Charity aim to stop £177million annual Secret Santa waste

Children’s charity Dreams Come True are asking Secret Santa participants to replace throw-away gifts by giving a £5 Secret Santa donation certificate instead to bring happiness to children with serious and life-limiting health conditions.

According to a new survey of 1000 people across the UK children’s charity Dreams Come True, 64 per cent of us who have participated in Secret Santa do not keep the gifts we receive. This adds up to a staggering £177,000,000* being thrown away, which could be used to provide the power of a dream and precious memories to a child, and their family, with serious and life-limiting conditions. If only 0.03% of that money was used to support Dreams Come True, it could make 25 dreams come true this Christmas for the children that charity supports.

As we push further into December, office workers, friends and families take part in a Secret Santa which usually means buying a present for someone you don’t know that well for a limited budget and more than a third of people feel embarrassed when giving Secret Santa gifts which is not exactly the feeling of Christmas Cheer.

To combat this, Dreams Come True has launched a Secret Santa donation certificate. For as little as £5 you can buy a certificate for your Secret Santa, which tells the recipient that a £5 donation has been made on their behalf.  This ethical gift overcomes the stress of what to buy and avoids wasted money on throw-away presents.  All the proceeds will go towards the charity’s Christmas appeal, which aims to raise £50,000 to help make 25 children and young people’s dreams come true. These 25 dreams include a trip to Lapland and specialist sensory equipment.

Nicole, who is living with quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy and limited mobility, is one of the 25 Christmas dreams on the waiting list. She dreams of having sensory equipment to play with at home. Her mum says, “In hospital Nicole was able to play with sensory equipment that she doesn’t have at home. Nicole was both excited and stimulated by the toys and it would be amazing to have some in her bedroom.”

The charity’s research also found that people in the UK spend on average £12.29 on secret Santa gifts every year. People in Northern Ireland are the most generous with their Secret Santa purchases, spending on average £25.39. 45-54 year olds are also the biggest spenders and will splash out an average £13.27 on a present. 

10 per cent of Secret Santa receivers admit to putting the gift they received in the bin whilst others admit to giving it away:

  • A third have given a Secret Santa present they received to charity
  • A quarter admit they have given a Secret Santa to a friend rising to a third of 16-24 year olds.
  • Nearly a sixth admit they have recycled the gift by passing it on as a new Secret Santa gift (The 55+ age bracket does this the most, 21%)

The survey also discovered some of the strangest secret Santa gifts that have been received including: a packet of cereal, a box of extra large matches, a mankini and a photo of themselves. 


Peter Newman, chief executive, Dreams Come True said, “The results of this research show that Secret Santa can be a waste of time for both those buying and receiving; I know I have received some unusual ones in the past! By buying a £5 donation certificate as a gift, people will be helping us to reach our Christmas appeal target and enable us to make real differences to children and their families by providing the power of a dream and allowing them to spend precious, quality time together.”

To donate, visit