How I keep costs down at Christmas with a family secret Santa gift agreement

Secret Santa isn't just for the office, they could help save money at home this Christmas

Brown gift boxes with hessian ribbon and handmade tags
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Secret Santa is often associated with office Christmas parties or playful gifts passed out between friendship groups. However, a couple of the Ideal Home team members have turned secret Santa into a family tradition to help keep costs under control at Christmas.  

Worrying about buying Christmas gifts is usual at this time of year. However, the prospect of filling that space under the Christmas tree, partnered with this year's spiralling costs is frankly terrifying. 

Last year the average Brit spent £548 per person on Christmas gifts. However, Ideal Home's Editor Heather Young and Content Editor Holly Walsh have found a way to keep that figure under control by creating a secret Santa agreement with their family. It could just be the money-saving tip many of us need this Christmas. 

presents wrapped in knitted photographic gift wrap with knitted pom pom decorations

(Image credit: Future/Jon Day)

'My family all have their birthdays within 3 weeks of Christmas, so present buying in December can be pretty full on,' says Holly of how the original gifting agreement came about. 'So it was decided several years ago that we should do secret Santa when it came to buying each other Christmas gifts.'

Heather and her family started their secret Santa tradition more recently: 'Doing secret Santa with my husband's family started during the pandemic when family members were on furlough and budgets were being squeezed. The children in the family still get presents from everyone, but we now do a Secret Santa for the adults.'

mauve living room with christmas tree and fireplace

(Image credit: Future PLC)

The basics of secret Santa are everyone puts their name into a 'pot' and draws a name out. The whole thing is anonymous, and while this process used to happen around a Santa hat with scraps of paper, there are now websites such as that let you draw names virtually.

Secret Santa's usually come with a price cap, and both Heather and Holly's family opted for a £25 limit to help keep costs down for everyone. However, even if you stretched to gifts under £50 you will still be saving by cutting down on the number of gifts you buy.

3 Christmas stockings with various patterns on a white washed floorboard

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dan Duchars)

Holly's family has an extra trick to make sure no money is wasted. 'We usually all give 2 or 3 suggestions for 'Santa' to pick from, so there is still a level of surprise involved.'

'On the big day, we all swap gifts and as much as we try to keep the secret going, it's pretty easy to then work out who got who. But at least we all get something we actually want and there isn't lots of money being wasted on buying 'stuff' for the sake of it.'

If you're panicking about buying gifts this weekend, there's still time to suggest a secret Santa...

Rebecca Knight
Deputy Editor, Digital

Rebecca Knight has been the Deputy Editor on the Ideal Home Website since 2022. She graduated with a Masters degree in magazine journalism from City, University of London in 2018, before starting her journalism career as a staff writer on women's weekly magazines. She fell into the world of homes and interiors after joining the Ideal Home website team in 2019 as a Digital Writer. In 2020 she moved into position of Homes News Editor working across Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, Gardeningetc and Ideal Home covering everything from the latest viral cleaning hack to the next big interior trend.