Home > Holidays > Cool, Cheap Christmas Gifts for Teachers and Such

Cool, Cheap Christmas Gifts for Teachers and Such

affordable gifts for teachers and office colleaaguesThe older I get, the less I like gifts. I’m to a point where if there is something I want and value, I’ll budget for it and buy it myself. I hate getting or giving things out of obligation, but there are times when you have people in your life that require a holiday gift. Teachers are saints, and I will always send some sort of gift for the people who spend 7 hours a day educating my daughter. There are also neighbors, work colleagues, and family members who might not rank high on the gift list, but  you’d feel crappy if they got you something and you had nothing for them. Here are some cool, cheap gifts that work great for teachers and such.

Start Early

I really don’t enjoy thinking about Christmas until after Thanksgiving, but it’s smart to start planning now. Make a list of who you need to buy for and how much you want to spend. That way, if you see a deal, you can jump on it instead of waiting until the last minute. I am determined to get all my shopping done this year before Thanksgiving so I won’t be tempted to go out on black Friday.

If you want to start right now, there is limited time offer going on where you can get a $15 Amazon gift card for buying select household products. We buy most of our household stuff from Amazon anyway, so this was a no brainer. I’ve actually done this deal twice and now have $30 in gift cards to use as gifts or to buy presents.

Netflix or Amazon Prime

Did you know that you can buy gift subscriptions for Netflix? We actually bought a whole year subscription on eBay for $55. You can also buy  as little as a month at a time from the Netflix website. Amazon Prime would probably be a bit much to spend for an office buddy or teacher, but if you’re looking to spend in the $100 range, I can’t think of a better gift. I’m convinced that anyone who tries Netflix or Amazon Prime will want to cut cable, saving thousands of dollars and years of retirement!

Portable Cell Phone or Tablet Charger

I received one of these as a gift,  and while my lovely husband stole has tested it out several times, I can say it’s been a life saver. If you take long trips where you aren’t able to plug in, a portable charger is an excellent accessory. I love my kid, but I can only play I Spy so many times before I’m ready to turn on a movie.


Lunch Box Accessories

We pack lunch every day. Not buying lunch out is a wonderful way to save money, and it’s probably healthier unless you’re packing pork rinds and donuts. I used to use plastic bags for everything, but it felt wasteful and the cost of those add up over time as well. I’m sure some people wash out their ziplocks, but not me.

Lunch box containers with a cold pack make a great gift. I also recommend a hot/cold thermos for people who don’t have easy access to a microwave. There will never be an excuse not to eat all the leftovers!

Homemade Salsa, Jam, or Honey

Jim has gotten zillions of homemade cookies and candies over the years from his students. While homemade goodies are excellent, getting 15 plates of them at once is not. Plus, we usually travel over the holidays, so all the baked goods get dropped off at my office on the way out of town. Why not give a homemade gift that can be saved and enjoyed after the holidays?

Even if you don’t can, preserve, or own a beehive, buying local goods is generally pretty cheap. Pick up two jars of homemade salsa and a bag of chips for under $10, and you have a tasty, cheap gift!

Regifting And Whatever Is On Sale

We ran across a sale a few weeks ago and stocked up on decent bottles of wine for $6.99 each. These will be perfect for anyone who gives us a gift we weren’t planning on. Since they won’t go bad, we can also use them for hostess or thank you gifts if we don’t need them over the holidays.

I don’t think regifting is tacky at all as long as the prior gift giver does not have contact with the present tense giftee. I do not like strong fragrances, so any smelly lotions, potions, or candles that we get go right into the recycled gift pile. We also seem to receive several large or XL t-shirts every year, even though we are not large in the EOTD household. Those also go into the stash.

Although it would probably never happen because I give excellent gifts, if I gave someone something they didn’t need or want, I’d be more than happy if they passed it along to someone else. After all, the world’s oldest fruitcake had to start somewhere.

Have you started planning for Christmas gifts? What do you do when people give you gifts you weren’t expecting?


Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/Miles

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. We went camping this summer and someone got one of those chargers in their beer case, looked pretty useful. Thanks for the suggestions, these gifts to extra people can add up quick.

  2. The lunch box with a cold pack sounds like a great gift for myself. i have started to pack lunch a lit more lately and I can already see the savings. Plus I’m getting pretty good at making sandwiches.

    • I used to eat lunch out almost every day, and I wish I had all that money back. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t pack lunch.

