Welcome to that time of year when you need to find a gift for the seemingly impossible: an affordable, somewhat generic, yet memorable gift for people you don’t know that well (the office Secret Santa), or for people you know entirely too well (the family swap). And if it’s an office swap? Well, then you need a gift that people will fight over and keep stealing from each other, so you can emerge victorious as having the best taste or the best sense of humor or, you know, just for being cool. No pressure. And no worries! As a longtime internet shopping ninja and former magazine editor — with about a billiondy gift guides under my ninja black belt — I’ve got you covered, for gifts under $25 and for under $10. So do I emerge as looking like I have good taste, a good sense of humor, and being cool? Thank you very much. That’s the gift that keeps on giving. Happy holidaze!
1. Chic Drinking Glasses
Simple, chic, pretty and really useful in the office. One glass to drink the cooler water out of — and one to leave in the sink hoping the little office elves will wash it for you.
$16, Iittala, at Finn Style
2. One-Handed Pepper Mill
This gift is almost too good to put into a family or office gift swap: a one-handed pepper mill that is activated by a simple press of the thumb. If you have a reputation as a tastemaker in your office, this gift will preserve it — and the family is sure to fight over it.
$24.95, MoMa Design Store
3. Blooming Lollipops
If your Secret Santa recipient is a total Instagram addict, then by all means, dig in to these precious lollies. Not only are they unreasonably beautiful, and very cool flavors (such as lavender-lemongrass and strawberry-basil), they can also plant the stick after they eat the treat and grow one of the herbaceous ingredients deskside, thus birthing even more I(G) candy.
$20, Uncommon Goods
4. Couch Potato Glasses
These are kind of ridiculous and also kind of genius, the perfect combo for gift swaps. Glasses that allow you to watch TV while you lie flat on your lazy-ass back on the couch. Secretly, you know you want to try them. And so does everyone else. And you can use them for reading, too, of course. Yesssss, literary laziness FTW!
$14.95, Flammi, on Amazon
5. 6-in-1 Opener Tool
Uh-oh. You drew Ned in accounting for the Secret Santa. He just started last month, works completely across the office from you, and you’ve never even said hello. Never fear. This multi-use tool — which opens bottle caps (two ways), pull-tops, two sizes of jars (both expandable) and even has a bag slicer! — is a total conversation starter. And now you’ve just made a friend as well as solved the Secret Santa quandary.
6. Matte Porcelain Vase
Sweet, yet modern, this matte-porcelain vase is the perfect size to park on someone’s desk, shedding a lot of style, but not taking up a lot of space.
$16, Honeycomb Studio on Etsy
1. Reusable Glass Straws Environmentally correct straws are this year’s must-have eco-minded gift, and this colorful set of glass straws comes with both curved and straight straws, to suit your preference — and even comes with a cool brush for cleaning them.
$9.95, Paper Source
2. Paint By Stickers Cat Calendar
It’s cats. It’s a calendar. And it’s a total OCD sticker-art masterpiece in the making — the perfect activity to fill the time we all waste on yet another hours-long conference call in the office.
$9.37, Workman Publishing, on Amazon.
3. Set of Mini Marimekko Journals
You get not one, but four adorable, classic, geometric journals with that inimitable Marimekko styles for just ten bucks. We’ll understand if you order two of these 3.75×5.5 cuties: one for the Secret Santa, and one for yourself.
$9.95, Marimekko, at Finn Style.
4. Avocado Huggers
People will hug you if they get to be the lucky recipient of this thing everyone needs but doesn’t know exists. Finally, making avocado toast doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game for that second half that always gets mushy before you can get to it.
$10, MoMA Design Shop.
5. Literary Playing Cards
Show off your smarts by throwing this pack of Genius Writers Playing Cards into the mix, which aside from including writers from Doris Lessing to J.K. Rowling, is also sorted by genre. The four “suits” are: midcentury, modern, contemporary and postmodern. So now everyone can learn together what the heck the difference is in those classifications.
$10, Uncommon Goods.
6. Beer Layering Tool
If your office is heavy on the bro side, feminist playing cards are maybe not the best bet for the holiday swap. Toss this handy-dandy tool no one thinks they need into the mix, and you will earn everyone’s admiration. Clearly, the next office-night-out drink is on them.
$10, The Grommet.