Nfld. & Labrador

$20 Lady: No more knick-knacks, no more mugs; good gifts for teachers

Columnist Dara Squires has bargain-focused ideas for Christmas gifts that teachers will truly appreciate.

I have a motley assortment of friends and acquaintances. Coincidentally, a lot of them are teachers.

From the tattooed activist education student to the prim and proper parlour-curled retired school teacher, their response when asked “what’s a good Christmas gift from a student?” was pretty unanimous.

At least in what not to get.

Christmas ornaments, mugs, knick-knacks: just say no.

That “world’s greatest teacher” apple-shaped ornament is just an obvious present choice! And for those of us who can’t afford Hallmark presents, the dollar store has a wealth of fun mugs. Parenting blogs the world over abound with ideas for teacher-presents that involve decorating or filling a mug.

Unless this is the teacher’s first or second year, they already have full shelves.

So what to give? And especially, what to give on a budget?

Feeling good about being so cheap

Once again, I attempted the impossible: three teacher presents for $20. This was my hardest challenge yet — not in terms of finding something, but in feeling good about being so cheap.

A Tim Hortons gift card and a bath bomb can team up to make a lovely Christmas gift for a hard-working teacher. (Dara Barrett)

If I could afford it, each of my children's teachers would get a day at the spa. As it is, I haven’t even had a haircut in over a year, so that extravagance is a little outside my budget.

Although, the other thing I heard from the teacher-friends I asked? A lot of them think parents spend too much on their gifts.

The best gift I ever gave was a give-what-you-can class gift. Parents put money in an envelope kept in the school office and wrote their name on the outside.

I don’t know how much each family gave, but I do know that we were able to buy my son’s two junior kindergarten teachers a day at the spa and a luxury spa basket from all the parents.

These may not look so great right now, but they will smell awesome when they're finished shower disks. (Dara Barrett)

It’s a great idea if you know your kids’ classmates. Going in on a quality present is better than settling for something unsuitable that you can afford.

This year, though, I can’t do that. So after polling my friends, I settled on their second choice: Tim Hortons gift cards. [I'll get to their first choice soon enough.]

Tim's cards are convenient and generally go over really well. Three $5 cards are $15.

With that, I added sparkly Christmas bath bombs I got on sale last year for the rock-bottom price of 3 for $1.

A disk drive

I also made “shower disks," which are basically baking soda and water hardened into a disk and then “flavoured” with an essential oil. The baking soda was $1.49.

'Tis the classroom cold season, so to help the teachers’ health I used an immune-boosting essential oil blend that I have on hand and the few drops worth I used probably cost about 50 cents.

The disks dissolve and release their aromatherapy while you shower. It's a great gift for those Monday morning blahs.

You might be wondering what my teacher-friends' first choice was.

I can’t imagine why a classroom of screaming, sneezing kids would inspire such a desire, but the overwhelming response was alcohol.

I’m never comfortable giving alcohol to people I don’t know well, but a couple mini bottles and a pack of hot chocolate makes a great kicked-up Christmas treat.


Dara Squires is a single mother of three, working, living, and scraping by in St. John’s.


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