Launch a web browser window and go to Elfster's website. Click on the Join Elfster link at the top of the page and type in your details. (Alternatively, use Facebook credentials to sign in by clicking the Facebook Login button on the same page.) Once you are signed in, click the ‘Start gift exchange’ button on the left-hand side of the page.
Next, fill in the basic details of the event. Type in a fitting name, such as ‘2011 Gift Exchange’ and use the relevant fields to add a deadline for people to sign up and a date for the gift exchange to take place. (It’s probably best to allow at least a week for people to sign up.) On the same page, type in an optional spending limit and add a personal note. If the exchange is going to take place at an event, add the time and date of the party to let everyone involved know what’s happening.
Now it’s time to invite people to take part. Type in the names and email addresses of the participants, or use the buttons on the right-hand side to browse your email contacts or Facebook friends and add them to the list. Click Send to email out the invitations. More people can be added later if you find you’ve forgotten someone. A link to the exchange page is provided (in the Post A Sign-up Link box), which can be emailed around or posted on a message board to allow more people to sign up.
Now to fine-tune the details. Restrictions can be created to stop certain people from drawing one another (if there are couples or siblings involved in the exchange, for instance, they may not want to buy for one another). Click Manage Exchange followed by Draw Restrictions. Clicking on the ‘show restrictions’ link will display a list of participants – just choose from this list to prevent certain matches being made. Any other details that may need to be changed can also be altered from the Manage Exchange menu (and more people can be added via the Invite Friends button).
Elfster emails the assignments once the sign-up date set in Step 2 has passed. To give your own Secret Santa some hints, make a wishlist by clicking on the ‘wishlist’ link at the top of the page. Click on ‘add to wishlist’ and either search for items, paste in a link, or just type in a description of the item. You can also make a list of things you definitely don’t want by clicking the Do Not Need tab on the Wishlist page (so if you really don’t want any more socks, say so here).
Use the information on your assigned gift-recipient’s profile to choose a present for them. To get some extra help, send an anonymous question by clicking the Ask A Question button on their profile. Suggested questions include ‘Do you collect anything?’ and ‘Are you a fan of any sports team?’, but other questions can be typed in manually. An email notification will be sent to you when the question is answered, and it will be displayed on the event page as well as on their profile. Then all that’s left is to buy and exchange gifts – have fun!