Frugal and Creative Teacher Gift Ideas

I’ve talked a lot about public schools lately, and even though I’m unhappy with the way things are going in a general sense, I love both of my children’s teachers. They’ve both gone above and beyond the call of duty to make sure my children are getting the best education possible in the current school system.

So of course as the year winds down, I’m thinking about end of the year gifts. I always hate to try to think of something, because I don’t always know what the teachers would like. I try to stay away from “apple themed” anything, because I figure most teachers are inundated with stuff like that. I stay away from coffee mugs for the same reason.

I’m thinking of a coffee shop gift card for one of my children’s teachers, because I know she drinks coffee. I’m at a bit of a loss for my other child’s teacher, although I hear she likes candy.

So my first question today is, do you have any frugal & creative teacher gift ideas?

But there’s a second question. Who gets a teacher gift? Obviously each of the kids’ teachers. But then there’s the aides…and in kindergarten there are a LOT of aides. There are reading aides, math aides, regular classroom aides. And then there’s the first grade teacher, since my kindergarten son goes to first grade for reading.

There’s the music teacher, the librarian, the computer teacher, and we can’t forget the bus driver.

I know a lot of people bring something for everyone, but honestly, that would put me in the poorhouse. It’s not that I don’t appreciate all the teachers, aides, and bus drivers, but it’s just not affordable to give gifts to all of them.

So the second question of the day is, how do you decide who gets a gift, and what do you do for those who don’t get a gift?

I’m very interested to see your responses. I seem to take a different approach every year.

Photo by woodleywonderworks.



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By , on May 22, 2009
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{42 Comments}

  1. kristy:

    Do a homemade larger gift for teachers. See tipjunkie for ideas. And for all the aids and drivers etc… you can bake cookies or bread.

  2. Anita:

    I am daughter of a teacher and she spends slot of her own money on the kids so that is why I appreciate the teachers all year long, gifts for Christmas, valentines, mothers day, teacher appreciation week (present a day) and end of year gift. The notes, plants, homemade food, and gift certificates are the main things I give and I know the teachers hope for my kids the next year!

  3. R. May:

    Sorry – I’m the ogre. And my mom was a kindergarten teacher.

    I do not do teacher gifts. It is your job to teach my child. Yes I appreciate that you do so, but still – it’s your job.

    My dad used to be an Air Traffic Controller – I’m sure people appreciated him keepign planes from running into each other but no gifts – cause it was his job.

    My daughter’s Marine father – he doesn’t get gifts for protecting the Country – it’s his job.

    Send a thank you note by all means. Skip the gratification.

  4. Alice:

    When I was still in school, I also dreaded the idea of picking and choosing who to give gifts to–I had about 20 people in mind. So, what I did was go to the florist at my local supermarket and asked her to wrap individual flowers for me–you can get carnations which are pretty inexpensive. They did not charge me for extra “leafy” decorations, and I was able to give a flower with a handwritten note to over 30 people for around $30.

  5. Dana:

    I think something you could do is make cookies and put together little bags of cookies everyone but the two main teachers or go to a local nursery and buy six packs of plants. Each child could pot these in little pots which you can find pretty inexpensive and then you scedule a time to help the child deliver them to the helpers, bus people, etc.

  6. CJ McD:

    It’s easy and economical to assemble a small basket of office supplies (tape, extra staples, sticky notes, paper clips, stamp pad, markers or red pens, etc.) Tuck them into a small basket stuffed with tissue and add a bow. A hand written thank you note included adds the final perfect touch.

  7. I must be one of the only people in the world that doesn’t do teachers gifts. They aren’t frugal in our universe. Now, a card or letter are fantastic, but presents I don’t get. The teachers are coming to work every day and doing the job they chose. I cannot give gifts to everyone I come in contact with that is doing their job. So it seems unfair to me to gift a teacher but not the mail man or trash guys or the kids hair cutting person or the kids doctors. Can’t do it. But everyone loves being told how they are appreciated…we can’t do that enough.

