How much should you spend on gifts for your coworkers

While gift-giving in the office is rarely considered mandatory, many of your coworkers will decide to exchange gifts throughout the office during major holidays. Whether it’s for secret Santa during Christmas, chocolate during Easter, or a cake during birthdays, it’s essential to navigate this situation correctly to avoid hurt feelings or accidentally overspending.

Different Rules per Office or Workplace

Each office has its own gift-giving rules, so it’s important to read them carefully before purchasing something you may have to return. If you took the gift out of the package, you might even void the return policy. Some office spaces don’t even expect you to get a physical present yourself but will ask for a donation for a large communal gift or towards charity.

If you’re new to the office, you should always ask management what the policy is for gift giving. There’s no pressure to buy a present for a coworker if you’re new or don’t have the budget to add to the communal pot. If that’s the cause, say politely that you’ll have to pass this year.

Giving Gifts to Coworkers

As a general rule, gifts that are placed on the recipient’s body like clothes, perfume, lotion, or jewelry are too personal. You could make your coworker uncomfortable with jewelry specifically, unless you’re close. Gag gifts may also be a bad idea if you want to build a professional relationship with a boss or manager. Keep personal preferences in mind when gift-giving.

Unique presents like subscription boxes, a personalized mug, or puzzles make for some perfect small presents for a coworker. Liquor and wine and often appreciated because they’re easily regifted. However, avoid alcoholic gifts for coworkers who have expressed distaste for drinking.

Always Respect Price Limits

The price limit for gifts is usually set between $20-$50, but it varies between workplaces. During a gift-giving holiday or birthday, a flyer will be passed around to explain the price limit and which presents are appropriate. Whatever you do, don’t exceed the amount unless you are friends outside of the office and are giving that gift at another location other than your job.

Overspending may seem like a nice thing to do, but if you show up with an e-reader and everyone else is exchanging socks and mugs, you’ll make other people uncomfortable. The reverse is also true: don’t underspend, or you could cause someone to go home feeling slighted.

Consider Spending While Shopping

While shopping, create a list of things your coworker may like. For example, if they love to go to the gym but mentioned they broke their jump rope, start browsing for good quality but inexpensive skipping ropes. If your coworker is interested in something, they may recognize brands or quality better than you will. That’s okay because there are many workarounds.

Keeping the jump rope example, most are pretty cheap but will look expensive if the handle is made of quality plastic and the rope is a darker color. There are plenty of meaningful gifts you can buy for under $5; it just takes some ingenuity and time to find the perfect present.

Gift Cards, Cash or No Gift

As a rule, giving cash to an employee isn’t an acceptable gift unless it’s a charitable donation or given as a bonus for a job well done. However, gift certificates and gift cards are often great presents for many. For example, if your coworker always comes in with Starbucks, purchase them a $20 gift card. Gift cards will save your coworkers money, which is always welcomed.

Sometimes giving no gift at all is better than buying the wrong gift, but just asking your coworker outright can give you many ideas for a present. You can be sneaky about this by asking what their hobbies are or simply stating that you’re unsure what they’d like during gift exchange.