holiday gifts 2023

The Best Secret Santa Gifts Under $25 (That You Can Buy on Amazon)

Photo-Illustration: Courtesy of the retailers.

Secret Santa exchanges should, in theory, be a lot of fun, because who doesn’t like getting presents? But drawing the name of someone whose interests you barely know — or someone you really want to impress (e.g., the big boss) — can pose a daunting gifting challenge. But fear not: I’ve been curating gift guides for the last five years, and all that shopping has made me very good at sniffing out surprising gifts at every price point. To help you navigate your Secret Santa shopping this year, I’ve combed through our archives to put together a list of gifts for every type of co-worker, casual acquaintance, family member, and more.

Every gift here costs less than $25, to help you stay within whatever budget is attached to your upcoming exchange, and is conveniently available on Amazon (though we’ve noted when a gift is available elsewhere for those who like to shop around). All of these items have been recommended to us by discerning experts, especially stylish people, or Strategist staffers who have used them or would personally love to receive them, so they’re practically guaranteed to delight.

For the grandma who always brings homemade cookies

Upgrade her from grocery-store extract to the “caviar” of vanilla.

For the teen with a lip-balm obsession

This Laneige set includes the brand’s beloved lip mask in a festive peppermint flavor and a berry-tinted balm.

For the brother-in-law with a steak subscription box …

This hefty cast-iron meat press has a foldable wire handle that makes for easier storing.

… and for the brother-in-law who can’t fry an egg

For the cousin who loves their CSA

Ideal for keeping their half-eaten fennel and pepper fresh in the fridge.

For the neat freak who’s grossed out by sponges

Cleaning brushes are a less bacteria-prone way to keep dishes clean, and this handsome wooden brush is a soap dispenser and scrubber in one.

For the teen who wants to zhush up their morning bowl of Cheerios

One pound of off-brand cereal marshmallows should do the trick.

For the brother who cooks only with cast iron

This red silicone grip will make his favorite pan that much easier to grab.

For the teen who stays up late reading fan fiction

Writer Molly McGhee recommends this old-school book light for any nocturnal bookworms who are looking to keep “the blue-light blues at bay” (especially after a day of staring at screens).

For the board-game-enthusiast boss

Monikers: Classics

A new board game that’s way more fun than playing yet another round of Yahtzee.

For the girlfriend who binges Bravo …

This “slightly deranged” book filled with ready-to-color Real Housewives of New York moments is ideal for superfans.

… and for the girlfriend who binges Bravo (and makeup tutorials)

She will absolutely appreciate a set of Jenna Lyons’s falsies that add length while still looking natural.

For the newly retired grandparent

We may be biased toward our publication’s products, but we think solving the puzzles in New York Crosswords would be an exceptionally enjoyable way for them to spend their leisure time.

For the friend whose puppy has turned into a rambunctious dog

An advanced puzzle toy to keep them occupied.

For the friend with a Surrealist streak

Fish-head flip-flops make a fun pair of house shoes.

For the kid cousin who doesn’t need another Squishmallow

Try this heirloom-quality stuffed mouse from Steiff, a 140-year-old German toy-maker.

For the kid cousin who hates going to sleep

This truly adorable duck nightlight can keep them company come bedtime.

For the niece who’s on tinned fish-tok


A cookbook for Tin-thusiasts and ​​A-fish-ionados.

For the dad who never misses a Cyclones game

Helena Barquet and Fabiana Faria, owners of New York City’s very cool design shop Coming Soon, say these in-shell peanuts make a super-nice gift.

For the boyfriend with a caviar problem

An elegant serving dish with two mother-of-pearl spoons will complete their at-home caviar setup. And if you’re feeling particularly generous: Throw in a tin of caviar to complete this set.

For the brother who’s always prepared (to smoke)

From $15

This sleeve, one of writer Ali Slagle’s camping-van essentials, fits on a standard lighter and transforms it into a multitool.

For the “you will pry my Boy Brow from my cold, dead hands” sister


Marisa Meltzer’s guide to Glossier’s rise and many dramas.

For the nephew who spends too much time on his iPad

Photo: Courtesy of the Vendor

A classic (dare we say even retro?) bouncy rubber ball.

For the uncle who’s a little too into Pickleball

This flexible resistance bar often used by physical therapists will help them ward off the dreaded pickleball elbow.

For the aunt with amazing skin

A nourishing body wash from cult-y body-care brand Naturium.

For the co-worker who yearns for simpler times

An old-school Kodak they can take along during their PTO.

For the neighbors who always host New Year’s Eve

This sleek Champagne stopper keeps the bubbly bubbly.

For the tween with Olivia Rodrigo tickets

For the mom who already has a Vitamix


A celebrity-loved collagen protein powder to add to her daily smoothie.

Additional reporting by Liza CorsilloKayla Levy, and Kitty Guo

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatmentsrolling luggagepillows for side sleepersnatural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

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The Best Secret Santa Gifts (on Amazon) for Under $25