If you’ve ever taken to the high street on a panicked hunt for Secret Santa gifts under £10, you’ll know that the concept can be both a blessing and a curse.
The seasonal shop is a lovely idea in principle – who doesn’t like receiving a gift, or basking in the glow of handing a perfect one over to a lucky recipient? But then budgets, social politics and lack of inspiration strike, and you find yourself desperately buying a vaguely festive item of plastic tat that’s laughed at for five seconds, and ultimately discarded.
Done wrong, it’s bad for the shopper, the giftee and ultimately, the planet – we shudder to think how much waste is generated in naff novelty mugs alone. But this year, you can’t possibly go wrong, because the entire IndyBest team has put their heads together and come up with inventive, tried and tested ideas for every kind of friend, family member, colleague or neighbour. And as if that wasn’t enough, every single one of our Secret Santa gift ideas is under that typical £10 budget.
We’ve steered clear of Christmas gag gifts and instead listed options with real longevity, that can be enjoyed all year round and that will make life a little bit easier – or more enjoyable – for the person you’re shopping for.
From candles and coffee to desk toys, kitchen gadgets and of course, plenty of chocolate, here are the things we’d love to be gifted by our Secret Santas this year. We hope your giftee feels the same!
Eleanor Jones, executive editor
Muji tin candle in sea salt: £4.95, Muji.eu
I’ve burned many luxe candles in my time, but I still can’t resist adding one of these underrated Muji tins to my basket any time I’m in the vicinity of one of its stores. They look chic, have an impressive burn time and throw and still cost less than a fiver. Sea salt is the one I recommend to anyone who’ll listen, but for a festive twist there are also seasonal scents like spiced apple compote (£4.95 Muji.eu) or green log fire (£4.95, Muji.eu).
Grind tin of coffee coffee: £9, Grind.co.uk
If you’re shopping for a colleague who’s spent a fortune on takeaway cups (or hours perfecting their own version at home), a tin of coffee from London chain Grind will be a winner. There’s a choice of whole bean or ground, and house, light or decaf blends, all of which are ethically sourced and delicious, but the real bonus here is that pink tin. I keep mine out on display rather than tucked away in a cupboard – it’s a present they can enjoy long after the coffee is gone.
The Good Bagel everything bagel seasoning: £4.99, Amazon.co.uk
I won’t spend too much time telling you how obsessed I am with this seasoning, because I’ve already written an 800-word ode to it. But trust me when I say any foodie pal will love to have a jar of it in their collection – it adds a salty, crunchy, flavourful hit to basically anything you care to add it to (my current favourites are eggs, avo toast and roasted veggies). It’s a lovely, unusual little stocking filler or secret Santa gift, perhaps to be presented with a cute utensil if you want to hit a £10 budget.
Emma Henderson, editor
Brew Tea plastic-free tea bags, 15 pack: £8.49, Brewteacompany.co.uk
For the planet conscious tea-lover, you cannot go wrong with Brew Tea. In a nutshell, it’s plastic-free bags or loose leaf tea from an independent Manchester-based brand that’s part of the Ethical Tea partnership (which supports small estate growers), that has a sense of humour as well as a conscience. Oh yes, and it tastes darn good.
My favorite is the earl grey, which thanks to a super handy subscription, has become my everyday tea – and likely will be too, to whoever you gift it to. It’s a refreshing brew, full of flavour and depth (no weak tea here) mixing bergamot oil with ceylon black tea, orange peel and calendula petals.
All the tea bags from the brand are made from cornstarch, the inner lining is made from NatureFlex and inside the box is a really useful card telling you what all the packing is made from and how it should be recycled.
Ocelot sea salt chocolate bar: £5.50, Ocelotchocolate.com
I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but each of the seven flavours in Ocelot’s range has its own hand-drawn design (and uses water-based inks) by Edinburgh based co-owners Matt and Ish. They look incredible and much, much better than anything you’d pick up in the supermarket. And of course the inside is just as good too.
A delicate and silky, organic square slab of high-grade ethical chocolate. My favourite is the sea salt, made with 70 per cent chocolate from sustainably grown beans in Virunga National Park with a dash of salt from the Isle of Skye.
