Avoiding Office Gift Drawings

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Drawing Names at Work

I had planned on doing some very inexpensive gifts for coworkers this year, as I always do. This is my first Christmas at this place. DH is laid off right now and I was planning on being very frugal all the way around. Now they've mentioned drawing names. A dollar amount hasn't been mentioned yet. Even in our families, except for the little ones, we don't do gifts except for a fun game of gift exchange with a low dollar amount set.

At work, they've already mentioned all of us pitching in to order food out around the Thanksgiving holiday. I've bowed out on that because I can eat much cheaper by bringing food from home. Would I be rude to also say I don't want to participate in drawing names?

You're Probably Not Alone

Before bowing out of the office celebrations, you might want to consider whether you really don't want to participate, or you just can't afford to. While nobody should spend more than they can afford, taking part in the festivities is a lot of fun, and keeps you from feeling alienated from your coworkers.

Speak up and suggest that everyone agree on a reasonable dollar amount for the gift exchange. Recommend a nice but less-expensive restaurant for the holiday dinner or recommend a potluck. Those who wish to can pick up expensive pre-made items from the store, and you can make something cheap but delicious. Something homemade automatically scores extra points for the time and effort, especially since so many people never bother to cook. A loaf of homemade bread costs pennies but scores "oohs" and "ahhs" at the potluck table.

The decision is up to you, but for me, I'd rather find a way to take part less expensively than to just leave myself out of the festivities. I'd wager that many of your coworkers are worrying about money too and would be grateful for the alternative ideas.

Speak Privately with Boss

This same topic was addressed recently in an etiquette column in the newspaper. It was suggested the person bring the subject up in private with the boss. What I would further suggest is to ask the boss to set it up in such a way that people can sign up if they want to participate rather than it being assumed everyone will, and mention the economy being the issue.
Cheryl in Rhome, Texas

Cheap Ideas for Office Gifts

While I don't think it's rude to opt out of drawing names in an office gift exchange, it might be a bad idea, especially for someone new in the office. It can make you seem uninterested in the rest of your office mates.

First, I would try to find out what the dollar limit will be. It might be under $10. After all, everyone has a lot of gifts to buy. Then I would shop for a bargain within that limit. I buy many gifts off the clearance racks in stores. I find gold earrings for $5 and silver for as little as $2 that once sold for $20 or $30. Thrift shops and consignment stores often have brand-new or good-as-new items such as serving dishes, ice tongs, etc. While I usually do better in department stores, it's worth checking these sources too. As long as the gift is nice and is appropriate, who will know?

I would do the same thing with family gifts, stretching each dollar as far as it will go.
Barbara in CT

Homemade Office Gifts

Just because there is a suggested price range, it doesn't mean that you must spend that much. Make a gift that no one would expect, and anyone would be delighted to have, such as homemade whole cranberry sauce. It's really fun to make, and you are out the price of a bag of fresh cranberries, some sugar, and maybe some lemon juice, along with plain old tap water. Pack it in a jar (reuse one you already have and you won't need to seal it as it will be eaten soon), tie a ribbon around it, and you're done. The whole thing would cost less than $6, and probably would make more than one gift. Add the recipe as part of the gift or claim the recipe as a "family secret."

Instead of Office Gifts, Contribute to Charity

In this economy, don't be afraid to admit being tight on cash. Why not suggest collecting what each person feels comfortable giving, and donating to a worthy cause? Mention being grateful for having a job and wanting to help someone who is in need. There are many worthwhile causes out there. Many organizations address the needs of single parents and families with children. Why not find an elderly person with no family who would appreciate warm gloves, a warm hat, sweet treats or any number of other small basic needs? Or how about tending the needs of the local fire station or police department with a new coffee maker, portable TV, videos, etc.? Several people, giving a little each, can make a big difference to someone.

Inexpensive Office Gift Ideas

My husband is on his third job of the year, so I can definitely understand wanting to be frugal! And as much as we all try hard not to be caught "keeping up with the Joneses," it can be embarrassing when others can spend money and we can't. It's especially difficult when you're new.

With that said, there is nothing wrong with shopping at a second-hand store, thrift shop, etc. I have a coworker who almost exclusively shops at a thrift shop she used to work at, and she constantly recommends it to others. She is always dressed in nice, neat clothing and finds all sorts of great decorations, etc. Many things just need a tiny bit of cleaning and they look brand new. Where I live, there are some thrift shops that are just about overflowing with gadgets and one-of-a-kind things that would be great gifts. Once the price tag is peeled off, no one knows the difference. The same thing goes for garage sales!

You are right that eating food from home is cheaper (and it's healthier) than eating out. So for gifts too, think homemade! One of the gifts I want to give this year is for a craftsy relative. It's a book about candle making (bought at a very low, discount price) along with a homemade candle, using one of the recipes in the book. Wax is expensive, but I have some leftover candles I can melt down for this purpose.

Also (and I almost cringe to mention it) the dreaded "regifting" is really not a bad thing! How much stuff do you have around the house that you just know you'll never use? A big one for me is bath sets. What do people do when they can't think of what to give a woman as a gift? They buy a gift basket full of soaps and lotions, etc. I've had some of these things for years and never even opened them (I am allergic to many fragrances). As long as you know you're not regifting to the same person, which is easy for you since you're the newbie at work, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it! Why waste something when someone might use it? And the cost to you is nothing!

Most importantly, remember that it is the thought that counts! Christmas is not about gifts anyway! My mother can't stand when people apologize for their gifts. Think about it. There are a lot of people who do this. They feel their gift isn't as nice as someone else's gift or it's not perfect, so they say, "I'm sorry that I couldn't find exactly what I wanted for you" or something similar. When you give something to someone, it really is the thought that counts. Give the gift and smile.

It's Okay to Say No

It is perfectly fine to say you don't want to participate. I've been in the same situation before, and if anyone asks just say that you really don't have the additional funds to participate, so you'd rather not.

Too often nowadays, people are made to feel as though they have to participate in every little thing. It is better to state directly that you don't want to participate and be done with it than to participate and feel guilty later on. If you are going to spend the money, spend it on your family that needs things more. When you are financially strapped, what sense does it make to purchase a gift for someone who probably has no interest or use in what you get them? In the end, we all end up with stuff we don't want. It all ends up at Goodwill anyway, so why go through the bother and expense?

Be a Team Player

With hubby on layoff, your job is more important than ever! Smile, draw a name, and do your best with $5-$7! The boss notices team players, whether we like it or not. I worked for 33 years and endured all this and really got super tired of it! But, like it or not, I still had to participate and I did. Retired now and looking back, I must say that one of the things I miss is "Christmas at the office." Someday this will pass and you will be glad you participated! As an idea, buy ornaments or make a quick homemade pillow!
Miss Iris

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