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10 Tips to Setting and Maximizing Your Employee Swag Budget in 2021

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As you work through your marketing strategy, remember to include employee swag into your budget. Not only is your branded-swag a vital tool in onboarding your new hires and encouraging all employees, including those working remotely, but it should also be considered in all fixed and variable costs for an event.

The importance of event budgeting (with swag included) cannot be overlooked as this will later help measure your event’s return on investment. Because your branded swag at events will most likely include props, giveaways, drawings, door prizes, incentives, and staff apparel, by not factoring it into your event budget, you could skew your overall results. 

Our 10 Tips to Setting and Maximizing Your Employee Swag Budget in 2021 will help you factor in the “extras” your budget needs as well as all the “savings” you'll want to maximize your efforts. Plus, see an average and generous swag budget example. 

Setting Budget Tips:

1. Divide the budget quarterly or semi-annually.

A good way to swag estimate technique for quarterly budgets is to keep your first, second, and third quarter budgets the same and have your fourth quarter budget larger. With a bigger budget at the end of the year, you will have extra money to use on holiday gifts for your employees. This can also be applied to semi-annual budgets by leaving your last half of the budget larger.

2. Make sure to include shipping, warehousing and fulfillment fees.

With more and more distributed teams and employees working remote, having all of your company’s swag items at your main office for employees to pick up is probably no longer a viable option. Because of this, there will be more administrative fees that haven’t been needed in the past. Forgetting to include these costs in your budget could mean having to skimp on your branded promotional items later or having to risk going over budget.

3. Anticipate the number of new employees onboarded this year.

By incorporating your new hire projections into your order budget, you have the potential to save money through volume discounts. For the most savings, place one large order for the entire year as opposed to breaking it out by quarter. By placing a large bulk order, you will pay less pay per unit. For example, purchasing 50 branded tee shirts throughout the year will cost more per piece than if you purchase 500 tee shirts for the entire year.

4. Have a buffer budgeted for special occasions.

From rebrands and anniversaries to company milestones, celebrating special occasions are a fun way to boost consumer and employee engagement and exponentially increase your content marketing efforts. 

- Reach a social media milestone—like 10K or more followers? Have a giveaway!

- Did your company win an industry award? Celebrate!

- Have a new product launching soon? Throw an unveiling party.

- Hire new employees? Congratulate them on professional sites, like Linked In.

- Hit your company’s give-back goal? Go live on Facebook with the news. 

5. Find out what other companies are spending.

Not sure how much you should spend on your employee swag? See examples below of a swag budget broken out per employee per year for both, an average and more generous, budget.

Small to average size employee swag budgets:

For small businesses or average size companies, a promotional budget example could be $250 per employee per year, broken out by quarter using the most spending for the 4th quarter. So for example, spending $50 for first through third quarters and $100 for fourth quarter, you give your employees amazing branded gear. 

1st quarter: Patagonia Hip Pack and Nalgene Bottle ($50)

Employees will love swag similar to this Patagonia hip pack that keeps the essentials accessible, while folding up in a self-contained pocket for easy concealment. Another great swag option for your first quarter is a reusable water bottle. And who can resist a fun 16-oz. bottle with easy-to-carry top loop, like this one from Glossier? 

2nd quarter: Kinto Set of Cups and Reborn Coffee ($50)

A multitasking mug for any home or work office is the perfect for showing employees your appreciation. Plus, with drama-free features like microwave and dishwasher safe and a double wall design-- so long coasters, you’ll wish everything could multitask this good. 

The stuff legends are made out of: grit, determination, compassion and coffee. When it’s time to celebrate legendary teams, nothing beats the can-do spirit of coffee.  

3rd quarter: Crewneck Sweatshirt and Custom Socks ($50) 

Not just any swag sweatshirt. As a hands-down, consistent swag favorite, the sweatshirt is on-trend, functional and a swag marketing genius for its year-round wear in and out of the office. Socks, everybody needs them, yet no one wants to think about them. When it comes to branded swag, a pair of socks will help keep them on their toes.  

4th quarter: Custom Topo Design Backpack ($100)

Holidays, winter vacations, and dreams of a new year. When it comes to fourth quarter employee swag, remind them why you couldn’t have gotten this far without them. An unforgettable gift, like this branded backpack that goes the extra mile in features, is sure to do the trick!  


Generous size employee swag budgets:

Want to invest a little more on your employee swag? A bigger budget will give you  more choices when it comes to choosing your promotional gear. Here’s a look at the breakdown for a more generous budget of $500 per employee per year broken into  $100 allotments for first through third quarters, followed by $100 for the last quarter.  

1st quarter: Nike Jacket and Nike Duffle ($100)

Whether it’s to help them achieve their fitness goals or their commitment to work life balance, a hard working duffel bag sets a great example. A stylish, multitasking jacket that helps fight the cold can only be made better when it’s shared with coworkers. Perfect for your outdoor team building event. 

2nd quarter: Homedics Air Purifier ($100)

Big goals and healthy living. Treat your teams to a gift that gives back like the  TotalClean® 360 Tower Air Purifier with built in night-light.


3rd quarter: Custom Slippers, Towel and Candle Set ($100)



Refuel your hard working teams with swag that lets them rejoice in the little things, like a super absorbent towel, plush slippers, and a candle when it’s time to relax. 