Think of it as Christmas chocolate, but better for everyone, as Ocelot is part of the Direct Cacao organisation for bean to bar makers, buying directly from farmers for a higher price than the Fairtrade standard and also pays a fair living wage to workers. The cardboard packaging is recyclable while the inner "plastic" is compostable.
‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell: £7.49, Waterstones.com
As 2020’s winner of the Women’s Prize For Fiction, this book needs little convincing that it’s a great gift. Based on the life of Shakespeare’s son Hamnet, who died at 11-years-old, little is known about him, including how he passed away. But what we do know is that four years after his death, his father wrote the play Hamlet.
The book’s chapters alternate between the novel’s present day, 1596, and the prevailing years, detailing how Hamnet’s parents met. It also focuses on the strong bond of twins and the strains on a relationship that death causes, making it an incredibly moving, beautifully written and an original take on what the playwright’s life could have been like. Of course, most of the novel, apart from the bare bones, is fictional and O’Farrell’s vivid imagining of the time (which she calls her “idle speculation”) meant I found myself desperate to turn the pages until it was finished.
Yalamba organic viognier white wine 2020, 13.5%, 75cl: £9.99, Waitrosecellar.com
For me, this is the white wine that made me enjoy white wine again. If you're fed up of the usual offerings – New Zealand sauvignon blanc, I'm looking at you – then, you need to try a viognier, and this one in particular.
If you're not familiar with this grape, it's a hybrid of a chardonnay and sauvignon, but tastes much fresher, fruitier and modern. It’s aromatic, not over oaked and it’s also organic too, which the Yulamba team in south Australia specialise in. With tasting notes of apricot and peach its not sickly sweet like some white wines can be. I love it so much it was the white wine I had for my wedding. It will be a welcome freshness over Christmas with so much mulled wine and rich food, and pairs well with fish and poultry.
Suzie McCracken, senior production journalist
Aesop resurrection rinse-free hand wash, 50ml: £7, Aesop.com
My friends and I don’t really do Christmas presents, but in the midst of the pandemic, I felt a sense of unease that the eternal “who owes who a pint” balance was out of whack. So instead I bought everyone a hand sanitiser from Aesop for the following reasons: it’s a bit of boujiness for less than a tenner, it’s a wee lol considering the global climate and, of course, it’s incredibly useful. I bought them blind, but I can confirm that they smell incredible. The geranium leaf scent (£7, Aesop.com) is also divine.
Modernist Estates perambulations guides: £4.50, Thingsyoucanbuy.co.uk
These beautifully designed guides to areas of London and also, weirdly, Brussels (sorry, people who live everywhere else), highlight housing estates built in a Modernist architectural style. We’ve explored the Blackheath and Bloomsbury versions with great success – the former being a fantastic morning walk and the latter being the perfect afternoon bike ride. It’s lovely to take a closer look at buildings you perhaps gloss over every day, and imagine the utopian ideals of its architects. A low-cost buy for your high-brow pals.
Pump Street chocolate mini bars, selection of four: £9.60, Pumpstreetchocolate.com
The word has got out about Pump Street in the past couple of years – yes, it’s delicious, and, also yes, we’re annoyed that everyone now knows it. But that doesn’t mean it’s dropped off our gifting list: the sourdough and sea salt is just too good to ignore. Normally an expensive brand, these minis are keenly priced, and offer the variety of a box of chocolates without the fussiness.
Slicky-N sesame seed grinder: £7.50, Tokyobike.co.uk
If you know someone who loves nothing more than a steaming bowl of noodles, a sesame seed grinder can really up their game for not much cash. They’ll have turned their desk into a ramen-ya before you know it. This is also a really easy gift to top up – try tofu puffs or a packet of seaweed, so they can truly pimp their lunch.
Dunelm Cooks dry measure: £7, Dunelm.com
If you’re buying for a cook that seems to have everything, a dry measure can be a pleasingly retro addition to their kitchen. Yes, you can just weigh out ingredients with a trusty scale, but there’s something very satisfying about eyeballing the lentils you’ve bashed in this cone and knowing things can’t go far wrong. Should your giftee be more into bhunas than baking, there’s also a version for curries that was created for Tala by the Scottish artist, Jasleen Kaur (£7.99, Talacooking.com).
