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Five Ways to Thank Your Team without Breaking the Bank | LiquidPlanner

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Five Ways to Thank Your Team without Breaking the Bank

With Thanksgiving in a couple of days and the December holidays approaching, I’m reminded of the importance of taking the time to recognize the team. As managers, we should recognize teams frequently, but the end of the year usually provides us with formal opportunity. Project teams work long hours to deliver seemingly never-ending projects, and it can be exhausting tackling issue after issue. When the project finally ends (and they all do), it is important to recognize the team’s contributions.

Of course, everyone would like more money, but a raise is only a temporary motivator and usually occurs annually. Team celebrations and end-of-year parties always help, but when the budget is tight, managers sometimes need to get creative in finding cost-effective ways to thank their teams for a job well done without having to get CFO approval, even if it means funding them yourself.

Here are five ways to thank your team without breaking the bank or your personal budget.

Team Thank You #1—Grab a Pizza

In Detroit, we’ve got Buddy’s Pizza—a Metro Detroit icon since 1946 with fantastic pizza. I’m sure you have a similar old school pizza establishment in your town. If you’re stuck for a fantastic pizza location, just go to and search your city for the best pizza. Pizza works great because it appeases the vegetarians and the meat eaters as you can split a couple of pizza pies, salads, and breadsticks. At $20 a pie, the most you’re going to spend on a ten-person team is about $200 for lunch.

In a recent project, our discretionary budget was low, so I split the $200 lunch tab with the other manager. In other projects, I’ve just paid for lunch out of pocket. Spending a Ben Franklin or two and bringing the team together is well worth the team building and relationships forged over a slice.

Team Thank You #2—Buy the First Round of Drinks

It may not be HR approved or politically correct, but team building over a glass of wine or a local craft beer is a good idea! Even if you don’t drink, getting outside the office and socializing with your team members and coworkers helps to improve team relationships.

If you want to reward the team informally, without appearing as “the boss,” simply schedule a happy hour after work and offer to buy the first round of drinks. It is a socially acceptable way to say thanks, let’s relax, and have a beverage.

I recently went to a happy hour with my team and other peers, and we realized that we need to get out more often and simply socialize. We spend so much time in meetings and exchanging emails, texts, and instant messages that we don’t invest time in getting to know one another. Offering to meet up at a local watering hole after work and buying the first round is a nice way to get everyone together.

What if people don’t drink?

I’ll also buy a couple of appetizers, and soft drinks are a low-cost addition to the bar bill.

Team Thank You #3—Get Vendor Swag

If you don’t have the budget to reward your team, chances are your software vendor does! Sales representatives and marketing departments often have discretionary budgets to take team members out to lunch as well as pallets of notebooks, mouse pads, T-shirts, and pens. If your team has accomplished a significant milestone using a vendor’s software solution, simply ask your sales representative if they have any promotional materials.

I’ve done this multiple times and have found vendors are always willing to get their branded material onto people’s desks. That is why they have a marketing budget!

Team Thank You #4—Give a Book

A fun way to reward an individual or a group is with a book! I’m a fan of personal productivity and books that help team members accomplish their goals. Each book is $10–$15 and are excellent ways to thank a team with some knowledge bombs! Below are my top five recommendations.

GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

GRIT is an inspirational read that cultivates and grows the drive for results and perseverance to deliver despite business challenges.

The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

The Miracle Morning provides best practices and sound advice on how to be more productive even though getting up before 5 a.m. can be difficult to do!

The One Thing by Gary Keller

The One Thing help you solve the feeling of being overwhelmed by providing a clear way of prioritizing tasks and to actually make progress towards goals in less time.

Getting to Yes by Fisher and Ury

I read Getting to Yes over 15 years ago, and the importance of a BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) still stands out and is useful in contract negotiations.

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need by Daniel Pink

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko is an easy and fun career book disguised as a graphic novel.  A perfect gift that reinforces solid career planning principles.

Books make great gifts and last a lot longer than a lunch does.

Team Thank You #5—Pen a Handwritten Note

In the days of Google Docs, Facebook wedding invitations, and pre-preprinted thank you notes, the handwritten note on good ol’ stationary is still a welcome and thoughtful thank you. One year I received a personal thank you note from our IT director written on her own personal stationery. I was impressed she had her own monogrammed stationery but was even more impressed she had taken the time to write a few thoughtful words recognizing the accomplishments.

It only took her a few minutes to put meaningful words to paper, yet it is a thank you I still remember!

Thanking your team doesn’t have to break the bank. It always helps when the company can fund a nice evening out for the team or a lunch that goes beyond $8 per person. However, budgets are tight, and if you can’t get your company to fund team recognition, hopefully, these ideas will help!

How do you thank your team? Let us know in the comments below.



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