Christmas gift ideas for your printing firm’s employees

December 12, 2013 · 7 comments

Every year at Christmas, I would struggle with what to give the employees at my printing firm. I wanted to give them something nice, but since I usually had a limited budget, it wasn’t always easy to find good gift ideas. I realized that to some employees a $500 gift might not seem like much, but when you multiply that $500 by 18 employees, it adds up to $9,000.00 — an amount that would pretty much wipe out all our profits for the entire month of December.

So even though I wanted to be generous, I always felt like I needed to be careful and not spend too much. I needed to maintain a reasonable budget on Christmas gifts.

Through the years, we were able to find some creative Christmas gift ideas, and I’d like to share some of them here. If you’re looking for some fresh and creative Christmas gift ideas for your employees, this blog might be helpful for you.

Here are some of the more popular Christmas gifts that we gave our employees… and a few to avoid!

#1. Money. There’s something easy about giving money, and it certainly doesn’t take a lot of creativity. How much should you give? Well, no matter how much it is, it will never be enough to satisfy everyone. In my opinion, money is not the best gift to give for several reasons. First, money sometimes causes grumbling because there always seems to be at least one employee who will make negative comments about the amount given.

Secondly, because it seems like such an “easy” gift to give — and can even seem to lack creativity — money as a gift often seemed unappreciated by many on my staff.

Also, with money gifts, there’s a tendency among employees to think that every year the amount of money given should grow, no matter how the company is doing.

When we did give money as Christmas gifts, we always tried to add to the creative aspect of the gift by giving some type of unique coins or currency. For example, if you want to add a little pizazz to your gift of money, don’t write a check for $500.00. Instead, give each employee five brand-new, uncirculated $100.00 bills. Better yet, give them five bank-wrapped bundles of 100 one-dollar bills. Five hundred one-dollar bills in those official bank-money wrappers is way cool because it’s a whole fistful of money and often takes two hands to carry!

In addition to cash, here are some other unique gift ideas I gave my employees at Christmas.

#2. A big pile of miscellaneous gift items from Sam’s Club or Costco. This was actually very popular, and I used this idea multiple times. I’d set my budget (say $250.00), then go on this massive shopping spree to Sam’s Club or Costco and buy a whole bunch of miscellaneous items until I hit the budget limit. For example, if I had 18 employees, I’d buy 18 big boxes of M&Ms, 18 jars of Jif peanut butter, and 18 DVDs of the latest Batman movie.

By doing this, every employee got a Christmas gift that was actually a sizable collection of gifts. The entire “collection” of stuff often required them to make numerous trips to their cars… which added to the fun and energy of our Christmas party. We would pile all of the like items in one pile and have 10 or 12 piles of stuff (Christmas gifts) on display. Then we’d let everyone walk around and gather up each of their items.

If you like this idea, have some fun and choose from a wide selection of gifts. Food, candy, CDs, DVDs, small appliances, and even office supply items for home use all add to the fun. This Christmas gift idea requires some extra effort on your part, but if you do it, I think your employees will be very grateful.

One suggestion: be sure you choose exactly the same gift items for everyone. For example, if you buy everyone a five-gallon jug of pretzels, don’t buy half pretzels and half potato chips, or most assuredly you’ll wind up with some workers not getting exactly what they wanted.

#3. Gift Cards… with a twist. Several times, I spent my entire Christmas budget on gift cards in $100.00 increments. Then we did something that really added to the fun. We asked all of our employees to sit in a circle. Then, we gave everyone a $100.00 gift card to a popular grocery store for food and another $100.00 gift card to the local mall.

But in addition to these $100 gift cards, we also purchased 18 different gift cards from a variety of popular places (Starbucks, Lowe’s, McDonald’s, Victoria’s Secret, JC Penny, Apple iTunes, etc.). We put the cards in sealed envelopes, and each employee got to take one envelope. After everyone had opened their envelopes and revealed their one-of-a-kind gift cards, we all sat in a circle and did a “gift card swap.”

Here’s how it worked: We went around the circle and asked each person if they wanted to keep their card or take someone else’s. It took a little while for everyone to decide, and it was a great time of employee interaction and bonding. There were lots of laughs and fun galore as we did our gift card swap.

#4. Apple iPads. OK, this was a little more extravagant, but one year I gave every employee an Apple iPad for Christmas. In retrospect, it was a great gift and paid some giant dividends. Morale improved, and it was very gratifying to see my employees bring their iPads to work and use them every day. The gift was more special and creative because I gave them as a gift when iPads were hard to get and very few people had them.

#5. “Here’s some cash. Buy your own present.” This was a very clever idea that proved fun and interesting. About six weeks before Christmas one year, I gave every employee $200.00 and told them to use the money to buy themselves a gift. But there was a “catch.” Each employee had to buy their gift and then bring it “new and unused” to our company Christmas party, where they would show off their gift to all their co-workers and explain why they purchased the item they chose. Listening to my employees explain why they wanted the gift they purchased for themselves was interesting and, in some cases, inspiring and even heartwarming.

