The Art of the $5 Gift

It's difficult and potentially awkward to give gifts to office mates and co-workers, but sometimes you just have to gird up and do it.

There's that office buddy you really enjoy -- you laugh at each other's jokes, can't stop jabbering about "True Detective" together -- but you haven't decided you're buds yet. S/he receives a promotion, and you want to say a special congrats. How do you do it?

Or there's the manager who annoys everyone but who does nice things for you once in a blue moon (annoyingly) and you want to return the favor by giving a gift. What do you get this person who is neither friend nor foe?

Or there's the manager's birthday, the office mate's son's girlfriend's graduation, the boss's boss, the mail room guy's dead pet, the long-lost co-worker in another department you'd like to reconnect with...the list of gift-giving scenarios is legion, in the American office.

Now, now, don't get all bent out of shape. Seward is here to help.

First off, let's call this the "Non-friend Zone," the zone where you have to buy a present for someone who isn't quite a friend.

When you find yourself in the Non-Friend Zone and you need to buy a gift for this person, you're in danger of overplaying or underplaying your hand, right? Which is why it's awkward and stressful. Spend too much and you look like a fawning sycophant at best or a stalker at worst. Spend too little and you're the office putz.

Deftly spotting the right gift for under five bucks is they key. It's actually an art, to be sure, but we're here to help. Below are "5 under $5" -- five gifts that you can buy at Seward Co-op for under five bucks with commentary so you can learn the Art of Giving the Less-Than-Five Dollar Gift.

Image1) A Strange and Unusual Plant

In the Seward Plant and Flower section right now, we have some fun little plant-lings: Odd, variegated ivies, succulents and cacti, and even some Venus Flytraps (those are $7, truth be told). Most are just $3, and they are super cute.

PRO: Green, life-giving, lovely, with a positive message, the plant gift is a good call, especially if it's pretty and unique. CON: You have saddled a co-worker with the care of a living thing.

Image2) True Melange Votive Candles

Beautiful "Authentic Aromatherapy" candles from True Melange are a good idea: They're attractive and smell terrific. The Lavender-Blood Orange says it promotes "Reflecting," and it's just $2.99.

PRO: A nice message of spirituality and meditativeness, especially for a grieving co-worker. CON: A "Reflecting" candle isn't a good gift for a manager. (Don't want to give him/her the opportunity for "reflecting" on your performance. Amateur move.)

Image3) A slice of bulk Zumbar Sandalwood-Citrus Soap

Zumbar's bulk soap is colorful, all the scents are lush and unique, and cutting it yourself with the cool serrated soap-blade actually makes it look even fancier. Best of all, a quarter pound slice of Zumbar will cost less than five dollars.

PRO: The gift of Bulk Zumbar will make you look innovative and thoughtful. CON: Giving soap as a present? Proceed with caution!

4) Aura Cacia Mineral Bath Salts

These are simply some of the best bath salts around. Aura Cacia is a terrific company , they make a very clean product with delicious scents, and at $3.49 each, it's high-value at low price.

PRO: All your co-workers are stressed out, so Aura Cacia is the right tool for the right job. Consider it an investment in your workplace's collective peace of mind. CON: See soap.

Image5) $5 worth of Premium Bulk Coffee

A small bag of coffee makes a nice gift, especially if it's a top-end, gourmet roaster. Kickapoo Coffee has won so many awards they had to add a new wing down in Veroqua, Wisconsin. We HIGHLY recommend their Cast Iron Blend, which is dark as a northwoods-camping night and just as romantically smoky. In our bulk department, you can take just a half pound of this superb artisan blend coffee.

PRO: It's coffee! CON: You're setting the bar pretty high with Kickapoo. You're all but committing yourself to spending more than $5 next time...