Not everyone on your gift list is a friend or family member. Sometimes, you need to shop for people you don’t know very well, such as those you have business relationships with, like clients, suppliers, employees, or tenants.
These are people you probably don’t want to spend a premium on, especially if you’re shopping for a lot of them. But you still want to offer them a gesture of friendship and goodwill – ideally, one that isn’t bland, corporate, and soulless.
Instead, look for gift ideas your recipient will use and enjoy. Gifts don’t have to be expensive to be genuinely appreciated, even when you don’t know the recipient well.
Gifts Under $50 for Professional Associates
When it comes to corporate gifts for business associates, there are a few do’s and don’ts.
First, don’t give subscriptions or memberships. In the best-case scenario, the recipient likes the subscription – and then they keep paying for it indefinitely, adding one more unnecessary monthly bill. In the worst case, they don’t like it and don’t use it.
Second, don’t give everyone the same gift if you can help it. For example, if you have 10 employees and want to give them holiday gifts, don’t give them all wine if three of them don’t drink and one of them is a craft beer aficionado.
And don’t be afraid to buy a few batches of gifts. They don’t all have to be unique or personalized, but they don’t all have to be identical, either. For example, if you’re buying for a team of employees, you can buy wine for 70% of them and something else for the other 30% who don’t drink wine.
As with all gifts, try to think about what the recipients would like and, ideally, what they’d actually use. From professional services to delicious indulgences, there are lots of gifts under $50 to make all your colleagues feel appreciated without resorting to bland gift baskets.
1. Amazon Gift Card
There are few things you can’t buy on Amazon. That makes an Amazon gift card akin to giving cash but less tacky. In fact, Amazon gift cards are even more useful than prepaid Visa gift cards because people don’t have to keep track of how much money remains on each card.
It’s not a personal gift by any stretch, but an Amazon gift card is the ultimate practical gift. Your recipient gets to buy what they want rather than put a paperweight with your corporate logo on their desk.
And unlike other gifts, you have complete control over exactly how much each gift costs.
2. Local Event Tickets
Tickets are tricky because everyone has different tastes. Your 24-year-old administrative assistant probably likes different music than your 57-year-old vice president of operations, for example. And during the coronavirus pandemic, many events have been limited, postponed, or canceled entirely.
Still, you can get creative with local tickets. Who doesn’t like supporting local comics at a comedy club? Or maybe the favorite local sporting team’s games still offer reasonable ticket prices, unlike the NFL. If you’re shopping for a small team of employees, taking a Friday afternoon off to go to the ball game together could even make a fun team outing.
3. Gift Certificates to a Midrange Restaurant
Gift certificates to a popular restaurant are another local option. Given that you’re giving $50 or less to each person, aim for a high-value, midrange restaurant that offers a great experience at an affordable price tag. The last thing you want to do is give someone a $40 gift certificate for a meal that will cost them $150.
Every city has restaurants that offer outstanding bang for the buck, so find one of these and give everyone a fun meal out.
4. Maid Service Gift Certificate
Everyone loves a clean house, but not everyone loves cleaning.
For a gift that’s sure to make someone happy, let them hire a maid service for a few hours. They get to spend their weekend doing more of what they love rather than scrubbing toilets and mopping floors.
Maid services largely remain local operations. Try Handy.com to find someone in your area. They perform background checks, and you can take care of everything online.
Getting back more of your leisure time is always a welcome gift.
5. Virtual Assistant Service
Likewise, you can give the gift of more time by enabling your colleague to hire a virtual assistant service for a few hours.
A virtual assistant can help them knock out their to-do list with any number of support services, like booking travel, or basic administrative work, like creating spreadsheets. For a few reputable options, check out OkayRelax, Efficise, or the U.S.-based Fancy Hands.
6. Customized Water Bottles, Cups, & Bags
If you want to tie your company’s brand into the gifts somehow, customized gifts everyone can use are always welcome.
Check out Totally Promotional for a wide range of products you can customize with your logo. They offer thousands of products, including water bottles and cups, coasters, bags and totes, and sunglasses.
Every time the recipient uses your gift, they’ll think of your company.
7. Unique Charcuterie Boards
Many people love any excuse to break out a charcuterie board and enjoy some cheeses and meats.
There are plenty of creative options for charcuterie boards that will impress your recipients. Opt for a board with a slide-out cutlery drawer or perhaps a folding picnic charcuterie board, for example.
For a simpler option that still has some style, look for something with a little character, like an irregular olive wood charcuterie board. Whatever option you choose, a unique board is more memorable than something that could just as easily be a cutting board.
