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Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Secret Snowflake Exchange

Michelle Madhok is a guest writer for Citizens Bank, N.A. With the exception of direct quotes, any advice and opinions are of the guest writer.

Present exchanges, or what some fondly call “Secret Snowflake exchanges,” are becoming more and more popular. From the office to extended families, Secret Snowflake can be a great way to exchange gifts with a large group without breaking the bank. They’re also notoriously panic-inducing because there’s usually a price limit and sometimes you don’t know very much about your gift recipient.

We have a plan to ease this stress and make shopping a breeze.

Stick to your budget like snowflakes stick to glass

Most present exchanges have a dollar amount set for the entire group to make gift-giving more equal.

Easy, right?

But all it takes is going a bit overboard on your gift to Carol from accounting and you’re left feeling awkward at the party. How do you gift on a limited budget and make it meaningful?

We suggest eliminating the headache entirely by using the holiday gift calculator below to set and keep a budget.

Know the gifts to get

We’ve partnered with Michelle Madhok, an online shopping expert and founder of SheFinds.com, to help identify thoughtful gifts for your Secret Snowflake exchanges. As an online shopping expert, she is known to be a pretty good gift giver and is here to share a few of her secrets.

Under $25

  • Coffee shop gift card: It may sound like the easy way out, but trust me, it’s not. The best gifts are the ones recipients will actually use, so if you’re shopping for a coffee drinker, a gift card is the way to go. They’ll appreciate a month’s worth of java on you.
  • Reusable water bottle: This isn’t just a great gift for a human; it’s a great gift to the earth, too. Treat your gift recipient to a stylish reusable water bottle (like one from S’well or bkr) and he/she will never have to buy another plastic water bottle again. The ocean will thank you.
  • Picture frame: Go old school and print out your favorite picture of you and your friend. Then, frame it and wrap it up nicely with a bow.


  • Headphones: Whether your gift recipient is a music lover or a podcast junkie, everyone can always use an extra set of headphones. Splurge a little and get your friend a pair of Skullcandy wireless Bluetooth earbuds.
  • Personalized phone case: Does anyone leave home without their phone anymore? Definitely not, so this makes a personalized smartphone case the perfect everyday accessory that your gift recipient will actually use. The Daily Edited has a ton of super stylish options (that just so happen to be trending on Instagram these days). Want to really impress? Find a style that doubles as a charger or a card holder.
  • Sunglasses: Lots of people stop wearing sunglasses in the winter, but that’s a big no-no. If you’re shopping for someone who spends a lot of time outside, do their eyes a favor and gift them a cool pair of sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection. Prive Reveaux’s styles are very of-the-moment, but also reasonably priced.


  • Shearling slippers: Take it from me — there’s nothing better than waking up on a cold morning and sliding your feet into warm shearling slippers. This is a perfect gift for men and women alike, and when it comes to shearling, no brand does it better than UGG Australia.
  • Cashmere socks: Shopping for someone who lives in a cold climate? Be the best gift giver ever and spoil them with a luxurious pair of cashmere socks. They’re so soft and cozy that your gift recipient won’t want to take them off. Garnet Hill makes amazing options for both men and women.
  • Leather gloves: Thanks to stores like TJMaxx and Nordstrom Rack, you can easily find a soft, high-quality pair of genuine leather gloves for less than $100. If you’re not sure what size your gift recipient wears, be sure to include a gift receipt!

Over $100

  • Fitness watch: Everyone makes a resolution to get healthier in January, so give your friend a head start by buying them a smartwatch that tracks activities like steps taken, calories burned, and hours slept. The Apple Watch is probably one of the most popular options, but if your gift recipient is a label lover, then go with Marc Jacobs’ stylish Riley Touchscreen Smartwatch.
  • Fine dining experience: If your gift recipient is a foodie, indulge him/her with a fine dining experience. You can either get a gift certificate to the best restaurant in town or buy an OpenTable gift card so your gift recipient can choose where to redeem it.
  • Concert tickets: You know that coworker that always knows about the newest artists and songs before anyone else? Score some cool points by presenting him/her with concert tickets for their favorite band at the office Secret Snowflake exchange.

More information

To learn more about our Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus® World Mastercard® or other products please call 1-888-333-5145, or Ask a Citizen at your nearest Citizens Bank branch.

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