You’ve only got a few days left in the office before you leave for vacation, and you haven’t exactly checked anyone off your list. So much for that personalized whiskey set you were planning to get your boss or that vintage game you had planned for your Secret Santa recipient. The window for online shopping and creative gifting has closed, and you have exactly two hours after work to dream up presents for your co-workers.
Not to worry. This week, I trolled the interwebs and polled my office on the best holiday presents they’ve ever received from co-workers and found—great news for you—that the most loved gifts don’t require pre-ordering on Amazon. In fact, you can pull them together, well, tonight.
Whether you’re looking for a gift exchange goodie or something special for your assistant, here are a few places you can hit up now and still find something great.
1. The Grocery Store or Bakery
I know, it sounds cliché. But if you’ve paid some attention to what your co-workers really love to eat and drink this year, you can actually put together a really thoughtful food-related gift.
Does your boss love cupcakes? Pick up a half dozen from her favorite bakery. Does your cube-mate douse every lunchtime meal in Sriracha? Give her a year’s supply (seriously, you’ll only be out $25). One of my colleagues put together a gift basket for her previous office of everyone’s favorite drinks—think mini bottles of vodka, whiskey, mixers, and wine—so everyone could have a “drink on her.”
And while a bottle of wine might sound tired, as Muse writer Lily Zhang says, “it always seems to be the most sought after gift during the office Yankee swap.” Bottom line: Food and drink is always a safe bet. And the grocery store is open late.
2. Their Favorite Place Down the Street
Does your co-worker have a favorite lunch spot? Does your boss swear by the lattes from the non-Starbucks coffee shop around the corner? Think about something that your teammates love and indulge in, and pick up a gift certificate. (Those cupcakes would be even nicer paired with a gift card for a half dozen more later, right?)
And this doesn’t just have to be food-related—certificates for spas, nail salons, stationery shops, or bars work just fine, too.
3. An Office Supply Store
Work-related items, like fun office accessories or to-do lists, are another gifting classic because, well, you work in an office and everyone needs them. Plus, if you’re buying for a large group, they’re really affordable.
As an editor, I work with a lot of writers and love giving my colleagues fun notebooks, but funny Post-it notes or coffee mugs work great, too. Think Office Depot, Staples, Marshall’s, or TJ Maxx—whatever’s close to home.
For something slightly more personal, here’s one of my personal favorite gifts from an employee: photo frames filled with one of my favorite quotes and a photo of the team. If you have access to a printer, print out some fun quotes (just scroll Pinterest for “work quotes,” both inspiring and funny), head to basically any store anywhere to buy some classy looking frames, and suddenly you’ve got a personal gift.
4. Deal or Subscription Sites
“A friend of mine, who is a great gift giver, always gives gifts that are experiential for his clients,” Andrew Griffiths wrote in an Inc. article. “Over the years he has given everything from dive trips with Great White Sharks, fighter jet flights, a luxury car to use for a day, and a cooking class with a celebrity chef to mention just a few.”
While you don’t have to go that far, see if there are any fun Groupon deals in your area for group painting classes, fun cooking demos or tastings, or other (inexpensive) experiences your co-worker would enjoy, but might never buy for him or herself.
You can also look into subscription boxes like Craft Coffee or Sock of the Month Club—three months worth is a generous gift, and all you have to do is put your credit card number in and say, “Keep an eye out for the mail!”
5. The ATM
As one of my teammates put it: “My co-worker forgot to get me a gift for Secret Santa last year and gave me a crisp $20 bill. I very much enjoyed it!”
While you wouldn’t want to give your boss a handful of cash, it’s not a bad idea for a gift exchange or your employees.
6. Your Notebook
Think outside the gift, and write your boss or co-workers holiday cards sharing how much you’ve enjoyed working with them this year.
“Once, I got a lot of chocolate and a really beautifully written card—a simple gesture, but I’m big on words and chocolate so it meant a lot to me,” says one co-worker of her favorite workplace gift ever. In many ways, a simple gift with a heartfelt message makes much more of an impact than something expensive ever could.
Good news for you. Now, time to get shopping.