8. Cheese & Charcuterie Basket
Or you could just give them the cheeses and meats.
For an affordable and delicious option, check out Dan the Sausageman’s Yukon gourmet basket. Be careful going down the rabbit hole of cheese and charcuterie baskets, though. They get surprisingly expensive quickly.
9. Hand-Blown Wine Glasses
Decades ago, fine crystal sets were prized possessions passed down as heirlooms. Nowadays, you can buy outstanding-quality crystal wine glasses, even hand-blown ones, extremely affordably.
Try this four-piece set of hand-blown Italian-style crystal wine glasses from JBHome. They’re thin but durable and allegedly sturdy enough for a dishwasher.
Wine comes with a few complications if you don’t know the recipients well. First, there’s the fact that not everyone drinks it. Beyond simply not liking the taste, your recipient could be a recovering alcoholic, pregnant, or breastfeeding. One saving grace here is that if your recipient doesn’t want to drink it themselves, they’ll have no shortage of chances to regift it.
You can also run into the opposite problem among those who love it: They’re particular about what they drink. When giving wine as a professional gift, read up on the fundamentals of choosing wines. Often, you can find good deals on wine, particularly when buying in bulk during periodic sales.
Unlike scotch and its enthusiasts’ curious obsession with single malt, you can purchase excellent midrange bourbon for under $50.
Options include Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Basil Hayden’s, I.W. Harper, and Henry McKenna’s 10-year-old single-barrel. Bourbon is more of a niche beverage gift than wine, though, so once again, it helps to know your recipients.
But if you know your recipient enjoys an occasional whiskey drink, bourbon offers great bang for your buck.
12. Beer-Brewing Kit
Just as with wine and bourbon, beer-brewing kits don’t make great gifts for everyone. For beer drinkers, though, it’s fun to learn how to make their own beer, and it sometimes develops into a lifelong hobby.
Beginner kits are inexpensive, and if the recipient enjoys brewing their first batch, they can always go on to buy more sophisticated equipment and brew more complex beers. Try Mr. Beer’s 2-gallon complete starter kit as an affordable option to get them started.
13. Baked Goods
While they’re not the most original idea in the world, baked goods remain a classic because nearly everyone likes them.
In a perfect world, you would bake the cookies, breads, pies, tarts, or tortes yourself. You could enlist your spouse or kids to bake with you. You can even cook healthy dessert alternatives. But bear in mind that some people have food allergies – and some, like nut allergies, can even be deadly. So make sure you include a card with any homemade goods that discloses the ingredients.
And if the thought of baking 20 loaves of zucchini bread makes your heart pump with anxiety rather than excitement, you can always buy store-bought products. People will eat them just as readily.
14. Local Cooking Classes
Cooking is not only a life skill, but it’s also fun – if you know what you’re doing.
Attending a local cooking class (Sur La Table has some great classes to choose from) with a friend or two helps demystify the process and makes people far more confident and comfortable around the kitchen. They learn how to use the various kitchen tools and shortcuts to make everyday tasks easier. And most of all, they start to enjoy the process, not just the result.
Again, local cooking classes aren’t the perfect gift for everyone on your list. But for your hands-on recipients, it can make a fun gift idea and even a team-building opportunity if your small team attends the same cooking class together.
15. Local Honey
As a more mainstream cooking-related gift, nearly everyone can enjoy local honey. It ticks all the boxes: It tastes good, everyone likes it, it supports your local farmers and economy, and local honey is usually organic.
And let’s be honest: It won’t cost you much, either.
If you really want to go above and beyond, include a few recipes that use honey along with it. That could be as simple as printing off a few favorites or including a glossy honey recipe book like “The Asheville Bee Charmer Cookbook” by Carrie Schloss.
16. Aromatic Candles
Candles are a classic gift option that doesn’t require you to know your recipients well. You can spend less or more, depending on your budget. If possible, look for candles made with higher-quality wax and essential oils that burn cleaner. Trusted candle brands include Yankee Candle, Diptyque (try their Tokyo scent, which smells like Japanese cypress), and The White Barn.
Aim for universally appealing scents – such as citrus, wood, and nut – that aren’t too strong or perfumy.
If you’re shopping for eco-conscious recipients, consider buying natural beeswax candles with no chemical additives or artificial aromas. They smell great in a more subtle way, which is fantastic for those who are sensitive to smells. And because the wax comes from bees instead of petroleum, which paraffin candles contain, they’re a 100% renewable resource. And, of course, you can often buy them from the same beekeeper who sells local honey.
