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11 Inexpensive Ways To Make Your Employees’ Holiday Special

What is one creative way that startups can show appreciation to their employees around the holidays on a bootstrapper’s budget?



1. Go on a (Free) Outing

JessicaBrondoavatar“Do something fun (and free)! We’re based in NY, so some of the things that come to mind are ice skating in Bryant Park (or Central Park), an outing to see the tree (and then a cool photo), walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and getting Grimaldi’s pizza… And then, good old-fashioned Christmas cookies never hurt.”



– Jessica Brondo,


2. Founders Can Cook

Kevon Saber“Make dinner for the whole team. Have everyone arrive while the founders are putting the finishing touches on the meal. As team members are sipping their holiday beverages and mingling, they will see their leaders cooking and setting the table. At that moment most team members will feel cared for and appreciated.”



– Kevon Saber, Fig


3. Host a Praise-and-Pizza Party

David Ehrenberg“A holiday party doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, so plan a cheapie event, like pizza in the office. Just taking the trouble to plan a celebratory event goes a long way towards showing your team how much you value them. At the event, feed them with praise. Communicate how they are a part of the success of your company and detail what they have helped the company to achieve during the year.”


– David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services


4. Telecommuting

Andrew Schrage“If it’s doable, consider testing out telecommuting with your staff to show your appreciation. You can use it as a perk to begin with, but it may eventually evolve into a full-time part of your business. Your employees will love it, and they’re likely to be more productive. This is a win-win situation all around – and it won’t cost you a dime.”



– Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance


5. Scratch-Offs

DarrahBrusteinavatar“I love to send hand-written cards with a scratch-off lottery ticket in it signed: “To a successful new year!””



– Darrah Brustein, Finance Whiz Kids | Equitable Payments


6. Write Letters

SusanStrayerLaMotteavatar-100x100-1“There’s something about a handwritten letter that feels so special. Around the holidays when funds are low, write a personal note to each employee. General speeches of praise are great, but personal notes allow you to tell each employee what you appreciate about them and their work. You can stick a $5 coffee card inside but the note will be what they remember. Be sure to hand deliver!”


– Susan Strayer Lamotte, exaqueo



7. Take the Time to Listen

thursday bram“Your team puts in long days for you and may not be getting what they’re truly worth in return. So listen to them and find out if there’s anything you can do to make their lives a little easier. You may be able to solve at least a professional problem or too without breaking the bank – sometimes, you may find that there’s a personal conundrum that you can help with, too.”


– Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting



8. A Small Happy Hour

MattWilsonavatar-100x100-2“If you don’t have a big budget, take employees out for a few drinks to relax and build team morale. Be upfront; tell your team you don’t have VC money to blow on a big party, but you’re going to a relaxed setting where drinks are cheap. The thought alone goes a long way.”


– Matt Wilson, Under30Experiences



9. Give People Ownership

NicolasGremionavatar-100x100“Stock incentives or bonuses are great ways to make employees part-owners of your business, motivating them to ensure its success. People always achieve more when they’re given ownership of something.”



– Nicolas Gremion,



10. Santa’s Workshop

RobertMooreavatar-100x100“We allow employees to set flexible hours for themselves as long as their work doesn’t suffer. We also allow our employees to have packages delivered to the office and stored here, so that more shopping and holiday prep can be done online while still maintaining the element of surprise with their families.”


– Robert J. Moore, RJMetrics



11. Prizes

Adam DeGraide“Startups tight on expenses may not be able to give bonus checks to all employees, but give a chance for someone to win a bonus or prize! Create a raffle, treasure hunt, office competition, or a basketball shoot out. There are plenty of fun games you can play to make this happen. Whether one wins or loses, everyone was a part of the activity and gift and had a chance to win.”


– Adam Degraide, Astonish



Photo Credits

The YEC | OakleyOriginals 

Author : Young Entrepreneur Council

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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