Holidays at Work: Gift Exchange Ideas Under $20

Then We Came to the End

Put this in an office pal's stocking.

It’s time for holiday office parties and cookie/gift exchanges. Since we often fall short on time to create impressive treats for our co-workers, this year we’re relying on Celebration Generation cookie mixes (from $12). Just add butter and vanilla extract to whip up chai shortbread cookies or butter, eggs and water for spiced oatmeal raisin cookies. We like having these mixes on hand for last-minute cookie emergencies, which happen with more frequency than one would think. As for those Secret Santa picks, here are some of our favorites.

For the eco-conscious gourmand: Explorer’s Bounty offers USDA-certified organic and fair-trade coffees, teas and snacks from estate or co-op farms, benefiting local growers. Single-origin coffees (from $10.29) include ground beans from Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Peru and Sumatra, while tea choices ($4.79) include Argentinean maté and green tea and maté blend.

For the fun fashionista: Fit In Clouds ballet flats (from $18.95) can be folded and stowed in a small pouch, and would be great to have on hand come New Year’s Eve should the recipient choose to kick off her heels during the festivities. The flats have rubber soles and come in black patent, cobalt blue, gold, silver and white.

For the prankster or IT guy: The Phantom Keystroker V2 ($12.99) from is a sort-of high-tech version of our favorite old office prank — sticking a tiny Post-it under a co-worker’s mouse, rendering it useless. Disguised as a USB drive, the Keystroker types nonsense, engages the caps-lock toggle and randomly moves the mouse while befuddled co-workers helplessly try to move their cursors. Just make sure it’s used wisely and in good fun!

For the business traveler: These luggage tags ($9) and passport wallets ($16) are fun ways to set your suitcase apart, with Anne Taintor’s retro-chic witticisms. Stylish, sassy women make declarations, such as, “We all have our baggage,” and “I love not camping.” For someone with more classic tastes, check out the oversized leather luggage tag ($19.95), available at Brookstone in black, blue, green, pink or deep red.

For your office pals: Hilarious and, at times poignant, Then We Came to the End: A Novel (Back Bay Books, 2008) by Joshua Ferris documents the gossip, pranks, relationships and fears during the final glory days of a fictional Chicago ad agency. Told in first-person plural, you’ll feel the camaraderie of the familiar collection of employees in this office. As the jacket of the book ($13.99) says, “No one knows us quite the same way as the men and women who sit beside us in department meetings and crowd the office refrigerator with their labeled yogurts.”

On the bright side, not-so-great presents can be regifted. Or you can commiserate on the Bad Gift Emporium website, where we find ourselves thankful we’ve never received a sculpture of a bathing Mr. and Mrs. Claus or an angel resting atop a hamburger. Do you have any gift exchange recommendations?



  1. PSlaterness says:

    I suggest http://www.somethingstore. com. So much fun! You order a gift and they send you something, you don’t know what it is! Free shipping too.