By Noah Kaufman
Updated December 08, 2014
© Chris Rout / Alamy

Someone just broke out a holiday sweater for the office, and that means only one thing: It’s almost time for Secret Santa. The bane of many a cubicle dweller, this gifting game assigns strangers the task of purchasing cheap presents that no one needs. You almost always pick that guy from IT whose name nobody can remember and then end up with a knickknack barely worthy of your "not sure where to file this" drawer. If you can't get out of the festivities, here are a few strategies to improve the experience this year.

1. Drop resounding hints.

Let’s say you really want a bottle of bourbon from your Secret Santa. Ask everyone in the office what their favorite bourbon is, recommend your personal favorite and ask if they like drinking during the workweek as much as you do. A reply-all to an interoffice email works great for this.

2. Fold the piece of paper with your name on it at least nine times.

When you see someone spending two minutes struggling to open a slip of paper you’ll know exactly who picked you, and you’ll have an entire week to bombard them with subtle clues about your likes (bourbon) and dislikes (the handmade keychain you got last year).

3. Plan ahead.

No one knows every person in the office that well. That means Secret Santa is the one gift-giving occasion where it’s OK to give presents that are completely impersonal. You can save yourself some time and effort if you stock up on gifts for the next several iterations of Secret Santa, like chocolate (unless the subject is constantly yo-yo dieting), booze (unless the person refuses every drink ever offered) and any piece of clothing that is one-size-fits-all. Better yet, socks. Stick with socks.

4. Go over the price limit…but just a little.

If you’re supposed to spend $20 on a gift, then go ahead and spend $24. When everyone discovers that you’re the one person who went over the limit, say you couldn’t help it. You just found the perfect gift for Janet and you couldn’t compromise. Spending just an extra $5 will give you the moral high ground not only in all future Secret Santas but in all office arguments from now on.

5. Use whatever you get immediately.

This will endear you to whomever bought your gift. Nothing increases self-esteem like believing you are a good gift-giver. “Juwanna Mann on DVD? How did you know that the DVD pile at the CVS checkout is my favorite place to shop? I’m going to go put it on in the conference room right now.”