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The $5 Classroom Gift Basket


Back in December I was planning out gifts for everyone and one of Hope’s posts made me realize I had neglected taking into consideration teacher gifts! I rectified the situation by going a super low-cost route. I ended up giving each teacher (we have 3:  a lead teacher and 2 teacher’s helpers) a holiday card from our family, a $5 gift card to Starbucks, a personal note, and a hand-colored picture made by the girls (I wrote about it here). I got some flack from some of the readers about cheaping out on holiday gifts, particularly since I ended up getting all three of the $5 gift cards for free (paid for by a random stranger doing the “pay if forward” thing in the Starbucks line). Also, right around the same time, a classroom Wish List appeared on our girls’ classroom door.


Sorry so blurry! I felt like a weirdo taking a picture of the list so I did it in a hurry. Really I was just trying to take a picture so I could easily reference the Wish List instead of having to remember items off the top of my head.

Back in December I really didn’t have the extra money to get any of the class wish list items, nor did I in January. But, gosh darn it, I was determined to get together a nice little basket of things for the class in February. Plus, I stopped focusing on all the things I thought I “couldn’t afford” or couldn’t get to fit within our weekly budget, and started focusing on the normal things we’ve already got around our house that I could donate. After several weeks of collecting items and a single trip to the Dollar Store where I spent a total of $5 out-of-pocket, I have finally pulled together what I consider to be a pretty decent little gift basket.

Behold…the $5 Classroom Gift Basket


Contents include:

  • 2 bottles of shaving cream ($1 each, from Dollar Tree)
  • 2 packages of colored pom poms, 80 count ($1 each, from Dollar Tree)
  • 8 cardboard toilet paper rolls
  • 1 cardboard paper towel roll
  • 1 cardboard egg carton (not pictured above, I added later)
  • 1 empty tissue box stuffed full of plastic grocery bags
  • 1 cutesy and reusable basket ($1, from Dollar Tree)

I know its nothing extravagant or crazy. I literally only spent a total of $5 on it all together ($1 for basket, $2 for shaving cream, $2 for colored pom poms). But I know that all these materials will be used to create cute and fun craft projects that will help enrich my girls’ days while at preschool. And I also think it’s not always the amount of money that is spent, it’s the thought and effort that goes into the gift. I’ve literally been hoarding old toilet paper rolls for 2 months now to amass these 8 rolls! We rarely use paper towels anymore (instead I use old baby burpcloths or washcloths), but I still use them for occasional cleaning so I was able to get together a single paper towel roll. The point is, I’ve actually put some thought and effort into getting these things together. It’s not a big deal to simply save an old toilet paper roll, but you have to consciously think about it instead of mindlessly tossing it in the trash. And I think I get some points on the presentation of it all in a cute (but cheap) dollar store basket, instead of simply throwing it all in a grocery bag or something (not that anything is wrong with that and I’m sure they’d still appreciate the donation, but I made an effort to make it look nice).

So I’m proud of my little classroom gift basket!

The preschool is pushing for pre-enrollment for the 2015-2016 year, now. I’ve been putting it off for now (I want to wait so I know if I’ll have a full time job or not, since that would obviously impact our enrollment), but I know that we love the preschool we’re at! The teachers are fabulous, the staff is friendly and accommodating, and there’s so much community involvement (e.g., live musicians perform on Fridays, there’s an art gallery that rotates monthly, different outreach activities, etc.). I just love it and I want the teachers to know that I appreciate their hard work. I know it’s a tuition-based preschool (not a free public school), but I still know that teachers often buy extra supplies out of pocket and it makes me feel good to be able to contribute in some small way, and barely spend any money in the process!

Here’s the final product (with egg carton now also shoved into the overflowing basket; toilet paper rolls are now hidden beneath the tissue box & pom poms). Not too shabby, if I do say so myself! ; )


Psst: Did you miss my kid’s Valentine’s Day craft? May be too late to mail (though better late than never), but if you’ve got family in town it’s not too late to still be done in time for the holiday! If you haven’t yet, check it out here.


  • Reply Den |

    Love the supply basket! And since your girls will be in school for the next 12 years, you may want to consider having a tub in your house that you can collect school supplies whenever you see them on sale/discount (or toilet paper rolls/empty oatmeal containers/paper towel rolls as they get used in your home). I always stock up in August on school supplies (dirt cheap paper, pencils, tape, glue sticks, etc) and use the supply during the rest of the year so I don’t have to pay full price. I also check out the discounted/sale racks all year round for craft supplies. For pennies you can amass quite a bit of school/craft stuff all year long. And our teachers always ask for Kleenex, hand sanitizer, baby wipes….

  • Reply Sue |

    Brilliant idea – I love the plastic bags in the tissue holder – why have I never thought of this???? I know from volunteering in a 1st grade classroom, supplies like this are ALWAYS needed and, at least our school district, doesn’t supply “art” supplies which are so important to the kids. I am only a volunteer (I did work at this school for 15 years though) but I myself have bought glue sticks for the kids at least 3 times this year – great idea by Den to stock up when things are dirt cheap. Even though my kids are 20 & 29, no reason I can’t do that and donate them to the classroom!

  • Reply Sarah |

    I think this is beautiful and the preschool is going to love it. A lot of thought went into it. You included so many things from their list. No need to spend money when they ask for TP rolls and plastic bags :-).

    Also, don’t worry about taking pictures. That is what people do these days. We were at church and there was some information I needed. I asked for a flyer and someone said “Why don’t you just take a picture of it?”. That had never occurred to me.

    Where do you live where you still get plastic bags? They are banned here and we are running out!

    • Reply Ashley |

      I live in Tucson! They’re banned where my Mom lives (in Austin), so I was thinking of doing a similar thing for her (an old tissue box stuffed with a bunch of bags). They’re handy to use for trash can liners and I know she misses having them! Austin is the only place I’ve heard of that has banned them – where do you live (jus curious)?

      • Reply Sarah |

        We are in the San Francisco Bay Area. Banned every where around here. Paper bags, which we use for garbage, are 25 cents each if you need them to carry out groceries. We were in Palm Springs over Christmas and shopped a lot at Target. Brought all the plastic bags home in our luggage!

        • Reply Ashley |

          Whoa! I guess I’m not surprised that the Bay Area has banned grocery bags, but I can’t believe they’re charging 25 cents per paper bag! Seems like highway robbery – they probably cost fractions of a cent to the merchant! In my Mom’s area (Austin) if they need to buy bags they have the reusable ones for $1, or disposable ones for 10 cents each.

  • Reply Cori |

    I am a teacher…I would love this gift. The Starbucks gift card is a nice touch and it wouldn’t bother me to know you received it free. I don’t care for Starbucks so I would just pass it on to someone else and would love doing so.

So, what do you think ?