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Frugal Gift Ideas for Coworkers

Christmas is a month-long state of mind for me. This festive time of loved ones, parties, gifts, and religious celebrations is so special.

Ideas for gifts for co-workers that are thrifty and won't break the bank.

Ideas for gifts for co-workers that are thrifty and won't break the bank.

Gifts for the Office That Won't Break the Bank

Don't dread the annual gift exchange at the office when Christmas comes around. You don't want to look cheap, but you don't want to splurge and destroy the budget. It's a real balancing act, but I'll give you some ideas to keep everyone happy.

The dilemma of what to give your office pals gets complicated by the office culture. Is there a formal gift exchange and a set price range? Are names drawn or Secret Santa games played? In many offices, everyone gives a gift to all the people who work there. That's the time when you really need some thrifty ideas, especially if you work in a place with many employees.

There was a great discussion in a Frugal Living group that I belong to. Here are the great suggestions they brainstormed.

Let's Assess Your Skills

Place your food gift for the office in a decorated container. This one needs no additional wrapping, so I just tied it with a ribbon.

Place your food gift for the office in a decorated container. This one needs no additional wrapping, so I just tied it with a ribbon.

Gifts From Your Kitchen for Your Office Mates at Christmas

  • Buy inexpensive tins or mugs at the flea market or the dollar store. Fill these with your homemade treat (fudge, cookies, etc.)
  • Make a cute (no-cooking required) gift by gluing 3 baby food jars to form a stack. Put peppermints in the bottom jar, hot chocolate mix in the center jar, and miniature marshmallows in the top jar. Decorate the top lid to look like the snowman's hat. Tie some red fabric around the neck then add dots using paint or a felt-tip marker to make eyes, mouth, and buttons.
  • Make some homemade chocolate Christmas raisins, with the secret ingredients of cinnamon and nutmeg to spice them up. Note on the gift card that you made them yourself.
A potholder, kitchen towel and a large button are the basics for this easy sew project. Make one for all your office pals.

A potholder, kitchen towel and a large button are the basics for this easy sew project. Make one for all your office pals.

Thrifty Gifts You Can Sew to Give Your Co-Workers

Check YouTube for video tutorials to make these gifts:

  • A bowl cozy made of cotton fabric and cotton batting can go right into the microwave under a bowl of soup. Makes it easy to lift out and also keeps the soup warm as it is eaten. Great for the quick soup meal in the lunchroom at work.
  • Crochet a warm winter scarf.
  • Make a quilted mug rug (padded fabric coaster).
  • Sew flannel bags that you fill with ordinary white rice. They can be microwaved. These make great hand warmers or you can make them longer to wrap around the neck.

Make Sock Snowmen to Decorate Their Desk or to Take Home (No Sewing)

Ideas to Get You Started Making Gifts

Places to get ideas for easy and inexpensive crafts to make for your co-workers:

  • Borrow craft books from the public library
  • Browse Pinterest to see what grabs you. Search for keywords like "easy crafts."
  • Browse on YouTube for craft tutorials.

Crafts and other things that you can make:

  • Paint a brick white to make a snowman doorstop. Stand it on end, add a stocking cap with a pom-pom, paint on a snowman face and buttons, and tie a colorful ribbon below the face to serve as a scarf.
  • Make homemade bath bombs.
  • Make a batch of homemade laundry detergent. Package it in jars from the dollar store and put the recipe with it.

Shop for These Budget-Friendly Gifts for Your Office Pals

Check the local dollar store or discount store for these:

  • Find a Christmas oven mitt, a rubber spatula, and a Betty Crocker bag of cookie mix. Put the mix and spatula inside the mitt so it can serve as the "wrapping" if you want. Add a gift tag.
  • Get a mug that your office pal can use for instant soup at work. Tuck into the mug a fun pair of socks and a tube of lip balm.
  • A calendar (these come in small or large sizes) or a planner and a pretty pen. Personalize the gift by choosing designs that match their interests (cats, cars, sports, humor).
  • A small box of tea in a mug or other snacks suitable for their work break.
  • Get decorative glass containers and fill them with your homemade salt scrub (equal parts of salt and olive oil with a few drops of an essential oil).

More Ideas

  • Lottery tickets
  • Buy a large box of candy bars. Wrap each one in white paper and decorate it like a snowman.
DIY projects save money.

DIY projects save money.

Tips from My Sister on Thrift Shop Items for Gifts

Many groups I'm involved with have gift exchanges this time of year. Usually, they suggest something in the $5-$8 price range. I check out the local thrift shops for Christmas themed items, such a plate with a cheese knife, wash them well, add a recipe for a cheese ball, plus a small box of candy, making a very nice inexpensive gift. Sometimes I add a gently read book. (I always put together something I wouldn't mind bringing back home.)

Questions & Answers

Question: I can't really afford gifts for co-workers at all on my budget. How can I tactfully opt out?

Answer: Before the annual gift exchange gets set up suggest something different this year. How about everyone bringing in a favorite book that they've read and have a book swap?

If you've had a major catastrophe (family illness, spouse lost job, etc.), and the office mates are already aware of it, just say up front that you can't afford gift exchanges this year.

© 2017 Virginia Allain

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