About a month ago, pretty reader Jean sent me the following question, and I was all, “Yes, I would love to tackle that! Stay tuned!” And then I saw something shiny and wandered off. My apologies for taking so long, Jean. Forgive me? Here we go:
Last year was my first year at a new job. In past jobs, we always did a Kris Kringle type of thing so you only had to purchase one gift for one co-worker. Well last Christmas, everyone was giving gifts to everybody! This was not in my budget so I wound up getting cards and a small bag of Lindt chocolates for everyone. It was fine but not super creative.
This year, I have budgeted about $10 per person (not including cards because I bought those at the end of the year sale last year). Any ideas of what I could get coworkers? Most are female and are aged between 30 and 50 (I have one male co-worker in his 40’s). I could go a bit higher per person if need be.
My knee-jerk response to this is abject horror. Times are tough and budgets are tight; I don’t know how many people there are in Jean’s office, but this seems excessive. Yikes. What if you couldn’t afford to participate? (I could go on and on, here. I’ll stop now.)
But with a budget of $10/person, I think you can probably go a few different ways.
First let me say that I think chocolate is always an appropriate gift, and creative or not, no need to feel at all bad about that. Most everyone likes chocolate, and if you don’t, well, I bet you know someone who will happily eat it for you. Which leads to my first suggestion! (Segue, Mir, segue.)
Edibles. When there’s so many gifts flying around, and particularly when you may not know all of the recipients terribly well, things you can eat are a safe way to go. If they don’t like what they get (or have an allergy or intolerance; whatever), it can be passed on to someone else.
Option 1: Make something yourself. Not everyone likes to bake/cook, so skip this if you don’t, but if you do, Pinterest and Google are your friends for finding unusual treats you can whip up at home, wrap up all pretty, and pop into cute containers you find at the Dollar Store or otherwise on sale somewhere. Boom, done.
Option 2: Go the “unusual gourmet” route. I know a lot of my readers dislike Fab for the whole have-to-have-an-account-to-shop thing, but there are certain items they do really well, and gourmet edibles is one of those areas—I’ve stumbled across brands I never would’ve encountered, otherwise, there. This is where I’ve found all manner of weird jams and sauces and flavored oils and whatnot. If you have a local Farmer’s Market or hail from an area known for a certain item (and can get folks back home to get some for you), that would work, too.
Option 3: Build a little foodie kit. Here’s a 6-pack of organic pancake mix at Amazon that works out to be just about $2.50/bag if you buy via Subscribe & Save and have Mom Prime. One of those, some fancy jam, a mini bottle of maple syrup…? A sampler of coffees/teas/cocoas and a travel mug…? Some popcorn and a variety of flavored toppings…? The possibilities are fairly endless.
Non-edible consumables. This would include anything that can be used up rather than being something that lives on forever.
Option 1: Pamper! This is the sort of thing where I stalk the sales at The Body Shop or Bath & Body Works to grab up deals on the goodies we all love but never seem to buy ourselves. (Granted, this becomes a bit more complicated for the guy in your group, but they do sell men’s products as well.) Just bear in mind, here, to go with neutral scents if you can; not everyone loves smelling like flowers or berries. One of my favorite gifts ever (and I think it was one of those sweet “just thinking of you” kinds of things, too) was some body butter and a pair of aloe socks. Just a tiny bit of pampering, but so sweet.
Option 2: Be practical. Who can’t use a little First Aid kit (either prepackaged or assembled by you) with Advil, bandages, etc., or a homemade “sick day” kit (with meds, tea and honey, kleenex, vapo-rub, etc.)? This is for the holidays, so you’ll be at the height of cold/flu season. You could have a lot of fun with this one.
Other themed packages. I want to stress once again that I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying a bunch of little bags of chocolate and calling it a day. But if you’re looking for creativity, a little bit of time and willingness to assemble can yield something fun for not very much money.
Option 1: Dress up your desk. Again, it’s not glamorous, and the items aren’t expensive, but you could certainly assemble little bundles of the stuff everyone needs but in “fancier” forms—cute paperclips, assorted pens, post-it notes in fun colors/shapes, magnets/push-pins, etc.
Option 2: Purse/car emergency kit. This can be practical as well as funny. One year I grabbed these mylar blankets for family stocking stuffers, and they really are useful things to have in the car in case of an accident, or whatever. If you live somewhere that gets cold, these hand warmers might be good, too. This is also a good place for a tiny sewing kit, hand sanitizer, etc. But you could also include the Worst Case Scenario Survival Guide: Holidays for coworkers about to head off to see the relatives.
Readers… do you have other ideas to share? What am I missing? (And good luck, Jean. Please let me know what you end up doing!)