Budgeting · Recommendations

Graduation gifts on a budget

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It’s graduation season! My sister is graduating from college next month, and I can’t be prouder of her. Because I’m the oldest sibling and she’s the youngest, I’ve had a tendency to spoil her with gifts since I started working. She’s going on an extended Europe trip this summer, so my gift to her is part preparation for her trip, part preparation for grad school, which she’s starting this fall. Spoiling my sister aside, graduation gifts are not worth breaking the bank for. That said, it’s definitely something that needs to be celebrated! Here are some ideas on how to pick out presents that actually show you put some thought into a gift, instead just throwing money or a gift card. Regardless of whether the graduate is your friend, child, parent, sibling, or significant other, I think these are all great gifts!

Generic options for any grad:

Dr. Seuss’ classic, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! is a book you can never go wrong with. There’s also a graduation edition that I personally think is too expensive. Instead, get the regular book, and write a very personal note. It’ll mean the world. Take the extra step and have important figures in the graduate’s life (teachers, professors, parents, etc) write a paragraph of encouragement. That makes a gift like this an automatic keepsake. When I graduated from college, one of my best friends gifted me this book, and also attached a pair of pearl earrings on the inside cover (also a timeless gift). It was extremely touching, and I’ll always remember it.

For the high school grad:

A rapid ramen cooker. Not only is this a funny gift, but it’s useful, too! Although a ramen diet should not be encouraged in college, I would consider it more a rite of passage. Plus, there’s little more satisfying than late night ramen when studying for an early morning exam.

A college-bound grad needs dorm room supplies. These bed risers will give him or her so much extra storage space under the bed, with extra outlets for convenience. Everyone’s got so many devices these days; outlets are definitely valued. Why it’s unique: who in the world has bed risers with outlets? This will set your college freshman apart from dorm buddies, lol.

For the college grad:

An “everything” skillet. For college grads starting the next stage of their life in a new city, having a single pot that can pretty much do everything is almost priceless. Unless this grad is a genius in the kitchen, he/she probably doesn’t want to deal with the trouble of having a bunch of cookware to move. A good skillet with deep sides can do pasta, stir-fry, omelets, and even saucy dishes. Stainless steel can handle more wear and tear even when it’s not treated well.

Not all grads are willing to dive into the world of meal prep, but if your college grad is, consider gifting a slow cooker. It a huge time-saver, and cost-saver, too! Check out my review on different food saver options if you want to compare different products.

You know what goes well with cookware? Cookbooks. Thug Kitchen is a fun one that (hopefully) makes cooking more interesting to those who have not traditionally been cooking-inclined.

For my female grads: this edition of Lean In is perfect. It’s got additional sections on salary negotiations and navigating your first job search, which is so relevant at this age. For those ladies who are a little more against the grain, gift #GirlBoss. It’s under $10 and is full of motivational sh*t. Who run the world? GIRLS.

For the professional school grad:

This is a toughie. At this point in life, your graduate is solidly into adulthood and needs adult presents. If it’s appropriate, why not gift Dave Ramsey’s classic, The Total Money Makeover? It’s a personal finance classic, and a favorite among this community. The bigger we get, the better.

You know what also is always a good gift? Things that go well with booze, like these bartending glasses. Older graduates tend to have their lives mostly figured out at this point, so worry less about things the graduate needs, and more about things they can use.

Hopefully, these ideas sparked some inspiration! I think the most important thing is to find a gift that’s meaningful and can be used. If it’s meaningful and not useful, it becomes a keepsake, and keepsakes eventually become trash. If it’s useful and not meaningful, it loses its uniqueness. You want to gift something you’ll be remembered by! For some of the more generic gift ideas, think of a way to personalize it, whether it’s having something engraved or including a personal note. Happy graduation season to all!


2 thoughts on “Graduation gifts on a budget

  1. Oh damn I totally forgot it was graduation season! It’s also wedding season, so I’ve been knee-deep in Save The Dates. As a college grad I would have really liked small appliances like a crock pot and coffee pot. Or hell, even a gift card to Goodwill would have done wonders. My sister made me an “adulting” basket when I graduated. It had all kinds of things like toilet paper, snacks, a medical kit, and more.


    1. I totally agree! Small appliances were so valuable to me; really, anything that helped bear the cost of moving out from under my parents’ wing. An “adulting” basket sounds like the perfect gift for grads!


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