The self-purchased gifts included things like a new bicycle, a lawn mower, a vintage wooden tool box, a complete library collection of Plato’s writings, and an infant car seat. It was a most interesting time as we all listened to each other share about our gifts, and we all felt like we got to know each other better as a result.

#6. Christmas dinners. Christmas parties were unpopular at my company, so we replaced them with a Christmas dinner and invited everyone to bring their family. These were very well-liked and well-attended. We always went to very nice places. One year we went to a country club restaurant. Another time we chose a nice Italian restaurant with a big fireplace in our private room. Once, we even reserved the pool area at a big local hotel because it had an amazing “Pirate’s Cove” play area for the kids. It was great fun, especially considering the outside temperature in Fargo was 20 below zero!

We always tried to arrange it so our employees could order food off the menu instead of everyone getting the same “banquet food.” The way we got restaurants to agree to do this was by placing our individual food orders a week or more in advance, so they had time to prepare everything easily.

In my experience, an annual company Christmas dinner was something many employees looked forward to simply because it gave them a chance to bring their families to a work-related event. If you can afford to do this, it’s something I highly recommend. Oh, and for what it’s worth, I always made every company party or dinner an alcohol-free event. That may surprise you, but we always had a lot of fun anyway. It saved a lot of money, and nobody ever embarrassed themselves in front of their co-workers because they drank too much.

Well, Merry Christmas! I hope you found an idea or two to help you with gift-giving at your printing firm this Christmas.

If you have any good Christmas gift ideas that you’ve used with your employees, be sure to share them in the comments, so all of us can benefit from your experience.

Thank you for your time. My name is Mike Stevens, and I am a printer.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Sheryl December 17, 2013 at 5:25 pm

I am curious, if you give money as cash and do not take taxes out, is it still a tax deduction for the business owner giving the gift or should it be called a christmas bonus and have taxes already removed? We have always done checks but I love the idea of the cash bundles!!


Aaron December 17, 2013 at 10:23 am

I don’t know about anybody else, but I LOVE getting cash for gifts, because I can then use it however I like. So, instead of $20-worth of ugly sweaters from Aunt Sally, $20-worth of cash gets me something I actually want.

But I gladly accept iPads, too. 🙂

P.S., Don’t worry, I don’t actually have an Aunt Sally…

Dave Hultin December 13, 2013 at 1:41 pm

I know Mike is always creative in his gift-giving, and that’s what inspired me to try the 12 Days of Christmas approach this year. We’re giving each team member a gift each day. It started several days ago with 1 bottle of sparkling cider. The next day was 2 Christmas hand towels. Next, 3 rolls of tape, 4 rolls of wrapping paper, and a 5-dollar gift card. Today was 6 bottles of Coke.

I can’t tip the cards on days 7-12 because the gift-getters might be peeking at this blog, but we’re building to a big finish!

Mike Stevens December 13, 2013 at 1:58 pm

This is a really interesting gift idea, Dave. As obvious as it might seem, I’ve never actually heard of anyone actually doing individual gifts for the 12 days of Christmas. What a fun idea you’ve come up with… I wish I would have thought of it, because it sounds like fun!! Nice job!!
In a couple of weeks, you’ll have to share the rest of the specific “daily” gift ideas for everyone to see.


Dave Hultin January 2, 2014 at 8:07 am

Here’s how we finished up the 12 days of Christmas: Day seven was 7 food storage containers, then on to 8 AA batteries, 9 chocolate covered pretzel sticks (there were actually 10 sticks, but the container was 9 ounces), a 10-gallon storage tote, and an 11-ounce bag of Hershey kisses.

We finished big with the Christmas bonus: an envelope containing 12 pieces of currency.

This whole project was really a LOT of fun! I heard so many fun stories from the employees how their children and spouses would try to guess what was next. The kids in one family even made a video singing the company version of the Twelve Days of Christmas!

carolyn grieves December 12, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Mike, I have for years given The White House Christmas ornament. They are up to $23.95 this year. It is something different and something that not too many folks ever receive or even see. I may also give them some cash–never more than $100, depending on the year’s profitability. We have a Christmas luncheon catered by the local schools’ home ec departments. We take whatever their special is–usually a meat salad, rolls, dessert, veggie and dip,etc.—always more than anyone can eat. Rest goes home. The home ec classes also make cookies, frozen entrees, cheese balls, cupcakes, pies, etc. Staff picks types of cookies, pies and cheese balls, etc. that they get. So, staff gets 3-4 dozen cookies–almond, decorated, wedding cookies, etc.–decorated pretzels, cheese ball and and entree, at least, to say thank you for working over and weekends. Want to make their holidays a little less stressful–makes family more receptive also to the sometimes crazy schedule. I tried other ideas/things in the early years but once I found this one I’ve been doing it for probably 20+ years. A true hit! I wouldn’t even think of discontinuing this tradition.

Mike Stevens December 13, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Hi Buffy,

Wow, what a nice collection of terrific ideas that has “I care,” written all over them. Than you for sharing all of these heart-warming ideas… the food sounds yummy!!


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