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How We Save Big At Christmas With Family Secret Santa

Want to know how to do Secret Santa with family? This is our favourite way to save money at Christmas time and we share how we do family Secret Santa with rules to play as well as gift exchange tips for large families.

How to do secret santa with family

Secret Santa is not a new concept. It’s a popular option for workplace or friend gift-giving game, creating a fun way for everyone to receive something, while only having to purchase a single gift.

With the rising costs of living and how easy it is to blow your Christmas budget quickly, family Secret Santa is a great way to cut your spending down in December!

Learn how we have turned this into a new family Christmas tradition for gift giving.


A few years back, we adapted Secret Santa for our family Christmas gifting, for one side of our extended family.

This meant we only needed to purchase two gifts for my husband’s family each year – one from each of us. 

This has become our tradition for several years now and it has certainly made Christmas gift shopping a whole lot easier and more affordable.

Meanwhile, I have a massive family. So a couple of years ago we gave Secret Santa a try for my family too and it was great!

Most of all, it was a huge stress relief knowing we did not need to stretch funds so far to get everyone a little something.

This year we will be doing it again with both families.


For my husband’s family, our Secret Santa group is relatively small, so we usually do our draw the old fashioned way.

We write everyone’s name on a piece of paper and place them all in a bowl, each drawing out a name. 

If you get yourself, you throw it back in and we do a redraw.

This worked well until half the family moved interstate, so if we don’t get together just before Christmas each year, we will switch to an online alternative.

We also set an annual budget.

This is usually between a $75 and $100 budget to spend on your person. 

This price range was chosen as it meant having a big enough budget to get something special the person would really love.

Only the adults are placed in the draw for Secret Santa each year and then everyone gets the kids a little something.

This means only needing one gift in the place of 6 or 10 for the adults though, and that is a massive saving since it can be hard to get that many good gifts with a $100 budget total! 

One bigger gift is usually far more special than lots of little ones too.

Secret santa rules for gift giving



For my family last year, we trialled something a little different since it can be hard to get all of us in the one place at one time.

We used a Secret Santa generator for families, aimed at making Secret Santa draws easier. 

I added everyone’s emails to the list and ran the draw and each person got an email with their person. The website we used was free, called Draw Names.

The other cool feature of doing it this way is that the website allows you to create rules for each person too.

My sister wanted to get her adult kids each a gift still, so she did not want to draw any of them. I always get my husband a gift, so I didn’t want to draw him out.

We were able to set it up so we could exclude these people in the draw. No redraws needed!

The other cool thing about that website is that it lets you add wishlist items or anonymously request ideas from your gift recipient.

It also allows you to set the Secret Santa gift exchange date in case you aren’t getting together on Christmas day to do this.

Secret Santa Generators

If you are looking to use a free online Secret Santa generator, here are some great options:

Santa with hot chocolate

The Benefits of Family Secret Santa Gift Giving

There are so many reasons we love doing Secret Santa with our families each year now. This is the perfect thing if you are looking for gift exchange ideas for big families.

Here are the main benefits of family Secret Santa:

  • Spend much less overall
  • Less stressing over what to get everyone
  • Able to get a great gift for one person
  • The added mystery is fun
  • Save time on shopping

The savings are usually a couple of hundred dollars each Christmas which can make a mammoth difference to most households during the festive season.

Perhaps it means a bigger Christmas feast, or a chance to pay off existing expenses to reduce. 

Does Santa’s little helper visit your house every December? Check out these easy Elf on the Shelf ideas and in case you have a habit of forgetting, save these excuses for why the Elf didn’t move!

How to Have a Successful Secret Santa With Family

The key to successful Secret Santa family gift-giving is creating a plan from the start and making sure everyone understands the Secret Santa game instructions you have set. It can be a fun Christmas Day activity too.

The main things you will want to determine are the following:

  • Gift budget
  • Who is joining in
  • Who is excluded i.e. children/anyone not yet working
  • How you will draw
  • When you will give gifts if not Christmas day
  • If you will reveal who gave what or keep it a secret after
Christmas gifts under tree with toy dinosaur

What Are The Secret Santa Rules?

While you can absolutely have your own version of Secret Santa rules for family, these are the basic instructions for a gift exchange:

  1. Organise your list of participants
  2. Set a budget
  3. Do the name draw – either a simple paper draw or using an online generator
  4. Make sure everyone knows who their recipient is
  5. Leave your name off the gift (it’s a secret)
  6. Bring gifts to the nominated time and place
  7. Have fun opening gifts together

Our Family Secret Santa Rules

We all still purchase gifts for children in the family who are under 18 or not yet earning an income of their own. For my nieces and nephews, this means smaller gifts that are still budget-friendly.

Our budget changes to suit circumstances. Usually, $75 is pretty standard for both families to make it within reason for everyone joining in.

You could easily reduce the amount to $50 or less or increase it if everyone has a higher budget.

We usually reveal who gave the gift after, but try and guess first. It can be a bit of extra fun this way.

Get a free printable Santa Tag for your Secret Santa gifts:

Printable santa tag freebie

If Including Kids In Secret Santa

If you want to include kids in your Secret Santa draw, you can do this in a few different ways. You could give your child a set amount of cash to spend and take them shopping. This works if they don’t have you as their person so it can get a little trickier!

Or they can make handmade gifts instead, such as these adorable gifts that kids can make, by helping to set them up with handmade gift supplies.

Alternatively, you can have a separate Secret Santa draw just for the kids to exchange gifts together. This way they don’t miss out on the fun of having a mystery gift from another child.

Gift Ideas For All Occasions

Now that you’ve got your family Secret Santa rules and draw set up, it’s time to organise those gifts! Here are some gifts for your family Secret Santa ideas below/