#GiveOrGift: why the team at Be Clever With Your Cash is changing Secret Santa this Christmas

Andy’s got a whole team for Christmas this year, but we won’t be buying him a Christmas gift

Out of all the Christmas traditions, one of my least favourite is the dreaded office Secret Santa. While it comes from a good place — a desire to have some fun with your colleagues, it also comes with unnecessary stress. 

There’s the dread of buying for specific colleagues, the awkwardness of not only giving but also opening Christmas presents in front of your colleagues and having to spend money on a gift that’s (let’s be honest) taken from the generic gifting aisle of the supermarket. 

Let’s not even mention the sheer fear behind everyone working out who got who. 

This is why, despite Be Clever With Your Cash now having a whole team behind it, we won’t be partaking in the normal Secret Santa. But we do have a great alternative, Give or Gift, where you can help good causes raise money. 

The Grinch that stole Christmas?

I’ll start by clarifying that this doesn’t mean we don’t love Christmas. 

I can’t speak for the rest of my team, but Christmas is my favourite time of the year. I typically spend most of November trying to convince my partner to let me put lights up, spend hours searching for the perfect Christmas jumper for my dachshund, Buddy, and this year I’m even in a Christmas Pantomime (Oh no you aren’t, I hear you call).

And, I should also stress that this doesn’t mean that all the Secret Santa gifts we’ve received have been thoughtless or crap. I’ve got a couple of lovely gifts as part of a Secret Santa before, and Andy has too, but I’ve certainly given and received some naff ones too. 

When does Secret Santa work?

Secret Santa can be a fun tradition, so you might be surprised that we don’t necessarily advocate it. After all, it’s a great way to save money on gifting.

That is, in certain circumstances. In a group of friends or with family, it can bring some festive cheer and take account of differences in your finances without the awkwardness. 

You all know each other well, and everyone will go home with a thoughtful gift without breaking the bank or trying to decide on a present for that relative that’s difficult to buy for (unless you get them!) 

When doesn’t Secret Santa work?

In an office environment, most of the above factors don’t apply – you don’t know everyone (or maybe anyone) well enough to buy a thoughtful gift, so you’re likely to make a last-minute dash to the local supermarket and pick up a generic present. 

In fact, 24% of people surveyed said that they’ve had to buy a present for someone they hadn’t spoken to.

As a result, of the £167m expected to be spent on workplace Secret Santa events this year, it’s estimated that £60m (35%) of it would be wasted on unwanted gifts. We’ve listed some of the worst ones below.

The good news is that Secret Santa gifts are often exchanged at the office Christmas party, which is typically set for early December. This means that they could be regifted in the same year.

What are some of the worst gifts received in a Secret Santa?

In some research carried out by Smart Money People for the UK Money Bloggers network, which is made up of more than 400 personal finance influencers, these are some of the worst gifts given in workplace Secret Santas: 

  🎁 a jar of Bovril
  🎁 an open bag of sweets
  🎁 a used candle
  🎁 a laundry basket
  🎁 washing up gloves
  🎁 toilet roll
  🎁 a £5 note
  🎁 mouldy Turkish Delight
  🎁 an apple
  🎁 mayonnaise
  🎁 a cabbage

What we’ll be doing instead

When we get together for some team Christmas fun, we’ll be taking part in Give or Gift. This is an idea thought up by our Editor-in-chief Andy, who also founded UK Money Bloggers. 

What is Give or Gift?

The gist of Give or Gift is that you can choose between a gift, as standard, or to have Secret Santa donate to charity on your behalf.

This means if you’re fed up receiving gifts that end up in the bin, the money spent on Secret Santa gifts can instead go to a really good cause, especially during such a difficult time of year for some. 

With the average Secret Santa spending £15.50 on a gift this year, this could have an office of 20 raising more than £300 for charity, which will help buy Christmas gifts for children in refuges instead. We’ve added more on the charity, KidsOut, below

You can get involved by asking your friends and colleagues if they’re up for it. You can decide your spending cap, just like you usually would. Then, you can download a free Secret Santa pack, which has all the resources you need to get started. 

This includes print-off sign-up sheets that let participants decide whether they want a gift or would prefer for Santa to make a donation to charity instead. Once you’re all signed up, cut it up and throw it into a hat to decide who gets who. 

The free pack also includes a poster and a Secret Santa certificate.  

Those who are donating would do so on the dedicated Just Giving page

Who are KidsOut?

The charity that UK Money Bloggers has chosen this year is KidsOut, which runs in collaboration with Women’s Aid to provide positive experiences for children who have fled domestic abuse.

These children often arrive without any possessions except for the clothes on their backs, and they’ve often experienced physical and emotional abuse.

Donations to KidsOut will provide them with toys or experiences that will help them remember what it’s like to be a child and just have fun. By giving up your Secret Santa gift, you could ensure these children receive at least one present this Christmas.

Our podcast

Listen to Cash Chats, our award-winning podcast, presented by Editor-in-chief Andy Webb.

Episodes every Tuesday.

In summary

While the office Secret Santa might seem like a great idea, it can result in a lot of wasted time and money spent on unwanted gifts. At Be Clever With Your Cash, we’ll be shaking up Secret Santa with Give or Gift, and hopefully doing pirouettes at an ice rink, if I get my way! 

Don’t keep your opinion a secret, let your workplace know if you’d like to try Give or Gift this year – there are loads of resources to get you started.

Why we’re supporting #GiveOrGift

“As well as being the Editor-in-chief for Be Clever With Your Cash, I’m also the founder of UK Money Bloggers – a community of like minded content creators. Each year we get together to bring our voices together for a good cause.

This year we really want to encourage all our readers to join in with #GiveOrGift. Please talk to your colleages and friends to see if they’d be up for taking part. Together we can hopefully really help those in need”

Andy Webb, Editor-in-chief, Be Clever With Your Cash & Founder, UK Money Bloggers

We’d love to hear your stories about Secret Santa – have you received any really awful gifts? Have you ever had something genuinely thoughtful? Have you seen any distasteful gifts disguised as humour create an awkward gift swap?


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