9 Clever Gift Ideas For Co-Workers That Aren't Just More "I Hate Mondays" Mugs

Ah, the dreaded employee gift exchange. It happens every year, and yet it always promises the same dilemma each and every time: How the hell do I get a relatively thoughtful gift for a colleague that is within budget, but won't wind up at a Salvation Army next week? To say the least, it's not easy to come up with clever gift ideas for co-workers.

But I am here to help, my friends. After all, it's not just that you don't want to give out lame gifts at the office; you don't want to receive them, either! Chances are, when you step up your own gift-giving game, everyone else in the office is going to do it, too.

So, put on your thinking cap (yes, like your elementary school teacher always instructed) when you pick your colleague's name out of the Secret Santa jar, and try to gather just the tiniest bit of information about them — even if they aren't your favorite office mate — and shop for something they're actually going to enjoy or use.

Here are a few ideas that'll get you started and, hopefully, set off that beautiful karmic boomerang to ensure the gift you receive yourself will be just as rad and unique as the gift you give.

An Awesome Phone Case

ModMacCase Bosch iPhone Case, $11+, Etsy

While this idea probably requires you to know a little something about your colleague (their favorite band, perhaps? An artist they love?), or at the very least, have an office inside joke between the two of you, a phone case is something that pretty much everyone uses.

A Miniature Makeover

KSquaredNailPaint Golden Rosé, $5, Etsy

If your Secret Santa giftee is the type who likes colorful makeup and fun bath products, put together a little beauty kit. Get some glitter, a cool sheet mask, a locally made hand cream, and a bangin' nail polish, like these ones from KSquaredNailPaint, which are super affordable and handmade in Brooklyn.

Pins And Patches That Are Super Edgy And Cool
Holly Simple

Bloody Finger Enamel Pin, $10, Holly Simple Studio

My friend Holly makes these amazing pins and patches, among other cool products. Go ahead and decorate your colleague's work accessories with a little flair. Trust me, no matter what kind of person your giftee is, there's a pin or a patch out there for them and their unique personality.

Lunch In Their Neighborhood

Who says there's no such thing as free lunches? Prove the cliche wrong and give one to your co-worker this holiday season.

Treat your colleague to lunch in their own neighborhood. Ask what kind of food they like, or just look up "best sandwich shop" around where they live. Heck, you could even be super lazy about it and just do a Seamless giftcard, amirite?

A Desk Plant

UnusualSeeds Spiral Aloe, $6, Etsy

Saying it out loud, getting someone "a desk plant" sounds lame. But you know what? It honestly isn't. At my last office job, I bought these very tiny rose plants on sale at Whole Foods for two of my colleagues, and one of them described it as "the gift that keeps on giving me smiles."

Get your giftee a cool cactus, or an aloe plant to give a little life to those drab computer tables. And if you want to go above and beyond, get them some seeds and a pot so they can bring it to life themselves.

A Quality Product That They'd Never Pay For Themselves
Need Supply Co.

Aesop Rosehip Seed Lip Cream, $15, Need Supply Co.

Think about one of those "specialty," everyday, regular things, like a luxurious but costly chapstick, or one pair of really toasty, great wool socks that are more expensive, and that you know your co-worker normally wouldn't pay the money for when buying for themselves.

This lip cream from Need Supply Co. will seem luxurious to them, without breaking your bank. You're welcome.

A Fun Night Out

Invite your giftee to a prepaid karaoke night, a bowling match, or give them a gift certificate (plus popcorn money) to a local movie theater. After all, experiences are oftentimes more fun and more memorable than material items.

A Unique Take On The Usual Gift Set
Half Hippy

Witchy Tings Gift Set, $20, Half Hippy

Are you looking for a present to give to a more eclectic, new-age colleague? Look no further than this witchy starter kit, my friend.

Inside this pack, your giftee will find incense, an awesome bracelet imprinted with a mantra, and a cool, tourmaline dravite stone.

A Mug That Is Ridiculously On Point
ceramics + theory

fuuuuck cup, $42, ceramics + theory

I mean, honestly, the "I Hate Mondays" mug is a classic, but if you have a friend-crush in the office who has that same dark sense of humor as you, maybe you're willing to shell out just a little extra cash to get them something homemade and hilarious to hold their morning bevs.

Happy shopping!