Saving Money at Christmas 1: Secret Santa

I love Christmas Shopping; I enjoy buying presents for my friends and family, and I love being out in the hustle and bustle with a mission.

A couple of years ago though, once my group of friends started getting married and having children (and therefore acquiring more people for their Christmas shopping lists), we discussed the cost of buying presents for each individual, both in terms of pounds and hours spent, and agreed it was becoming unmanageable. There are 7 of us, and were were spending somewhere between £20 and £30 per present, so around  £150 – £200. One option would have been to set a limit of £2-£5 per gift, but that would only have saved money  and quite possibly increased the time and effort spent as we attempted not to buy shower gel. We therefore felt it would be less stressful to run a gift exchange buying just one present each and setting the limit to £20, an instant saving of over £100 and several hours of shopping effort.

We decided to make it a Secret Santa exchange (The other option, a White Elephant exchange, seems a bit bah humbug!) The first year, we simply put names in a hat, but last year we discovered Elfster and we love it because it makes everything so easy:




Here’s a quick run-down of the features:

  • You can sign up using your email address or Facebook. The organiser can send invitations to potential group members by email.
  • You can set up as many groups as you need – last year I belonged to three – one for my mummy friends, one for my local friends and one for my family. This year when I set it up, I found the group from last year already waiting for me.
  • If you have multiple groups, the ability to name your gift exchange will be helpful.
  • You set a deadline for the sign up – this is to give people ample time to buy the gift before the Gift Exchange date – my friends were expecting the invitation, so I gave a week to accept or decline.
  • The app does the draw for you, so the organiser can participate without knowing the draw (although they can find out if they feel they must!) As soon as the deadline is reached, the members that accepted will receive an email letting them know who has been picked for them.
  • Spending limits can be set in quite a few different currencies including GBP, AUD and EUR.
  • Once the draw is under way, it’s possible to ask your recipient questions anonymously:


  • You can set up wishlists so that people can see what you’d like to receive.
  • You can stop certain people buying for others (which would be helpful if you have any “situations” in your circle, or if you simply don’t want couples to buy for each other)
  • Participants can add their address and control who can see it.
  • I found out this year, that you can choose not to allow the same pairings as last year, which is pretty cool.

Now the exchange is set up, I can focus on picking out a present that I know the one person I am focusing on will love!


I’ve not been paid for this post – I’m just a fan of elfster, and of saving a bit of cash here and there. There are a few alternatives to elfster found easily when I searched:


What do you think?

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