Note from Leah: I wrote this post before the awful school shooting in Newtown, CT, happened. My heart goes out to the families there for whom which teacher gift to buy this year is the last of their worries.
Every year in December I start getting emails from people wondering how they should handle gifts for their children’s teachers. (Remember: before I was a frugal-living expert, I’d spent more than a decade as a gift and etiquette expert.)
In the past most questions focused on what to give. With the economy the way it’s been for quite some time, now many of the questions I get are how to afford those teacher gifts.
Lucky for you I have teacher gift ideas that can help you navigate the etiquette of giving gifts to educators and save you money.
To make my advice easier to follow, I’ve broken out tips based on the “level” of school your child attends.
NURSERY OR PRESCHOOL
- Most nursery or preschool teachers spend a lot of time in the classroom or out on a playground, using their hands. Whether it’s push kids on the swings or washing out paintbrushes, these teachers deserve a gift of pampering. How about a gift card for a manicure? One of the ways to make this affordable is to find a salon or spa you trust, and find out if there are any apprentices on staff to offer manicures. Apprentices who are just learning the trade often charge much less than full-time staff. You should be able to get away with a $20 gift card that easily covers a manicure and tip.
- Another gift option if you’re not a fan of manicures, or don’t think the teacher would be, is to give the teacher a book to read (for herself, not the classroom) or a gift card to a local bookstore.
- If money is tight, a plate of homemade cookies–even the slice-and-bake variety–is wonderful. Teachers can share these with their colleagues.
- I still love the notion of a gift card to a bookstore–especially if I can support a local business–as a gift for an elementary school teacher.
- Since I’ve run into my children’s teachers at the local java joint on school mornings, it dawned on me that a gift card to help them with their morning Joe just might be the perfect teacher gift idea.
- Another great idea for an elementary school teacher gift? A board game for the classroom, so the kids have something new to play with during indoor recess.
- Again, homemade goodies are also always welcome–especially in the break room.
FYI, when my kids were in elementary school, I gave a gift to the primary classroom teacher and any assistants/student teachers. I also always gifted the specials’ teachers–figuring not many parents remembered those educators who are also an integral part of your child’s school experience.
MIDDLE SCHOOL & HIGH SCHOOL
- Once again gift cards can come in handy as a teacher gift, even if you can only afford $5 or $10 each. This year many restaurants are offering free bonus gift cards when you buy a certain amount of gift cards, and this may help you get the gift cards you need at what amounts to a discount. I know that restaurants like Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Maggiano’s, and Outback Steakhouse all have these deals going on. Or you could buy restaurant gift certificates through a company like Restaurant.com, which sells gift cards at a discount.
- Another great option we have here in our school district–and you may, too–is an education fund that allows you to make a donation in the teachers’ names. The teachers are notified of your donation, and they are then open to apply for a grant to use this money to somehow better their classroom or their students’ educational experience. Best of all, I don’t have to donate a large amount to make a huge impact. And because this education fund is a legitimate 501(c)(3), my donation is tax deductible.
Just kidding–you’re finally off the hook. Now it’s up to your kids (now adults) to figure out how to come up with teacher gift ideas for their professors!