By Martha C. White
December 11, 2017

Figuring out what to get your dad or teenage niece for the holidays is tough enough, but buying Christmas gifts for coworkers can be a much more fraught challenge.

For what it’s worth, there are plenty of career experts out there who say it’s better to steer clear of holiday gifts in the workplace entirely for Christmas 2017. Why? One person’s idea of a funny or “useful” gift just might be cringe-inducing or even offensive to someone else.

“My favorite approach is some version of the ‘white elephant’ gift exchange,” says career expert Todd Dewett. “I would not generally recommend buying gifts for many people at the office.”

But we understand that if your job has a holiday gift-giving tradition, you’re probably not going to change that overnight. Whether you need a silly gift, a generic one for a blind swap, or you’re looking for a thoughtful but inexpensive gift for a coworker, we’ve got you covered for Christmas gift ideas.

Since most grab-bag or round-robin swaps have a price cap, we’ve flagged our top picks under $20, and some even under $5 if you need really cheap gifts for co-workers. We also have some suggestions for humorous gifts that will get a laugh but won’t get you in trouble with HR, and some nicer presents you could gift to your boss or “work spouse.”

Cheap Coworker Christmas Gifts Under $20

“Wood-Grain” Dry-Erase Calendar: $15

This is quite possibly the chicest dry-erase calendar we’ve ever seen, and the “perpetual calendar” format means it can be wiped clean and re-used each month.

Courtesy of Nordstrom

Words Cubed Desk Game: $17

Dewett says simple games are common office gifts, so you’re in safe territory with this category. This eight-cube wooden kit invites the recipient (or whoever else drops by their desk) to create spontaneous poetry.

Courtesy of Uncommon Goods

Pinch Provisions Minimergency Kit: $18

If you need small Christmas gifts for coworkers, gift-giving expert Robyn Spizman suggests Pinch Provisions’ emergency kits. This gift packs essentials like safety pins, an emery board, clear nail polish and stain-removal wipes in a cheery bag accented with a fuzzy pom-pom.

Courtesy of Urban Outfitters

“But First, Coffee” Travel Mug: $19.99

Let’s face it, most of us are more productive after we’ve gotten some caffeine into our systems. This 16-ounce mug has a slide closure on the lid to prevent spills, so the cupholder or keyboard will stay dry.

Courtesy of Amazon

Ghandi Quote Inspirational Pencil Set: $8.99

Because who couldn’t use a mantra or a meditative thought during those blood pressure-elevating brainstorming meetings or client conference calls?

Courtesy of Amazon

Cheapest Coworker Christmas Gifts Under $5

Earbuds With Ear Hooks: $3.95

These were the highest-reviewed earbuds we could find on Amazon at a sub-$5 price point — because everybody needs to just put on some tunes and get into the zone sometimes.

Courtesy of Amazon

Yogi Stress-Relief Tea: $3.99

Spizman likes tea as a nice low-cost gift for coworkers. We’re big fans of Yogi’s mellow lavender and honey stress-relief herbal blend.

Courtesy of Target

Striped Binder Clips: $3.49

Filing paperwork is boring. Enliven this unavoidable chore with these colorful binder clips.

Courtesy of Amazon

Pillar Candle: $3.99

This pillar candle layers seasonal vanilla-woodsy scents and burns for up to 30 hours.

Courtesy of Target

Mini Cord Winders: $4.99

Stop a headset cord or charging cable from sprawling all over a desktop or conference table with this set of two winders, which have a suction base for easy anchoring.

Courtesy of Amazon

Funny Coworker Christmas Gifts

Star Wars Pencils: $8.99

You probably never realized how absurdly appropriate quotes from a galaxy far, far away are as modern workplace inspirational sayings — until now. Depending on the vibe in your office, you can also get ones with quotes from the movies “Mean Girls” or “Anchorman.”

Courtesy of Amazon

“Worst Yankee Swap Gift Shirt Ever” Tee: $17.98

This tongue-in-cheek T-shirt says it all, while slyly poking fun at the perennial office holiday party tradition.

Courtesy of Amazon

Bag of “Coal” Soap: $10

This gift may be funny, but these black lumps of soap get their dark hue from activated charcoal, which is serious business when it comes to cleaning and clarifying your skin.

Courtesy of Uncommon Goods

“You Had One Job” Book: $9.99

For some perspective after a gaffe or blunder: Hey, at least you weren’t the workers responsible for the epic fails compiled in this book. (We still wouldn’t recommend giving it to a coworker right after they bust out some ill-advised dance moves at the holiday party, though.)

Courtesy of Amazon

Elf Santa Tee: $21.75

For that one work buddy who’s sarcastic as all get-out, this gives a way to get into the holiday spirit without being cutesy or cloying. It’s currently 25% off the normal $29 price, too.

Elf Santa Tee

Best of the Best Coworker Christmas Gifts

MacBook Air Sleeve: $49.95

This soft case has a scratch-preventing fleece lining and comes in two neutral shades that will go with whatever color messenger bag they carry.

Courtesy of Nordstrom

Multi-Tool Clip Watch: $55

You might be in the urban jungle, but you know your coworker would rather be scaling a peak, hitting the trail or paddling up a creek. Acknowledge that they have a life outside of work with this infinitely handy multi-tool and watch combo.

Courtesy of Uncommon Goods

Three-Month Audible Subscription: $45

Spizman suggests a subscription to an audiobook service like Audible — make the gift more personal by suggesting a few titles you really love.

Tag Lightning Cable: $49.99

When it comes to your work BFF, “Give them something with a personal touch,” says Gary Beckstrand, vice president at corporate rewards and recognition firm O.C. Tanner. If they’re on the road a lot, this improbably chic Italian leather tag contains USB and Lightning connectors for on-the-go iPhone or iPad charging.

Courtesy of Nordstrom

Plaid Cashmere Scarf: $39.95

For your work bestie who’s always freezing, these cozy scarves get raves from reviewers on Amazon, and the price seriously can’t be beat. (If you’re thinking about picking one up for yourself, too, we wouldn’t blame you.)

Courtesy of Amazon

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