17. Succulent Arrangements
In a curious recent trend, succulents have become popular desk adornments. They add some color, and it doesn’t hurt that they require almost no care.
You can buy live succulents locally at many grocery stores or nurseries, or you can buy faux succulent arrangements that look real and require no care at all. Try this simple white ceramic faux succulent arrangement from MyGift as an affordable option.
18. Gift Certificate to a Local Coffee Shop
If your colleagues are local and love their caffeinated beverages, consider buying them a gift certificate to their favorite local cafe or coffee shop.
This one is a particularly easy option if you’re shopping for employees who all frequent the same cafe across the street from your building. It’s a practical gift they’re sure to use and like.
19. Coffee or Tea Set
Alternatively, you can give your beverage enthusiast recipients a gourmet coffee or tea set so they can make their own high-end brews.
For your tea-drinking recipients, order them Taylors of Harrogate classic tea variety box with 48 tea bags in eight styles.
For coffee drinkers, pick up Cooper’s sampler gift set of four different coffee bean styles. It might even help them save money by enabling them to brew gourmet coffee at home instead of buying $5 lattes at Starbucks every morning.
20. Gourmet Popcorn
It may not be the most exciting gift, but gourmet popcorn is a universal option you can give to anyone. No special knowledge of their eating or drinking habits is required.
To spice this gift up a little, Urban Accents offers a movie night variety pack with five different seasoning sets and three different kernel types. Seasonings include Sriracha, chili-lime, white cheddar, sweet and salty kettle corn, and buttery caramel, so your recipient is sure to enjoy at least one popcorn flavor.
21. Custom Calendar
Want to keep your company front-of-mind for your clients, suppliers, or employees all year? Order customized calendars that include your company’s logo somewhere on each page.
You don’t need to enlist a graphic designer to do this. Many printing services let you choose from a variety of calendar images and add your logo to the corner. See Vistaprint’s many customized calendar options for ideas.
Or you could go in a different direction if you’re buying for a small team of employees. Create a truly customized calendar with photos of your team having fun on company retreats or social outings like happy hours to reinforce your team’s bonds.
22. Custom Golf Balls
If your recipients play golf, they can never have enough quality golf balls to chase around on the links.
Print your company logo, a brief motto, or even an inside joke among your tight-knit team on the golf balls. You can even print a photo on them.
Order customized balls from Vice Golf and enjoy volume discounts if you order more than five-dozen balls.
23. Professional Notebooks or Planners
In a digitally dominated world, there’s something comforting about physical planners and notebooks – especially upscale leather-bound editions that come with time-management techniques to boost your productivity.
Check out Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner, which includes an entire productivity system for maximizing your effectiveness. John Lee Dumas’ Freedom Journal takes a different approach, focusing on accomplishing goals within 100 days. And it costs less, which is always a plus when buying gifts.
24. Sport Headphones
You can’t buy top-of-the-line noise-canceling headphones for under $50. But you can buy your recipients a reasonable pair of sport headphones for working out, walking, hiking, or casual use around the house.
Try sport Bluetooth headphones from Mpow. They’re waterproof to protect against rain and spills and offer powerful bass in a small package. And the batteries last upward of 12 hours.
And who knows? It might even help your recipient work out more if they have a reliable set of sport headphones to keep them entertained.
25. Handwritten Card
Want to send a truly unique gift they won’t get from any other colleagues?
Few people take the time to send handwritten cards to business associates anymore, which is precisely what makes it so powerful.
If you’re not sure what to say, simply write a few sentences about how they’ve helped transform your business, how you appreciate the work they do, and how important they are to you as a client, colleague, or employee. Everyone loves flattery. Just make sure it’s all true, and the more personalization you include, the better.
It costs almost nothing but time.
Buying gifts for colleagues, employees, or clients is inherently tricky. You don’t want to spend too much, but you don’t want to come off as a cheapskate, either. And you may not know the recipient well enough to buy them something unique to their tastes.
When in doubt, buy a universal gift, such as gourmet popcorn or an Amazon gift card. If you do know your recipient better, they’ll appreciate a slightly more personal gift.
Ultimately, your gift is a gesture of appreciation and gratitude. Only you know what’s appropriate to spend and which gifts are most likely to succeed with each recipient. Focus less on cost and more on selecting useful gifts everyone will genuinely appreciate.
And if that means gift cards, well, so be it!
What are your favorite low-cost gift ideas for professional relationships? What have you received as a business gift that you appreciated?