Valdosta Daily Times

December 9, 2012

Secret Santa isn’t fun . . . It’s cruel

Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — My office is doing this really cool holiday contest. We are being asked to craft Christmas ornaments to be used on the tree in our lobby. These ornaments will be used on the tree for the next few years.

Aside from giving me an excuse to bust out Pinterest, I think it’s a really respectful way to solicit holiday participation that doesn’t require employees to bust the bank.

While I think that secret Santa is fun, it requires people to spend money during a time when many are already struggling to buy for their own family. Most work places give the option to not participate, but who wants to be the one person in the office not receiving or giving gifts. It creates an uncomfortable and difficult situation for many employees that several managers or supervisors are never aware of.

I’m not trying to be a wet blanket and sully all your office, holiday fun, but here are a few suggestions to keep the holiday spirit alive without killing your Christmas budget.

1. Santa isn’t meant to be secret, for crying out loud, he’s a saint!

I have never been a big fan of secret Santa, but still, several offices around the U.S. do it. If you must do this, be mindful of those who are trying to remain conservative with their budgets.

Set a price limit that is low such as $10. That way, the gifts stay fun and it requires everyone to be a little more thrifty and creative.

Also, don’t do a seven days of Christmas deal. It’s just cruel to require your employees to spend that much time and money on something that is supposed to be “fun.”

2. You only get what you give.

I love that offices do a big Christmas lunch. It’s a great way to get everyone together at one time and show appreciation for all their hard work.

However, what I don’t like is when offices ask for cash to help with the lunch.

If the company or business owner can’t front the cash, then do a pot luck.

My office does this and it always turns out great. We have the freedom to spend however much we want to make whatever we want.

Also, with so much variety, there is at least one thing that everyone likes to eat.

However, make sure you read my budget diary on why you shouldn’t use your co-workers as guinea pigs for new recipes. It’s a time to celebrate, not to experiment.

3. If this column has touched your heart and you decide to nix secret Santa at your office this year, get creative!

You can do an ornament contest like my office, make your own Christmas cards or my favorite idea . . . Have a worst family Christmas photo contest.

Have all your employees go home and take heinous Christmas portraits with their families or their cats and then do a slideshow of them at your Christmas lunch. Make a silly prize for the worst photo! I can guarantee that your co-workers would enjoy that a lot more than a $10 flashlight.

4. It’s okay to party!

If you work in a small office or a small department, there’s no reason you can’t go to a restaurant and celebrate. That is also a great way to allow people to spend what they want to spend.

If they want to order just an appetizer and glass of wine or a full blown $60 bill with a five-course meal, that’s totally up to the individual.

This holiday season, don’t just be mindful of your own budget, but be aware of the budgets of those around you. We are in difficult financial times and while your co-worker may have a job, they may not have a lot of money. They could have a parent in the hospital they’re caring for, massive credit card debt, and more. There’s just no way of really knowing.

So be thrifty, be happy and stay on budget. It’s Christmas and let’s face it, if you’re reading this, you’re not a millionaire.

There’s no reason to go spend money you don’t have or force others to do the same.

Don’t forget to like me on Facebook at and follow me on Twitter @VDT_Brittany.

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