  8. Jo:

    As a former teacher, I would agree: no coffee mugs or baked goods, please! I loved getting personal notes from the students and/or their parents. My son was leaving elementary school this year, so I just gifted his regular classroom teacher and his gifted ed teacher with gift cards (one to Barnes and Noble and one to our great local all-in-one store called Fred Meyers.) He loved going to library, and his librarian did many extra tasks for him so sweetly so I sewed her a large fabric book bag. When he was younger, I also gifted bus drivers, and the other teachers (pe, nurse, music, etc) with small denomination gift cards.

  9. Linda Fox:

    A book for the school library is a great idea. It can be one of your childrens favorites or something you choose as a family. You can write inside the book to honor specific staff members in the school.
    And several years later, if they like, your children can go back to that library and find “their” book and remember those great teachers and staff members once again.

  10. Bethany:

    If the teacher has been teaching for a short time (under 5 years) a gift certificate to the teacher supply store is always helpful. I received one as a student teacher, and it was so nice to have a little something to pick out new things for my new classroom.

    A word of advice…don’t try to buy a teacher clothing. No kidding…I received a vest from a little boy for Christmas once (a nice sparkley one :) but it was about 2 sizes too small. Quite embarrassing for us both. He made up for it at the end of the year. He brought me a cookbook published by the alumni association from my college alma mater. Very thoughtful!

  11. I always try to cordornate with other moms, take up cash and purchase a gift card to a local resturant or walmart. When gas was so high last year I did gas cards. That way no one knows who spent more and with 20 or so kids in the room the teacher still gets something pretty nice. BTW at Christmas this year we did this and my youngest has 22 in her class and the teacher got $160. I never set a limit so people give what they want.

  12. Caleb:

    As a parent of a teacher I’m always up for brownies from a box. The mix plus ingredients costs less than $3 and will make enough for your long list of teachers and aides.

  13. Pamela:

    If you have a Costco near you they have wonderful deals on gift cards. For example, you can get $100 worth of Starbucks gift cards for $80. You can take the 5 – $20 cards and take them to Starbucks and they’ll change them to $10 ones if you need to. For us, we have teachers, bus drivers etc so this is really nice. They also have deals on movie tickets – which is nice for a night out! If you know the room mom, you can put together a basket for movie tickets, a restaurant gift card and the Starbucks for an after movie treat!

  14. Laina:

    I teach 7th grade English. Some of the best gifts I have received from kids are notes or cards, written by them, thanking me. If you do want to give something more, bookstore or Staples gift cards are always great – what teacher doesn’t love books, and couldn’t use more supplies for his/her classroom?

    If you want to get one gift for all of the teachers, including aides, librarians, etc, I suggest you have an edible arrangement delivered to the school and placed in the teacher’s room for everyone, perhaps with a card thanking them all. When I worked at a preschool years ago one of the parents’ sent this, and everyone loved it. Teachers are often trying to watch their weight (just like the rest of the world!) so it’s nice to receive fruit rather than the usual cookies, cakes, etc.

  15. Shymom:

    I have to say ditto to the letter. I work in a remedial program and the best thing that I have ever gotten was a letter from a student that had been having a hard time that year. I still tear up thinking about it.

    As far as aides, etc. a parent at our school asks everyone to contribute (a voluntary and very low key request.) That money is then divide amongst all of the staff who are often not remembered–the custodian, librarian etc.

  16. TStrump:

    A friend of mine is a teacher and every year he says, NO GIFTS!
    But they still keep coming.
    He has one stipulation – if they want to give a gift, no coffee mugs … just chocolate, fruit or gift certificates.

  17. My son was in Young 5′s this year, and he had 3 teachers (1 main teacher and 2 assistants). His last day was yesterday, so I just posted a picture of what I gave his teachers…plus it links to an article I wrote with some cute, frugal teacher’s gift ideas – http://www.centsablemomma.com/.....-gift.html

    It’s hard to know who to give gifts to. In my son’s case it was easy, since he saw all three teachers every day during the entire class, but you do need to draw the line somewhere when it comes to all the aides, etc.

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