I gave at the office!

Inexpensive Office Gifts

by Tricia Goss

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Are you dreading the impending expense of the holiday gift exchange at your workplace? Here are some inexpensive office gift ideas to help you spread Christmas cheer around your place of business without spreading your budget, or yourself, too thin:

  1. Be proactive! Before plans are made, suggest a "Secret Santa" week to your coworkers. Everyone can then draw another person's name from a hat and perform random acts of kindness for their undisclosed recipient each day for one week, culminating in a small gift on Friday. Set a spending limit for the entire week, and encourage frugal ideas such as a hot cup of coffee (from home!) at their desk in the morning or a cute, computer-printed poem in their mailbox.
  2. If your office traditionally sets a higher price limit for gifts than you are comfortable with, don't fret. A limit is a maximum, not a mandatory spending price. Watch all year for deals on nice, nonspecific items that would be suitable for anyone. They'll never know you didn't spend more.
  3. What did we do before dollar stores? Create a boutique-worthy gift basket that won't put a dent in your wallet. Make it simple and elegant by choosing a theme. For a dollar store gift basket I recently assembled, I went with the color pink. I found a cute wicker bathroom trash basket and loaded it with pink-hued pampering products: lotion, shower gel, a bath pouf, a scented candle, and even a romance novel with a pink cover. I threw in a bag of individually wrapped dark chocolates and wrapped it all in pink cellophane with a big pink bow. My beneficiary loved it, and it cost less than ten dollars.
  4. Contribute to a charity that is close to your recipient's heart. Most charitable organizations will provide you with a nice card stating that a donation has been made on the person's behalf. Some will even send a token gift, such as a calendar or frame-worthy certificate.
  5. Are you a culinary artist? Surprise your colleague with a gift from your kitchen. Cookies and candies are always nice, but you might also contemplate preparing your specialty. For example, many people in my neck of the woods happily dole out cash to buy homemade tamales and tortillas at Christmastime. Or find out if there is a recipe that "Mom used to make" that would make their holidays brighter.
  6. Find out what your office-mate is fanatic about and then find or create a fitting gift. A football fan would love a homemade pillow or fleece throw in their team's colors. A charming teapot found at a yard sale would thrill a collector. And any avid reader would delight in a stack of gently used paperbacks from your favorite thrift store.
  7. If you feel pressured to give something to everyone in the office because "that's what we do," consider something you can make in bulk. For example, I once made candy cane bath salts for all the women in my office by layering a mixture of Epsom and Kosher salts in jelly jars (bought by the case, of course!). Simply scent the salts with peppermint essential oil and put half in a bowl. Tint that half with just a bit of red food coloring and then layer the salts white-red-white into a slanted jelly jar. I printed a poem about the symbolism of the candy cane, which I hung with a ribbon around the lid. Other "gift-in-a-jar" recipes abound on the Internet, and they're always a hit. Your coworkers will be impressed by your creativity!

The most important thing to bear in mind is not to get stressed out trying to find the perfect coworker gift. This time of year especially, it truly is the thought that counts!

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