5 ways to improve your Secret Santa

<div class="meta image-caption"><div class="origin-logo origin-image ap"><span>AP</span></div><span class="caption-text">Keep everyone invested by bringing them into the gift-giving. One way is to keep the adults and children in separate drawings -- kids will give to kids and adults to adults. (Barry Sellers via AP)</span></div>
Extended family gift lists getting way too long for you to manage and afford? Here are a few ideas for using the Secret Santa method to make gift giving more meaningful and cost-effective for your family and friends:

1. Secret Santa drawings are great for your extended family, but what if you're 5 and you're asked to think of a gift for someone over 65? Mom or dad will likely get stuck thinking of what to give. To help keep everyone interested, do two family drawings -- one for the adults and one for kids. Kids will learn to love thinking of something to give to someone in his or her age group.

2. Secret Santa gifts are easier to give if you have an idea of what to give. When you draw names, be sure to have everyone write down an idea or two, as well as appropriate sizes for those fun holiday pajamas or sweaters!

3. Limit the cost to a manageable amount for everyone in your drawing. Money is always difficult to discuss, but if everyone decides to spend the same amount and stick to it, the holidays will be more fun for everyone. You might even want to try making gifts. That quilt or handmade pillow or refurbished family heirloom or framed photo may be so much better than just another pair of socks from your uncle.

4. Instead of buying serious gifts that can drive up costs and might mean a trip back to the store, try a year of joke presents in your Secret Santa group. Something funny, such as huge present wrapped several times over to reveal a tiny gift, will surely be something your entire family or group of friends will remember year after year. The joke gifts may even catch on -- and everyone will try to top each other each year.

5. Draw names early in the season. It may be a little late now, but keep this idea stashed away for next year! Some families put names in a hat as early as July 4 to get a jump on the season and to shop nearly all year for the best deals.
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