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Budget-Friendly Gifts for Teachers

Susan Yoo-Lee

In case you forgot, I'm here to remind you that this week is Teacher Appreciation Week.

Our nations' educators wake up every day to inspire, teach and establish building blocks for our children's future. Often times, their hard work goes unnoticed because it's expected of them. Some might say it's their job and it pays their bills.

That might be true, but most teachers are underpaid, overworked and often times deal with difficult situations. With schools undergoing major cuts and teachers having to fork over their own hard-earned money to pay for supplies, books and more, our teachers deserve to be thanked at least once a year.

Big or small, recognizing your teacher for all that they do goes a long way. If your money situation is very tight, have your child create a homemade card that says, "Thank You" or, "You're the Best Teacher." The thought and time that goes into it will have your teacher smiling from ear to ear. (And even if you give a gift, you should still include a homemade card created by your child.)

For those of you that are looking to get a nice but budget-friendly gift for your teacher, here are some ideas that will bring smiles to your teacher without hurting your wallet. Also, don't forget school librarians, art teachers, music teachers, tutors and other specialized educators.

Starbucks or Target Gift Card. As boring as it might sound, teachers love getting gift cards. Last year, I went onto a message board about Teacher Appreciation gifts where many teachers chimed in. The majority said that they loved receiving gifts cards, especially to Starbucks, since they drink coffee, and Target, where they buy many essentials, including school supplies. The best part about gift cards is that they never expire and they fit almost any budget since you can decide how much you put on it. If you want to have the safest gift option, this would be it!

Movie Tickets. Many teachers like going out to the movies. It's a way for them to unwind from the hectic week and just sit back and let the movie do the talking. Movies tend to be pretty expensive, depending on where you live. In my area, a movie at regular showing will cost about $11 per person and up. If you go to Costco, they sell a package of two movie tickets for $16.99, which saves you over $5. Not only can your teacher can enjoy a night out, but they can take their significant other with them, too, or save a ticket for another solo night.

DIY Flowers. Last year, I gifted my oldest daughter's teacher and my youngest daughter's five preschool teachers with flowers in a vase. I bought a bouquet from Trader Joe's for $6.99 each and bought nice-looking vases from Michaels for around $6. I tied a burlap bow around each vase to give it that designer look. Once I was finished with them, they each looked like $70 floral arrangements from the local florist. All the teachers thanked me and said it brightened up their classrooms and made them smell good.

Hobbies. Whether your teacher is a foodie or a sports enthusiast, you can gift them with a day to enjoy their hobbies. You can go on deal sites such as Groupon, Living Social or Amazon Local to find some of their favorite restaurants or workout programs. This would be a perfect gift if you know what your teacher likes doing off hours. Before you confirm your purchase, make sure you look for coupons for those deal sites because they will take anywhere from $5 to 15 percent off the price.

Sweets. On that same board that I was on for Teacher Appreciation Week, about half the teachers said that they hated receiving baked goods and sweets because they were trying to lose weight or that they received too much of it. However, there were also a good amount of teachers who said that they enjoyed receiving baked goods, especially home-baked goods that they could share with their family. If your teacher loves your homemade brownies or cookies, make them a batch and put it in a nice box or container.

Any of these ideas, or simply a handmade card, will show your teachers that you appreciate all that they do.

Susan Yoo-Lee is the editor of Savings.com personal finance blog and founder of Mommas in the House blog.

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