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Inexpensive Gifts for Co-Workers

Holiday gift exchanges and birthdays can be trying times in an office. How much should you spend? Is a scarf too personal? Is candy too impersonal? What on earth should you buy for the guy down the hall whose name you picked out of a hat?

Inexpensive Gifts



Some offices have written policies regarding how much you are allowed to spend on gifts for co-workers. If yours does, or if the notice of an office-wide holiday gift exchange includes spending guidelines, follow them. Otherwise, consider how many people you need or want to buy gifts for.

If you are only buying one gift in a Secret Santa gift exchange, spend up to $25. If you want to buy a token gift for each person in your department, $5 to $10 is plenty. If you’re really strapped but still want to give gifts, bake cookies.



Gifts for co-workers should not be too personal. Clothing and jewelry are out (with the possible exception of merchandise bearing your company’s logo). Food gifts are generally appropriate, but beware people with food allergies or special dietary needs.

If you’re only buying one gift, and the recipient is a close friend whose likes and dislikes you know, you have more leeway than if you’re buying for an acquaintance or for a whole group. If you’re buying for a group, get the same or similar things for everyone, so no one feels left out.


Gift Ideas

When you are buying for a group, pick up inexpensive but attractive desk accessories or stationery at a bookstore, online or even at a craft store or dollar store. Decorative notebooks, monogrammed notepads or fancy folders are good choices, and if you shop carefully you won’t have to spend more than $5 per person. In a creative office, small art sets like mini colored pencils would be a nice touch.

When buying a gift for someone you don’t know, do a little research first. Walk by his cubicle and peek in; is it papered in Dilbert cartoons and Star Wars memorabilia, or is it neat and tidy, with a family photo on the desk? The former might enjoy a circuit board business card case from ThinkGeek.com; the latter might prefer a classic monogrammed business card case from Swoozie’s.

If you’d like to give food gifts to multiple people in the office, buy mugs or small baskets from a dollar store. Line them with tissue paper, and place a few homemade cookies and a couple of wrapped candies in each. Depending on the size and shape of the containers, wrap them in plastic wrap or cellophane gift bags. Add a ribbon and a tag or card, and you’re all set, for about $3 apiece.


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