'Tis that time of year again. If finals and the impending family gatherings weren't stressful enough already, now you have to buy a gifts for strangers in three different Secret Santa exchanges. Don't get yourself on the naughty list with a bad gift. Instead, get in the holiday spirit and follow these simple tips.

Mind your audience

If you are lucky enough to draw your best friend, congrats! You don’t need any help coming up with a gift idea. But if you plan to present gifts in a big group, be careful to avoid inside jokes where you will have to explain that “hilarious story from spring break two years ago.” No one else will think it is funny, but they will still have to uncomfortably laugh along. The same goes for sexual gifts: this is not the time to out your friend’s fetish.

Gift cards can be doable

Forget what normal etiquette guides say about gift cards being impolite. As a broke college kid, gift cards are ALMOST as good as cash. Personalize the card by turning it into an experience for the two of you to enjoy. Is your friend a foodie? Buy them a gift card and snag them a coveted reservation spot. Extra points if it’s Zahav on a Saturday night.

Confide in a friend for ideas.

You pulled the one person in your friend group that you can barely make small talk. Shit, what do you get them? Bend the rules of Secret Santa just a little by asking a friend what they are into. If you find out you two have a common interest, use it as an opportunity to bond about something other than talking about the weather. 

CVS as a last resort

If you forgot to grab a gift until the day of the exchange, campus leaves you with very few gift options. Sure, no one is going to be mad about receiving a bag of Skinny Pop and a box of candy, but at least try a little bit harder. Get creative to avoid making your gift look like an afterthought. Face masks, nail polish, and makeup from the drugstore can be transformed into a Spa Night–themed gift basket.

Use your ID

If you are 21 and your Secret Santa is not, it is an unspoken rule of gift giving that you buy the younger person their favorite alcohol. A bottle of Fireball is worth infinitely more when you don’t have to risk getting your fake ID taken. 


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