With the holidays fast approaching and inflation so high, I’m really dreading the holidays at work this year and would rather not spend extra money. Elaine Varelas guides on how to infuse creativity into building new and enjoyable workplace holiday traditions that won’t break the bank.

Celebrating the holidays in the workplace shouldn’t cost a fortune and shouldn’t be a source of stress for anyone. Elaine Varelas guides on how to get creative while still making wonderful holiday memories at work.

Q: I’m absolutely dreading the holidays at work this year.  Gift giving can be stressful in the office, not to mention expensive, and there is always so much pressure from my work team to participate in gifts for our supervisor, participating in a Secret Santa gift exchange, etc. I don’t want to be a grinch, but at the same time, is it possible to gracefully bow out this year?

A: I’m so sorry to hear that you are dreading the holidays at work or anywhere.  It can be a long holiday season if every aspect of it adds stress to your life, and becomes a financial burden based on “required” gift giving.   During this time of year (and maybe all year), we should focus on making life less stressful for everyone. Yes, productivity can still be maintained.  If you ask people who aren’t in elementary school what the most meaningful holiday gifts that they have received in the past, most of them will tell you experiences.  So, you and your colleagues have a great opportunity to change history. 

Now is the time to focus on minimizing any financial impact of celebrating the holidays at work and getting creative.  Some of the most enjoyable activities that I’ve seen work organizations do have come from rewriting and performing traditional holiday songs.  The Twelve Days of Christmas verses can be revised to The Twelve Days of your company’s name and infused with humor.  Christmas and Hanukkah songs can be transformed into parodies of what happens within your organization while poking positive fun and situations that occur on a regular basis, may be a bit aggravating but always in-kind jest. That is just one example. 

Another idea is that you and your colleagues could all pitch in five dollars for a shared holiday meal. Or perhaps you could all pitch in five dollars to adopt a local needy family and purchase holiday gifts for them. Or if you do have a particularly talented group, homemade crafts or other items could be exchanged.  These might range from a homemade candle to bulbs from your garden or even a favorite recipe swap.

The holiday cookie exchange has been another well received activity although it does involve some financial impact.  A Secret Santa gift exchange could be transformed into an amusing and funny White Elephant gift swap, where something you no longer need or want in your house could be brought in as a gift or you could use this as an opportunity to regift a gift that you received in the past and didn’t like.  It is likely that there are other colleagues who feel the exact same way that you do and would prefer to not spend a lot of money. 

So, start building support for the opportunity to change the annual dread of how much money you have to spend on your supervisor, the Human Resources frowned upon practice of giving alcohol, or some year old bargain candy, and create new and unique holiday traditions that become truly enjoyable in the workplace for everyone.  And yes, you can opt out but not of the $5.00 option or of the non-financial merry making.


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