4th quarter: Yeti Cooler Bag, Matador Blanket, JBL Wireless Speaker ($200)

When it’s time to congratulate a job well done, a high quality bluetooth speaker will let them keep the party going long after quittin’ time. For your outdoorsy employees who find love connecting with nature, a well crafted picnic blanket for weekends and a lunch box cooler for their commute is just what they need to rejuvenate!  

Maximizing Budget Tips:

Looking to save cost while maximizing the best company swag for employees? Our 5 tips will help you get the most out of your branded promotional gear. 

1. Take advantage of product bulk discounts.

Just like the words FREE are music to customers ears, bulk savings can be like a symphony to your swag budget. For example, you may not receive a discount for placing a 50 unit. Whereas, placing a 200 unit order upfront has the potential to unlock a 15% discount. In addition to your volume discount, you will also reduce any set-up or shipping charges should you have inventory issues later on.

QUICK TIP: You can still take advantage of bulk pricing even if you don’t know how or when you will use your excess inventory. Just make sure your design is on brand and timeless and you choose sustainable swag items that your employees (or customers) will love. 

2. Partner with a swag vendor that provides shipping discounts, shipping materials, and labor.

A beautiful partnership is everything. When it’s time to find your swag vendor make sure you ask about any discounts your company can receive on shipping, materials and labor. Afterall, you don’t want to sacrifice the cost of your swag item just to ship it to you.

3. Offload warehousing to your swag vendor.

When it comes to choosing a swag vendor, you will also want to look for those who can warehouse your merchandise should you need it. Along with pricing, quality printing, and options for sustainable products, investing in a swag vendor, like Gemnote, that you trust to handle your company’s promotional products and inventory, will save you time, money and headaches later on.

4. Simplify your designs with a designer.

The more colors in your logo or design will directly affect your overall cost. By simplifying your design with just 1-2 colors, you will save on customization costs. Likewise, if you incorporate a rainbow or gradient of colors, you will see the price of your order go up very quickly! Simplifying how many locations you print on will also save you money. For example printing on one side of a tote or just the back of a tee shirt, will cost less than printing on both sides.

BONUS: In addition to color and savings, investing in a timeless, well thought out design on the front end, means you should be able to keep your sustainable merch on rotation and add to your swag library with minimal effort. See design tips for creating memorable swag for employees and consumers. If you are outsourcing your design, be sure to get all of the hi res files for future designs.

5. Avoid inventory issues by planning and ordering ahead.

There’s something to be said for buying in bulk. Not only will you save per piece on larger quantities, but you’ll avoid rush shipping charges and printer set up fees if you should run out. 


SWAG, or stuff we all get, is a great way for companies to put their marketing dollars toward items that advertise their company while delighting their consumers and helping their employees feel valued.

Wondering why promotional budgeting is important for an event?


One way conference attendees can justify the price for admission is by comparing what they will receive at an event. Events and their respective budgets will vary greatly between companies and industries, but below is one way to offset an event cost.  

Example:  if it costs $100 to attend a one-day event which includes a swag goodie bag at check in, snacks and a boxed lunch, notebook and pen to take notes, a special networking event or meet and greet with the guest speaker, and a 10% discount on goods and services, attendees may see that as getting their money worth. This is in addition to the valuable information they will receive at your event and if the opportunity (of available) to win a door  prize or special drawing. 

Everything that you offer at your event should be used to promote it as well. By marketing your promotional giveaways, you could help offset the custom swag boxes price you’re investing in by increasing your attendance. 

Branded swag gear like employee apparel is a great way to highlight any staff you may have working your event. And the best company swag for employees is the kind they will want to wear long after your event is over. When it comes to employee swag like tees, stainless steel mugs, and other items they can wear outside of your office or event, you may want to think of it as Return On Impressions as opposed to Return on Investment. 

Bonus: 5 Best budget swag for events: 


  • Tee shirts are always a crowd pleaser and come in a wide range of options to suit almost every marketing budget. They can also help attendees easily locate your staff should they need to.


  • Tote bags are an inexpensive swag item that almost every event attendee will appreciate! If your budget includes a festival budget breakdown, don’t forget to factor in a reusable tote bag so that they can easily carry all their goodies throughout the day.


  • Notebooks and pens may seem old school, your event or conference attendees will want to be able to take notes and easily share information. And, unless you are offering charging stations, many people can’t count on their smart devices to take  notes throughout. If your conference is more than day, you may even invest in power banks that attendees can purchase or to use as drawing giveaways.


  • Reusable tumblers are another way to save and be green. Instead of providing water bottles, give guests a tuber at check in. These are also great for your traveling sales teams and remote employees who will soon be commuting to the office. 

If you’re still trying to decide which event type will work best for your company, think outside the box. For now a virtual event will probably be best as we continue to fight the pandemic. But don’t worry, virtual events have come a long way in the last year, and people are more apt and ready to connect online than ever.

Next as you think through your IRL or virtual event budget, make sure you account for everything on your event budget checklist—no matter how small. From marketing, swag, and accommodations, you’ll soon see why budgeting is important for a event. And, once you have your event budget checklist ironed out, you can start creating your event budget.  


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