Dobble card game: £9.35, Amazon.co.uk
We reckon almost everyone has played Dobble by now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an excellent gift. This supercharged snap-style game, that takes 30 seconds to learn, has been a hit across the world for good reason. It’s great to have on hand for almost any occasion because people with no shared interests can play together instantly. That’s why if your giftee already has a copy, it doesn’t really matter: one stays in the office drawer, for after-work pub sessions that need enlivening.
Steve Hogarty, tech writer
AnySharp knife sharpener: £8.94, Amazon.co.uk
Forget every other knife sharpener you’ve tried, this convenient little device knocks them all into a cocked hat. Place the AnySharp on your kitchen countertop, snap the handle down to lock it into place using a powerful suction cup, and just drag your kitchen knife through the carbide teeth to gently return your dull blade to its former, razor-edged glory.
Sarah Young, writer
Lush the night before Christmas: £9.50, Lush.com
Whether the person you’re buying for is in need of a pamper or is a dedicated “Lushie” – the nickname given to super fans of the sweet-smelling store – you can’t go wrong with a ready-made gift set designed to soak away their worries.
This one contains two of Lush’s most relaxing bath bombs, twilight (£3.95, Lush.com) and sleepy bear (£2.95, Lush.com), which are both made with the soft floral scent of lavender – an ingredient well known for its ability to help you relax and unwind. Hate wrapping presents? The bath bombs come beautifully pre-wrapped in blue paper that’s adorned with gold moons and stars, and a neat yellow twine bow.
Beautyblender blender defender silicone case: £10, Lookfantastic.com
While beauty sponges have become a make-up bag must-have for many, taking a damp one out and about once it’s been used can leave your carryall in a soggy, foundation-covered state. Sound familiar? Luckily, Beautyblender – the OG beauty sponge brand – has invented just the thing you need.
An ultra-convenient protective case, this clever pink and black pod keeps your sponge safe and secure and also features little ventilation holes that are designed to help dry it and prevent the formation of bacteria. A great gift for anyone that applies make-up on the go.
Eleanor Magill, freelance
Perfect nights sleep pillow mist 5ml: £8, Neomorganics.com
This is a definite “hero product”; a saving grace for those who suffer with insomnia or find it hard to switch off after work. The soothing lavender scent, mixed with a touch of patchouli and chamomile, helps you drift off easy into the land of nod. As part of your bedtime ritual, simply spray on your pillow and you’ll be on your way to a deep sleep in no time. This baby 5ml version is a perfect travel size, and an ideal stocking filler for those who find it hard to sleep in new places on the go.
Eva Waite-Taylor, writer
Patch Plants Wallace: £5, Patchplants.com
Unsure what to buy a friend, loved one or colleague? Surely there’s nothing better than a plant pal that they can keep on their desk, bedside table, or just about anywhere. Although it’s a little diddy, it comes in at just £5 and is the perfect introduction to plant parenthood. Best thing of all, I’ve found Wallace super easy to care for, with no casualties yet (touch wood), and with change leftover from a tenner, you can easily find a pretty pot for him.
Talking Tables dipsticks movie and music lucky dip: £9.52, Amazon.co.uk
Surely no dinner party is complete without a game or two? And if you know someone who’s lacking options then Talking Tables dipsticks are where it’s at. This lucky dip set is super simple, each player draws a stick at random and either sings the first line of a song or acts out a quote from a film for the group to guess. I’ve had hours of fun around the Christmas table playing this, and expect you will too.
The Guv’nor, 14%, 750ml: £8.99, Majestic.co.uk
If the person you’ve drawn for Secret Santa is seriously into their red vino, then allow me to introduce you to one of my favourites: The Guv’nor. It’s a full-bodied, fruity number made from tempranillo grapes and is extremely drinkable – so much so, I’d recommend you buy a bottle (or two) for yourself to enjoy during the festive period too.
Daisy Lester, production journalist
‘Me Talk Pretty One Day’ by David Sedaris, published by Abacus: £6.79, Amazon.co.uk
A proven Christmas gift hit in the past, Me Talk Pretty One Day is a collection of essays from American writer David Sedaris and is bound to give any receiver some lols . Whether musing on life in Paris without any grip on the French language or detailing the pets he grew up with and their demises, Sedaris’s razor-sharp wit and observances about the people around him are savagely funny. The delight of essay collections is that you can turn to them whenever and in whatever order, making the perfect gift for someone who struggles to commit to a novel.
