Close button
How much money could your business be saving?
Create your Fundera account to find out.

Your Cheat Sheet for Employee Holiday Gifts

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky

Contributor at Fundera
Rieva Lesonsky is a small business contributor for Fundera and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company. She has spent 30+ years covering, consulting and speaking to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs.
Rieva Lesonsky

Do you want to give your employees gifts for the holidays? A gift from the boss is a thoughtful touch that makes your team feel appreciated. But what to get that’s memorable, useful, and affordable (and won’t get tossed in the trash the minute the employee gets home)?

Here are a few gifting guidelines:

Be fair

It’s very easy to seem like you’re playing favorites when you buy gifts for your employees. Do you spend more on one person than on another? Did you get one employee a purely business-related gift, and another something more personal? Did you buy one person a gag gift that he or she secretly found more hurtful than funny? Giving your staff gifts can be kind of a minefield, so it’s best to spend the same amount on everyone and keep gifts all along the same lines.

Be consistent

If you gave everyone $500 cash gifts last year, but this year’s holiday gift is a free ham, your gift will inspire more rage than gratitude (this actually happened at a place I formerly worked). Choose a price range for your gifts that’s reasonable for your business and one you can stick to in the coming years even if your budget gets tighter.

Understand tax guidelines

You can deduct the full amount of a business gift up to $25 in value. (Personalization, such as having the gift engraved or embossed, and gift-wrapping don’t count toward that amount.) The IRS has different guidelines around gift cards; it’s a good idea to consult your accountant about the tax implications of giving these. Keeping employee gifts under $25 ensures everyone feels treated fairly and also minimizes costs.

Don’t give promotional products as gifts

No one wants to get a coffee mug with the business’s logo or a company T-shirt as a “gift.” Save promotional items for your prospects and customers; giving them to your employees just makes you look cheap.

Here are 10 ideas for employee gifts:

1. Office décor

Small plants that are suitable for displaying on a desk, picture frames, pencil holders, or perpetual calendars are all gifts that just about any employee will appreciate.

2. Office tools

Think about things employees use every day and how to make them more enjoyable. For instance, a good-quality pen—especially an engraved one—will get lots of use. Personalized notepads or humorous sticky notes also make good gifts.

3. Travel accessories

Do you have employees who frequently travel on business? They’ll appreciate gifts like embossed luggage tags, travel charging kits for their electronic devices, travel pillows, or pashmina throws for chilly airplanes.

4. Beverages

Got employees who can’t live without caffeine? Give a personalized coffee mug, a sturdy travel mug or a plug-in coffee warmer for the desk. You can also give gourmet coffee beans (or tea, if that’s what your employee prefers). Depending on your office culture and your employees’ tastes, a nice bottle of wine can also make a good gift—just make sure the employee in question drinks alcohol.

5. Comfort factor

Do you have one of those offices where people are always fighting over the thermostat? Get the employee who’s always cold a pair of fingerless gloves, a cozy scarf, or a shawl.

6. Sound advice

Open-plan offices or close-together cubicles can make for a noisy workplace. A comfortable pair of headphones so employees can listen to music, or a white noise machine small enough for the desktop are thoughtful gifts.

7. The main event

Just about every employee appreciates passes to a local movie theater chain. You can also give gift cards for local sports teams, cultural centers, or entertainment venues you know an employee likes.

8. Hobby-related gifts

If you know your employees well, consider a gift to help them enjoy a hobby, such as gardening tools, cooking gear, or golf accessories.

9. Eat it up

You really can’t go wrong giving food as a gift. Don’t get too esoteric—focus on foods most people either enjoy themselves or can share with others. For example, a gift basket of fresh fruit, gourmet cheeses, cookies, or specialty chocolate is always a hit.

10. Gift cards

You might think buying a gift card is a cop-out, but let’s face it—everyone likes getting gift cards. Gift cards are also an ideal solution if you don’t know enough about your employees to come up with personalized gifts. For truly general gift cards, give Amazon, iTunes, Target, or Starbucks. You can also give gift cards to a local department store chain, local grocery chain, or restaurant chain.  

No matter what type of gift you give, the key is to take it up a notch. A small gift of the best quality is more memorable than something mediocre. Get gifts engraved or otherwise personalized. Make presentation memorable by springing for professional gift-wrapping. Finally, give a handwritten note with every gift, thanking the employee for their hard work this year—and be sure to be specific.

Here are 3 sources for memorable business gifts:

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky

Contributor at Fundera
Rieva Lesonsky is a small business contributor for Fundera and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company. She has spent 30+ years covering, consulting and speaking to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs.
Rieva Lesonsky

Our Picks