Creative Yankee Swap Gift Ideas

Looking for some creative Yankee Swap gift ideas or Secret Santa gift ideas that will help you stick to your holiday budget this Christmas? Here’s how not to be “Bad Secret Santa” without going broke.

Looking for some creative Yankee swap gift ideas or secret Santa gift ideas that will help you stick to your holiday budget this Christmas? Here are four great Yankee swap/secret Santa gift ideas that are easy on your budget and are sure to please almost any recipient:

1. Cookbooks — Who couldn’t use some new inspiration for a home-cooked meal? Everybody I know living alone or with roommates struggles with cooking. It’s cheaper and healthier than eating out, but gosh-darn-it, it’s hard to cook for one. Scoop up a book on cooking for one or one dish meals for a gift that’s practical and delicious.

2. Gift Cards — Gift cards are an obvious choice for Yankee swaps or Secret Santa exchanges because they’re easy to shop for and everybody can use them. But choose your card carefully. Gift cards are only useful if they allow the recipient to purchase something he or she wants without spending anything. To avoid this, choose a generic card that can be used–almost like cash–anywhere. For gifts of $25 or more, AMEX Gift Cards are a great option.

3. A Magazine Subscription — Annual magazine subscriptions can be great gifts, and many monthly magazines can be had for $15 or less. Care to spread some financial advice? Give the gift of SmartMoney. Or, let them choose. For $19.95, Giftscriptions: The Magazine Gift Certificate allows the recipient select any subscription from dozens of popular magazines.

4. Lotto Tickets — Sure, a lottery ticket makes a nice gift for a family member (let them keep dreaming but save their money), but not so much for the office party. This especially holds true if you’re the boss. Think your employees are going to share if they hit the jackpot? Doubtful. But will they call every Monday morning from their new condo in Cabo “just to say hi?” Count on it.

Published or updated on November 16, 2006

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


  1. Good suggestions. It is so easy to find great, useful and fun secret santa gifts for under $30.00 or even $5.00, depending on the budget or rules of the game. Buy gifts ahead of time, just to be ready. It makes the season a little less stressful and more enjoyable.

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