I've never worked in a real 9-5 office environment one single day of my life. It all seems so dignified and pleasant! My jobs in high school and college were always of the retail sales or radio DJ variety. Since I've never had a cube to decorate or an HR department to report to, I've completely romanticized the idea of a stable, calm, orderly office.
My current office is always rotating -- it's usually located somewhere terrible, like the inside of a closet next to some smelly shoes or in my car. (Shopping and schelpping stuff for a living is not quite as glam as it would seem from the outside.)
So having a watercooler to gossip about things around or a community microwave to leisurely heat up a Lean Cuisine in like an actual human person sounds heavenly. On my last show, I sadly shoveled dry salad into my mouth with my bare hands as I drove like a maniac to get back to the stage in time for a fitting.
I don't doubt that I made the right choice for my personality -- I've chosen a career that allows me to send work emails that say things like "Take a Xanax, dude" to my bosses with basically zero repercussions, something that I'm not so sure would fly over at Merrill Lynch.
But this this 'Secret Santa' business that office peeps have makes me a little bit sad that I've never gotten to participate in one! On my last show, I hurriedly passed out greeting cards stuffed with cash to my costume crew while the cast was taking their final curtain call after a taping. That was the entire extent of our work holiday celebration.
Since I'll never get to play Secret Santa, I don't mind giving my very best affordable gift ideas away to you guys. I dug up 22 of the cutest, most useful things I could find -- at price points from $1.00-$29.00.
STUFF $5.00 & UNDER
This adorably-packaged little bar of 'egg white' soap is exactly one dollar. It's cute and special enough to act as a stand-alone gift, or makes a great addition to another simple present.
You are looking at a deadstock package of vintage ALF trading cards. Complete with 20-year-old gum. Do you really need any other motivation to purchase it?
Hurrraw! lip balm is one of my favorite things. It's all natural, vegan, and made from premium raw, organic and fair-trade ingredients. I'm partial to the Vanilla Bean, Chai Spice and Coconut versions, but they are all heavenly and leave your lips moisturized without feeling waxy -- for just $3.79! (They are also available at any American Apparel location.)
A waterproof notebook is a useful gift anyone could appreciate. Since it's water resistant, I'm assuming it resists wine spills too, no? (Not that I do a fair amount of drinking and note-taking or anything.)
Don't laugh! Having a tire pressure gauge on hand is important -- and I'd be willing to bet that half the people you know don't have one. The gauges that are attached to the air hose at the gas station are notoriously unreliable. This is just the kind of thing you'd never remember to grab for yourself, but will be really glad someone thought to give you when you realize you need it.
STUFF $10.00 & UNDER
These darling pom-pom beanies come in either pink or yellow and are a steal at just $6.99. Be sure to grab one for yourself while you're at it.
I've been wanting to buy a pair of 'texting gloves', as my fingers are always chilly -- but I can't be away from my stupid phone for 12 seconds without some work crisis arising. These clever iron-on strips allow you to easily make any pair of gloves you have lying around into touchscreen-friendly versions. OMG, LOL! JK! ROFL! BRB, GUYZ.
I'll never get sick of these super-saccharinne ruffle socks, usually worn by those around two years of age. They look especially cute sticking out from the top of a pair of ankle boots, and are available in a rainbow of colors.
This suggestion may be a bit too pedestrian for you, but I am unhealthily obsessed with office supplies. A pack of neon Sharpies would make my day, as they are my favorite office supply EVER. And for the record, "What's your favorite office supply?" is the best first date question in history. You can learn a lot about a person by their answer. (After Sharpies, I love binder clips the most! They make good hair clips in a pinch.)
A medal of honor or an adorable slice of pizza pin is just what you need sometimes to jazz up your jean jacket or add some flair to a scarf. At exactly $10.00 each, these little enamel pins might just be the most charming Secret Santa gift in existence.
I have this exact whistle keychain. A pal gave it to me and half-jokingly called it a 'rape whistle'. I wouldn't suggest bringing your boisterous office party down to the nitty gritty realities of life by pointing out this helpful feature, but it sure is nice to know you have an annoying, distracting, attention-calling noisemaker in your hands when walking down a dark city street.
STUFF $20.00 & UNDER
A sparkly, glittery star-shaped bobby pin is the perfect Secret Santa gift for the office party girl. Hell, I'd wear this to a staff meeting on a random Tuesday -- forget waiting for a special occasion.
This cast iron heart in hand bottle opener has some serious 1920's flair to it. It's an adorable way to crack open beers or old-school pop bottles.
Buried Diamond is one of my very favorite jewelry designers. Her quirky charms are always on point -- and these delightful wooden hand earrings are no exception. (While you're grabbing a pair for your Secret Santa, make sure to snag this clever collar clip for yourself.)
My mom gave this gadget to me when I bought my car, and I've since gifted them to a dozen pals. The 'Drop Stop' has saved me from veering off the road while trying to retrieve an earring, my cell phone, or a french fry that has managed to slip into the space between my car seats.
The Tervis insulated tumbler is the official cup of the South. Thanks to Bed Bath and Beyond now carrying them, the entire country can get in on this hot and cold beverage holder wonder. If you purchase your Secret Santa the monogrammed version, there is no event on earth where it wouldn't be welcome. It's pure, unadulterated class.
I keep this mini-Maglite flashlight next to my bed, and it's saved me many freaked out calls to 911 -- for the simple fact that I can grab it and make sure there are not in fact any monsters lurking around my bedroom.
STUFF $29.00 & UNDER
This is a real thing -- a soy wax candle that smells like frying chicken. OF COURSE it's made in Kentucky.
Even if your Secret Santa doesn't imbibe, a flask is still a useful accoutrement. I dated a vegan for years who always forced us to go to a super healthy restaurant that didn't serve soda. I resorted to sneaking Coca-Cola in via a flask much like this one.
The L.L. Bean Boat & Tote bag is a preppy classic for a reason -- it lasts forever. The new small size clocks in at just $20.95, and makes an unparalleled Secret Santa gift. Add a monogram for an additional $8.00 and it's the perfect gift for your snobby sister or best friend.
I have it on good authority that Jennifer Aniston's main squeeze, Justin Theroux, (?) owns this exact 'Rachel' black metal t-shirt. If your Secret Santa is more of a Chandler, Joey, Ross, Monica, Phoebe or even a Gunther fan, this 'Black Metal Friends' t-shirt collection has got you covered.
My grandmother gave me a mini-Swiss Army knife just like the one above, and it's one of the more useful gifts I've ever received. Just don't try to accidentally carry it on an airplane like I did -- unless you are looking to create an international incident.
My only caveat is that these gifts are so shockingly cute and clever, you really should go ahead and reveal your Secret Santa identity so your brilliant gift-giving skills can become the stuff of office legend. Why keep your awesomeness a secret? That's what office life is really about, right? Bragging rights, one-upmanship, and showing off to your co-workers? It sounds dreamy.
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