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9 Secret Santa Gifts No One Wants & What To Get Instead

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Shopping for gifts and surprises is one of the best parts of the holiday season. But when it comes to a Secret Santa swap, things can get a little trickier. It’s important to know what Secret Santa gifts no one wants and what to buy instead. After all, this type of swap is often done with a group of people that you may not know that well; it’s especially common in the workplace. In this scenario, it can be tempting to just buy any old gift and be done with it.

In the midst of the festive holiday spirit, this isn't the greatest approach. In fact, purchasing any old gift defeats the purpose of participating in the first place. This includes re-gifting old items or buying the first thing you see at the closest store. It takes away from the joy of gift giving, suggesting that the holidays is just about stuff.

If you are going to take part in a Secret Santa swap, you might as well do it right. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you need to buy something elaborate or fancy. It does not even mean that you need to spend a lot of money. At the very least, avoid certain items that are more likely to be forgotten or discarded. Here’s a complete guide to point you in the right direction.

1Scented Candles

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Votive Holder, $12, West Elm

Why No One Wants It: With so many scents and aromas out there, it can be impossible to guess what someone might like (or hate). A person's sense of smell can be super sensitive, after all. What smells good to you might be horrid to them.

What To Get Instead: If you know that your Secret Santa pick loves to fill their home with wonderful scents, opt for a votive holder with personality. Eye-catching essential oil burners can also work.

2Stuffed Animals

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Why No One Wants It: Although stuffed animals often represent care and love, they aren't the best option for a secret Secret Santa swap. This is more appropriate for a "Get Well Soon" situation or a more personal relationship. Plus, most adults don't have a use for a stuffed animal.

What To Get Instead: Gift the recipient a low-maintenance plant like a cacti or succulent. They are easy to care for—just like a stuffed animal. And since they are quite inexpensive, you can even pair it with a stylish pot.

3Scented Bath Products

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Why No One Wants It: Like candles, gifting toiletries like shampoo and soap bars is risky. It's not uncommon for a person to be particular about what kind of scents and products touch their body. They might also prefer specific brands or have an allergy to certain ingredients.

What To Get Instead: If you know the person loves to pamper themselves, think on a more general scale. Gift items that can be used with their favorite toiletries. A perfect example is a pretty soap dish.

4Makeup

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Why No One Wants It: This is right up there with scented toiletries. Everyone has their go-to beauty brands, formulas, and everything in between. It can be difficult to guess someone's shade or preferred color palette. So unless you are 100 percent sure that the recipient has something on their wish list, skip this category.

What To Get Instead: Bring it back to the basics with something versatile and simple like lip balm. Don't settle for just plain old Chapstick or Carmex, though. Opt for a special kind like this set of luxurious unscented lip balms.

5Travel Souvenirs

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Dimensional Frame, $18, ModCloth

Why No One Wants It: Although some people are all about touristy souvenirs, leave it out of a Secret Santa swap. It can come off as tacky. This is especially true if the recipient has no interest or relation to the location featured. And please, for the love of all things festive, don't get something donning the name of the city they live in.

What To Get Instead: Leave the name plate key chains for Aunt Sue and your mother. Instead, choose something stylish that can grace the recipient's desk, like this dimensional frame.

6Undergarments

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Why No One Wants It: Underwear is a personal thing. And even though it can make a noteworthy gift for someone that you are close to, it can make things awkward for a Secret Santa recipient. I mean, if you two were on that level, there's a good chance you will be trading gifts outside of the swap.

What To Get Instead: If you must gift a wearable item, accessories like scarves or beanies are a safe bet. They as just as necessary as underwear, after all. This is especially true if you live in a cooler climate.

7CDs Or DVDs

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Paris in Color by Nichole Roberston, $13, Amazon

Why No One Wants It: In a digital world, gifting a CD or DVD as a Secret Santa gift isn't the best idea. There are so many different genres that a person may like or dislike. Plus, there's a chance that they may already own a digital version.

What To Get Instead: Unlike a CD or a DVD, an attractive coffee table book is especially intriguing. There's something so great about flipping through a physical book of beautiful images. Pick a publication that boasts a specific interest or style, like Paris in Color by Nichole Roberston.

8Box Of Chocolates

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Herbal Bitters, $18, Dramapothecary

Why No One Wants It: As delicious as it is, a box of chocolates may be considered generic and impersonal. Plus, many varieties have common allergens like milk and nuts. It isn't always worth the risk.

What To Get Instead: First, buy yourself the chocolate instead. Second, gift an edible item that is more unique. Herb-infused olive oil, specialty hot sauce, and herbal bitters are all excellent ideas. This is especially appropriate for a foodie recipient.

9Anything With A Logo

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A Mug With A Cheerful Sewing Theme, $14, Etsy

Why No One Wants It: Aside from potentially being cheesy, not everyone likes to wear logos. And if even they do, it is likely that they are particular about which ones they are willing to rep.

What To Get Instead: Opt for a non-wearable item with cool artwork or patterns. Again, take into consideration the person's style and interests. For example, a mug with a cheerful sewing theme is more personal than a Starbucks version.