charity e-Cards, which can be sent directly to the recipient to allow them to choose their own charity.
A true Secret Santa covers all of his or her bases, so be sure to steer them away from charities with high administrative costs or ones that pay huge amounts to their CEOs.
If you are open to taking money lessons from Seinfeld, you could always follow George Costanza’s lead and make a donation in your co-worker’s name to the Human Fund, which will cost you nothing at all.
Photo Credit: howardlake
Bottle of wineIf you’re totally stumped for ideas or, even worse, you pull your boss’s name and want to play it safe, it’s best to keep things simple. “Wine or liquor always works,” Schultze advises, adding that you can pick a bottle that perfectly fits your price range. Check out this MainStreet article for suggestions on how to get the best booze for your buck.
Photo Credit: Jessica Melling
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