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

“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, Admitted.ly

2. Founders Can Cook

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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, Free-eBooks.net



10. Santa’s Workshop

“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

“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