Over the years, I have came up with some extremely frugal teacher holiday gifts, some semi-frugal holiday gifts and some not so frugal holiday gifts (like the year I had my fourth child on November 25th – gift cards for everyone!). Everyone has their different tolerance level on spending for teachers, coaches, Sunday school helpers and the like, and often your budget can vary from year to year.
Please let me take a moment to say that teachers, coaches and all those wonderful staff and volunteers that work with our kids day in and day out with tireless passion certainly deserve a heartfelt thanks all year long, and what better time than around the holidays? If you want to splurge on this group, by all means do so, they absolutely deserve it. If, however, your budget is limited, you can still share your sincere appreciation without blowing your holiday budget.
First, please think about the teacher. How many mugs, apples, ornaments and snowmen do you think these poor souls can take? Try to think outside the box, and remember that some of the best ideas are consumable gifts – something he or she can use up and not have clutter around for a lifetime.
Second, planning is key. The years I have saved the most are the years that I actually shopped for certain parts of the gifts during the previous holiday season. I realize that may not help you this year, but you can plan ahead come December 26th.
Third, don’t forget to involve the kids. Anything the kids help with will be adorably imperfect, and these recipients love your kids and will be really touched that the kids had a hand in helping make the gift.
Here are some ideas I have used over the years:
A basket of school supplies. Often teachers use their own money to stock the classroom. Fun things like colorful post-its, scented markers, glue, highlighters, dry erase markers, cute paperclips and fun stickers and stamps can add to his stash and save her money down the road. There are tons of great deals during back to school sales, so stock up then.
Homemade goodies. A large platter or container (if you buy during after Christmas sales, you can get really nice ones for a few dollars) filled with a variety of cookies, candies and bars that you and your kids make (we love to do chocolate covered pretzels, peppermint bark, spritz cookies, sugar cookies, cranberry bars and some years I do my Nana’s famous Pecan Pie) adds to their holiday entertaining and enjoyment and just might make bringing a dessert to a function easier on them. If your family has a specialty or traditional recipe, it can be really fun to make this with the kids and share the story behind it with your teacher.
Gift cards. If you are not feeling too creative and you can deal with a slightly higher price tag, gift cards are the ultimate consumable. Try to keep it fairly generic and pick a large retail store, large discount store, popular chain restaurant or a bookstore (teachers LOVE books, of course!). Anything that can be redeemed online is a plus, because he won’t have to search out or drive far to redeem the card.
Organize a classroom/team gift card. Call the other parents and volunteer to get a gift card by pooling money together. $5 or $10 a person will add up in a hurry! Sign each person’s name to a card accompanying the gift card.
A beverage mix. Last year, I made a Hot Cocoa mix with marshmallows and Homemade Vanilla Chai Tea, put them in bags tied with ribbon and a tag with directions on mixing the beverage and put it all in a cute holiday mug (purchased for $1 each the year before on holiday clearance – maybe gift this to someone who is not a teacher, as teachers will probably be just as happy to NOT have another mug – just do the bags of beverage mix). I added a gift card for the main teachers, but was able to give away the mugs alone to everyone – secretaries, helpers, etc.and spread the joy even more. You could also do a soup mix, a brownie mix, a cookie mix or a seasoning mix. Mason jars would be a cute and affordable way to package any mix, and you would not have to purchase and store them for a whole year.
Bath Salts. This year, I have cute holiday containers (bought last year on clearance), that I am putting bath salts into, wrapping in plastic wrap, adding a ribbon and tag with a lovely metal and jeweled picture frame ornament (clearance last year) and fuzzy socks ($1 at Old Navy last year). The whole gift will have cost me about $5 and I am excited to give it. To make bath salts, simply get some Epsom salts from any pharmacy/drugstore, mix in a few drops of food coloring and a drop or two (this goes a LONG way) of essential oil and mix well. The kids can mix it. Add a tag with a fun name and instructions (1/4 – 1/2 cup per bathtub full of water) and a pretty ribbon. It is fun to do some combinations like:
- Red food coloring and peppermint essential oil (“Invigorating Holiday Bath Salts”) – you can also do alternating stripes of red and white salts, like a candy cane
- Lavender essential oil with purple food color (red and blue make purple, of course – great lesson for the little ones) (“Relaxation Bath Soak”)
- Green food coloring and eucalyptus essential oil (“Calming Bath Salts”)
Make a Holiday CD. I did this several years ago and it was a big hit. I burned CDs with our favorite holiday songs, made a cover and label for the CDs (kits are available at office supply or electronic stores). Our family picture was on the front, along with festive decorations and we called it “Schahn Family Holiday Favorites” with a note on the inside cover that we hoped the recipient had a lovely holiday season.
A handwritten note of thanks. If you child is old enough, let them write it themselves. Nothing says “Thank You” better than actually writing out just what the person has meant to you and your child.
Whatever you choose to do, please do take time this holiday season to thank everyone who makes your life easier (mail carrier, trash guy, paper carrier, etc.) and spends time with your kids (teachers, Sunday school helpers, nursery workers, coaches, scout leaders and the like). Remember that it truly is the thought that counts and every appreciates hearing “Thank you!”