Harvey Nichols truffle oil: £9.95, Ocado.com
Ideal for foodies (or lazy cooks), truffle oil is a delicious and simple way of elevating a home-cooked meal and this Harvey Nichols one has all the luxury you’d want in a Christmas gift. Whether drizzled over mushroom risotto, added to pasta dishes or used to infuse pizza with truffle flavourings, it’s a receiver’s soon-to-be kitchen staple that they’ll reach for again and again.
Tal Dekel-Daks, audience lead
Star Wars silicone ice cube mould: £9.99, Amazon.co.uk
For the Star Wars fan who takes their cocktails seriously, these Death Star ice cube moulds are a great conversation starter at dinner parties – and are surprisingly detailed. They’re easy to fill up and remove and can be popped in the dishwasher too. Best paired with a dark and moody cocktail like a negroni.
Lois Borny, freelance
Asos Design sporty heart detail ankle socks £3.50, Asos.com
For the funky sock enthusiast partial to a whimsical design or two, these make a seriously cute find. They’re lightweight, soft and ridiculously sweet – I mean, that goes without saying. While the heart shaped cuffs make them a little different from your usual novelty-esque prints and bright designs. They do come in at the lower end of the budget range, but you can always pair them with some fancy chocolate or another small gift from our round-up – after all, two presents are better than one.
Ellie Fry, deputy editor
Face Halo make-up remover pad: £7.50, Boots.com
If you have a beauty buff in your life who is trying to break up with the cotton rounds or make-up wipes, treat them to a Face Halo pad. We’ve tried a range of dupes for these reusable make-up removers, but none work quite as well as the original. The microfibres gently melt away all make-up with just water (even heavy coverage foundation and mascara) and they are easy to pop in the wash. A win win.
Asos Design 40mm hoop earrings in thick tube in gold tone: £6, Asos.com
You can’t beat a pair of gold hoops, both for the festive season and all year round, and Asos offers a great own-brand range of affordable jewellery that doesn’t tarnish nearly-instantly like other affordable options. This pair is one of my favourites, as they are chunky enough to stay bang on trend without being too OTT.
Flamingo Candles ‘I work hard so my dog can have a better life’ desk plate sign: £8, Flamingocandles.co.uk
If your lucky recipient has made the move back to the office, their face will light up at this gift. Perfect for brightening up their desk, who wouldn’t love to turn up to this plate sign after a dreary commute? Pet owners will appreciate this slogan, but there’s plenty of other options to choose from, including “queen of everything”, “queen of doing nothing”, and “grammar police”, a firm favourite of ours for obvious reasons. We’re obsessed.
Olly’s pretzel thins, pack of 10: £9.99, Amazon.co.uk
If you have a snack fiend to buy for, we’d recommend our current obsession, Olly’s pretzel thins. This may seem like a mundane choice for secret Santa at first glance, but it’s a gift that gives back, as for each order placed, Olly’s donates a school meal to a child in poverty with the One Feeds Two movement. The brand sells a range of tasty treats from snack-sized olive pouches to delicious nut assortments, but its classic pretzels are hard to beat. These are vegan too and are seriously moreish.
Alex Lee, tech writer
Anker 6ft braided lightning cable with lifetime warranty: £8.49, Amazon.co.uk
Want to give the gift of life? Battery life, I mean. If you know someone who’s always looking for their iPhone charger, you can’t go wrong with a long, braided lightning cable from Anker. Because if you’re anything like me, who has one of these hanging out of every plug point in the house, you can never have too many charging cables.
They’re durable, charge fast and all come with a lifetime warranty, so you can just keep replacing them for free every time they break (which they don’t do until a good few years’ of use). Your smartphone-addicted giftee will thank you for it.
Steam gift card: £10, Currys.co.uk
When it comes to buying presents for PC gamers, you really can’t go wrong with a trusty Steam wallet gift card. With one of these, gamers can spend the cash on whatever game or in-game item, perfect for Dota 2 orPlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds addicts. Because, no Uncle Bobby, I don’t want a copy of Just Dance 2.
For the latest discount on Christmas gifts and decorations, try the links below:
After more gift inspiration? We’ve also found the best Christmas present for dads
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.
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