When I graduated from high school, I received a matching set of luggage to take me off to college. I used it for years. When I graduated from college, the best gifts I got were cash, because I had student loans to repay.
Surprisingly enough, those two gifts still stand the test of time.
But there are a lot of other gifts that give you (and the recipient) a lot of bang for the buck.
Yes, you can always give a gift card, especially if you know the graduate is particularly fond of a restaurant they can’t normally afford, or a store they adore but that carries pricier stuff than they usually buy. But they’re not very memorable. Twenty years from now, will they still remember what you got them?
Here are some great graduation gifts that cost less than $50, but will remind the grad that you thought of them.
An attaché case: Enough with the backpacks, already. Many discount department stores, such as Ross Dress for Less, Marshalls and T.J. Maxx, carry nice leather briefcases and attaché cases for under $50. For a young grad a leather soft-sided briefcase might be just the thing. Check Amazon, where you can find this genuine leather soft-sided briefcase marked down 58% for under $23. If your grad is going on to college or into a desk job with a company, this accessory sets him or her apart as businesslike and organized.
Personalized laundry bag: Filled with basic laundry products, and maybe a few extra towels, this is great gift for college-bound kids. Nothing really says “Off to the Real World” like having to wash your own underwear. The bag is less than $20 at Gifts for You Now. Other styles are also available.
Fortune-keeper bracelet: For the girl grad, Uncommon Goods offers a lovely Japanese flower-motif enameled band with silver links and — on the inside of the band — a place to put your favorite inspirational fortune cookie saying. At $49, it’s a piece of age-appropriate jewelry that she can keep and wear for a long time.
Photo album or frame: This gift of photos from the graduate’s childhood and teen years will be treasured forever. If a photo album is too old school, buy a digital photo frame and upload pictures of the grad as a child on Santa’s lap, going to that first day of school or goofing off at a Sweet 16 party. A number of stores carry digital frames — Staples offers one for under $25 — and they often can be found on sale. Another idea: A printed photo book from a website like Shutterfly.
Costco or Sam’s Club membership: These memberships generally run $50, and will help the young adult save money every time he or she shops. Check out which discount warehouse clubs are in the area where they plan to live.
Electronics: Shopping for electronics can be tricky: By the time you get the latest and greatest, the technology has changed. If your grad has a favorite electronics store, your best bet is to go with a gift certificate. If he or she needs a new laptop, team up with other relatives or friends to get enough money to buy one.
Go whimsical: Try to be practical, but have some fun, too. If you give a check or gift card, add a warm pair of mittens to the grad headed to a northern college. Or slip a check into a pair of wildly colored flip-flops to the graduate headed to southern climes. After all, it’s a time to celebrate.
Graduation photo by Sippakorn, freedigitalphotos.net.