The holidays are here, and you need office gifts that are inexpensive, similar and appropriate for the work environment. Not to worry! Even if you found this post in a last-minute search, we made a list (and checked it twice), so we bet you’ll find something nice.
Frugal and Funny
For inexpensive gifts, use holiday puns on a card to offset that “cheap” feel. Shop early sales or after-Christmas ones to get the best deals. For co-workers, sometimes a gift just needs to be a small gesture of thanks and nothing elaborate.
- Mini-Chalkboards. You can find these at arts and crafts stores. Add a pack of chalk and write a funny saying, a memory from the past year or even a humorous office superlative on it.
- DIY Stress Balls. Fill a water bottle with flour. Wrap the end of a balloon around the bottle opening and shake/squeeze the flour into the balloon. Tie it off and draw a funny face or saying with permanent marker.
- Frames. Buy small picture frames at an arts and crafts store. Great for cube farms to personalize desks.
- LED Candles. You know, to “brighten” the season.
- Reindeer Food. Perfect for co-workers with young kids or nieces/nephews. Kids sprinkle it outside on Christmas Eve! Mix oatmeal and glitter and place in a cute container or festive Ziploc bag. Add a card that says: “Which reindeer was known for his bad manners? Rude-olph!”
- Vacation Spot. Great for a desk. Fill a mason jar with sand, seashells and a little dollhouse sized chair. Using a paint pen, write “Vacation Spot” on it. You could also use chalkboard paint to write the sign.
- DIY “Chemistree.” For a scientist or engineer, buy a tiny artificial tree or make your own with spare parts. Fill miniature beakers, flasks or test tubes with colored water and hang them as ornaments. Variation: Hang nuts, bolts, Legos and cheap calculators from it.
Plan an office cookie exchange with a sign up! SAMPLE.
Community service projects can replace office gift giving! Be sure to start planning early.
- Bake Sale. Ask your team members to bake their signature holiday treat, and host a bake sale a couple of weeks before the holiday. Have employees vote on their favorite and award a holiday-themed prize. Donate proceeds to a favorite charity. Genius tip: Plan a cookie exchange using SignUpGenius.
- Food or Toy Drive. Organize donations in lieu of gifts. Use SignUpGenius to avoid duplicate donations. Make it a team bonding activity and pack and wrap them as a group.
- Packing Party. Make cards for troops overseas or veterans through the American Red Cross “Holiday Mail for Heroes” campaign. Send them with care package items that will be appreciated, such as candy, socks, games, movies and books.
- Potluck Holiday Lunch. Organize a holiday potluck lunch for another team! This would work great for a different floor in a hospital or any group that you collaborate with closely. Genius tip: Create an online potluck sign up to avoid duplicate food items.
- Volunteer Activity. Research a charitable organization that needs volunteer help during the holidays, whether it’s a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. A volunteer sign up will help you know who will be there.
Baked with a Bow
Use bows, ribbons, cute containers and festive cards to personalize your food gift!
- Mason Jars. Ideas abound for filling mason jars with layered ingredients. They can be made at home or purchased in stores. Popular “kits” are hot cocoa and homemade cookies. You could also skip layered ingredients and just fill the jar with a co-worker’s favorite candy or even a healthy treat like trail mix, Chex Mix or homemade granola bars. Use chalkboard paint, bows or ribbons to dress up the jars.
- Homemade Sweet Goodies. Put them in a gift bag or decorative box. Make something in bulk that takes only a few ingredients: flavored popcorn, chocolate covered pretzels or peppermint bark.
- Mini Bread Loaves. Buy a mini bread loaf pan and make banana nut, pumpkin or gingerbread. Fold a festive napkin lengthwise and wrap around the middle of the bread. Secure with plastic wrap around the napkin-wrapped loaf and attach a festive bow or ribbon.
- Spice it Up. Purchase spices commonly used during the holidays and wrap in clear, festive cellophane. Attach a tag that says “Season’s Greetings!”
- Coffee. Buy someone a hot coffee and attach a card with a handwritten thank you message. A funny twist for the card: “Thanks a latte!”
- Gingerbread Cookies. Make homemade gingerbread cookies or buy ginger snaps. Place in a cute container and attach a card that says: “What did the gingerbread man put on his bed? A cookie sheet!”
Schedule a gift-wrapping party with SignUpGenius! SAMPLE.
For this category, think small DIY gift basket for people with specific passions. Fill festive baskets or stockings with items that fit the theme. Use paint pens or cute tags for labeling.
- Jet-setter. Travel-sized toiletry items, ear buds, reading light, airport pillow, sleep mask, loofa, energy bars and a collapsible bag.
- Fitness Buff. Fitness DVD, gloves or ear warmers for cold workouts, jump rope for traveling, water bottle, yoga block, ChapStick and hand warmers.
- Cold Weather. Matching hat and scarf set, hot chocolate mugs and instant cocoa packets and car ice scrapers.
- Sports Fanatic. Include a team hat, pocket schedule, T-shirt, coffee cup or sign for their desk. If your teams happen to be rivals, some good-natured ribbing is appropriate.
- Green Thumb. Buy amaryllis bulbs that bloom in winter pre-packaged, in many stores or online. They will look pretty on a desk and bloom in winter.
- Organize Everything. Everyone has someone in the office who loves to organize. Think monogrammed thank you notes, matching sticky notes and paper clips, cute USB devices and new highlighters.
Take Me Away
Your co-workers spend a lot of time in the office, and sometimes they need to kick up their feet and relax.
- Stress Buster. Stress balls, chocolate, bath salts, candles, tea packets and holiday hand towels.
- Thank you. Fill this one with anything your co-worker loves: magazines, coffee, tea, candy, cookies and small baking tools or craft supplies.
- Mini-vacation or Staycation. Books, movies, aromatherapy items, fragrance and makeup samples, articles about top destinations in the city, slippers and cozy socks.
- Movie Night. Movie or a movie rental gift card for Redbox, microwaveable popcorn, Slim Jims, corkscrew and candy.
- Book Worm. Classic books or audiobooks (check used book stores for good deals), gift cards, magnetic poetry, colorful bookmarks, quotation mark bookends and favorite quotes as printable art.
Schedule a night out caroling with an online sign up! VIEW NOW.
These ideas are appropriate for companywide celebrations or as small get-togethers among team members.
- Sporting Events. Take everyone out to a local hockey or basketball game in lieu of a traditional office party. Provide food vouchers.
- Cater it. Bring in lunch from a favorite local restaurant. Provide door prizes and games such as “Pin the Beard on Santa” and “Name Santa’s Eight Reindeer the Fastest.”
- White Elephant. Add fun to your holiday meal and organize a white elephant game. Ask everyone to bring in a $5 or $10 gift that is wrapped. Each person picks a number out of a hat then picks a gift in the order of the number they drew. People can steal presents or pick a new one. It can get pretty crazy — and provides great insight on different personalities!
- Time off. Give your employees an afternoon off during the holiday season. Make cards giving everyone a half-day off over the holidays to get shopping done.
- Coupon Fundraising Books. Buy local coupon books from fundraising youth. It will benefit both your co-workers and a worthy cause!
- Literary Inspiration. Buy everyone a book that you find inspiring or helpful for your specific career.
Best of luck with your office gift-giving this year! Keep co-workers high on your list. We spend so many hours with them — even a small gesture can show your appreciation.
Emily Mathias is a freelance writer living in Charlotte, N.C.