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5 Simple and Cost Effective Ways to Share Your Holiday Cheer With Colleagues

Forget those customized greeting cards and useless gifts. Here are five things you can do for your colleagues that will have a much greater impact and cost you (close to) nothing.

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I love this time of year: Eggnog, holiday movies, Christmas music, and the general festive and jolly mood that fills the air are all things I embrace with more zeal than I care to admit.

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Related: This Is the Best Holiday Gift I Ever Received From an Employer

Still, this time of year can also be stressful, as commercialism and materialism have created the pressure and urgency to buy "things" to show our appreciation, even for professional colleagues.

This stress, coupled with the anxiety that may result should we accidentally exclude someone important, can create an atmosphere that drains the "happy" from the holidays. And, as my extensive collection of coffee mugs, bath soaps and scented candles attests, we often end select ticky-tacky gifts that miss the message and meaning of the season altogether.

Of course we all love a nice, moderately priced gift -- a nice bottle of Scotch or an Amazon gift certificate. But such symbols of appreciation to business associates need not be complicated or stressful. Instead, redirect your money to year-end bonuses, or an upgrade to the office printer (employees will appreciate the benefits indirectly); and consider one of the following simple -- and mostly free -- gifts that just might have a bigger impact than anything you can buy.

Give a handwritten note.

In my opinion, customized holiday greetings cards have completely taken the "fest" out of festive greetings. Nothing says, "I found a shortcut" more than a postcard with a picture of your office staff and pre-printed signatures.

In the days before the internet (not long ago, may I remind you), holiday greeting cards were great for catching up with colleagues you didn't see often but were important to you. Cards made them feel important. Now, we lump everyone into the same mail list (or email list) and fail to make anyone feel special.

Related: This Is the Best Holiday Gift I Ever Received From an Employer

So, take a few minutes and write a personalized note to the business associates who are really important to your business. Does it take time? Yes, but that is the point. A nicely crafted, handwritten card or letter demonstrates to the recipients that they are important enough for you to go through the time -- and hand cramps -- to show your appreciation.

And, on the plus side, given the labor intensity of this option, the process will really make you evaluate and consider who is important and who is not.

Give a used but beloved book.

If you manage others, you've probably read more than your fair share of business and development books. If so, review those books on your shelf -- the ones you keep with the hope of reading them again (but never will). Instead, give them to those you think could benefit. The fact that you have already read the book shows you have vetted and found it useful and meaningful. Just make sure you do find it useful and meaningful.

I realize that this idea may not sit well with authors trying to make a buck off their books, but the reality is that the recipient probably wouldn't buy the book anyway. And, as an author myself, I am fine with someone passing along a used book of mine, as it could create a new fan for future publications.

Give the gift of time.

If you are considering gifts for subordinates, consider giving them additional and unexpected paid time off, perhaps later in the year. Arguably, this is not "free," but the productivity benefits of allowing your team to re-energize away from work will pay for itself in perpetuity.

Give of yourself.

We all know that time is money, so consider offering your services to colleagues. Promise to watch their house while they're on vacation, or clean their house or watch their pets. Or babysit. Alternately, you might act as their personal Uber driver for an entire evening if alcohol is in the picutre. Or, if you have a particular talent, such as home improvement or arts and crafts, you could put that to use for your colleagues.

Related: Uh-oh: What If Your Employees Don't Like Your Holiday Gift? Here's How to Avoid That Fate.

This suggestion might take some of us out of our comfort zone, and in some cases it might even be inappropriate, but if you can make it work, you'll endear yourself to your colleagues more than you will offering another box of holiday cheesecake.

Give food, preferably homemade.

While we're on the subject of cheesecake, if you are completely out of ideas, giving food is always a great fallback. But before you rush to the cookies and chocolates aisle, consider something healthy that will help your recipients be more productive.

Better, and more endearingly, consider making something yourself. Lacking culinary skills? Just buy something that requires you to follow simple instructions, and add one or two ingredients and/or a gift box to personalize the gift. These options are typically inexpensive and simple. Your creation may not come out perfect, but in this case, it is definitely about the thought and effort.

Most of these ideas are "free" in the sense that you don’t need to spend any or much money. I realize that opportunity cost and time should be factored in, but you can rest assured that any cost-benefit analysis you do will show a high return on your investment in time, effort, thoughtfulness and kindness.

Related: Gift Ideas for Clients, Coaches, Consultants and Employees

And, if you feel a holiday urge to show your appreciation to me, send a note care of the office. Happy holidays!

What do you think? What other unique ways do you show your appreciation for your business colleagues? Share your thoughts below.

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