  3. I am still a fan of Christmas cards especially when it’s personalized. I appreciate it really so much. Based on experience, those people who do this are really the ones who truly care and “love” us. Merry Christmas everyone!

  4. I’m a big fan of gifting subscription services like netflix- the gift that keeps on giving!

  5. We started our shopping about mid summer as we hate having to deal with it around Thanksgiving. I love personalized or practical gifts as there’s nothing I really want and rather not the person just waste money on something that I wouldn’t use.

    • I sometimes wonder why we don’t all just give toilet paper. You can give diapers at a baby shower, why not toilet paper for adults? We all use it and it would never go to waste!

  6. The Amazon $15 card is a great deal! I have only been making mental notes about gift ideas, so far. I’ve also been blogging a bunch of ideas, if course. It seems weird to be doing so already, but lots of people are looking for Christmas gifts already.

    • I hate to see Christmas decorations already being put out, but I also hate shopping in December, so might as well get it done now.

  7. I too have pretty much told people not to get me gifts but there are those who every year DH and I will offer up something out of gratitude, like my step-son’s teacher and those we work with closely. We tend to buy gift cards for most of them.

    • Amazon or local restaurant gift cards are what I’ve done for the past couple of years. I feel like I need to branch out this year, but maybe people just like gift card better. I probably do.

  8. Love the idea of the portable charge, and the jams/salsa idea too! Even most local grocery stores have some salsas and jams that are unique to the area and probably made by local farms/producers that most people don’t know about. Great ideas, Kim!

    • I need to learn how to make jam. I’m down to my last jar and hoping to get some for Christmas. I can’t buy Welch’s or Smucker’s anymore since I’ve been spoiled with homemade.

  9. I always feel uncomfortable when people give me gifts I wasn’t expecting, but still I try to be as gracious as possible, but I try not to feel obligated to get them something in return. I just don’t have the budget for it. I like the portable charger!

  10. I was always at a loss for those small gifts for teachers……I had no idea what to get them. I’m just happy that both my kids are old enough where they have 7-8 teachers and gifts are no longer really expected.

  11. My wife (a teacher) gets coffee gift cards to Coffee Beanery, Tim Hortons, Starbucks. And to those gift givers I say Thank You!

  12. You gave me a great idea for this year! I’m going to buy Netflix subscriptions for my friends with cable and challenge them to drop the cable. Not only with I be giving them a gift, but I will potentially be saving them money for the rest of their life. They will soon realize how awesome it is to not have cable. Best gift idea ever!

    • I love giving gifts that ultimately make people more frugal. If I thought my parents would ever cancel cable, I’d buy them a whole year of Netfix.

  13. I’m not opposed to returning gifts that you get that you don’t want or need. My wife started shopping for Christmas gifts months ago so that it doesn’t make as big a dent on our bank account all at one time.

    I think giveaways are a great way to get funding and/or gifts to give. We’ve gifted many things we’ve won, and they legitimately are things that others would want. The baby gifts we give almost always come from giveaway winnings.

    • You certainly have the most unique take on baby shower gifts or vacations that I’ve seen. I wish I was that dedicated to giveaways.

  14. The portable charger is a great idea. I can see it being a real life saver! I try to keep a small collection of emergency gifts. When I see nice things throughout the year, candles, wine, nice lotions, on sale, I stock up on them to use as gifts. I don’t believe you are obligated to return presents, but I’m also a realist. Most of us do have a hard time not giving something back. 🙂

  15. We used to give something to just about everyone … neighbors, mailman, water delivery guy, etc. We have slowed our role but do keep on hand specialty coffee with custom labels from a local coffee roaster. It’s easy and personable!

    • I think it’s good to keep a few gifts on hand for that purpose, even if it’s not during the holidays, you never know when you might need one.

  16. I never knew you had to give a teacher a gift. Another reason not to have a kid. I thought about giving renters gifts, but then I figured they would feel obligated to get me one, and I skipped the idea.

    • You have so many tenants, I’m sure that would get expensive. We’ve thought about getting tenants a Christmas gift, but didn’t go through with it because it might be awkward.

  17. I like subscriptions as long as it is for something I will use. I got a magazine subscription once and I felt bad for not reading that Good Housekeeping every month it came for an entire year!

  18. I’m a fan of re-gifting too. I also stock up on a few “generic” gifts in case someone that I wasn’t expecting gives me a gift, I have something to give them too.

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