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Graduation Gifts on the Cheap: Thoughtful Gift Ideas

collegegraduationAs we reach the end of the school year, many college graduates are preparing to cross the stage and accept the degree they’ve worked so hard to earn. The best gift you can give them is one that will be useful and appreciated in the next stage of their lives, whether they plan to enter college or the workforce. We’ve come up with a list of the most thoughtful and affordable gifts that you can put together for your favorite graduate.

The “Welcome to College” Survival Kit – Making the switch to living on their own after relying on Mom and Dad to provide all household goods can be difficult for any high school grad. Get a laundry basket or laundry sack (another must-have for any college kid), then fill it up with travel-size goods and free samples. You can request free samples from Walmart and Target if you check daily for new offers. You can go to your local dollar store and grab a few items as well. We suggest:

  • Toothpaste and extra toothbrush
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Batteries
  • Advil or Tylenol
  • Alka-Seltzer and Tums
  • Shower sandals/flip flops
  • Waterproof basket for carrying toiletries to the shower
  • Plastic cups and plates
  • Deodorant
  • First aid kit
  • Computer paper and an extra ink cartridge

The “Welcome to the Real World” Survival Kit – Is your graduate heading to their first apartment? They’re going to need a few items around the house that you can easily put together on the cheap. Buy an inexpensive oven mitt and stuff it with wooden cooking utensils like spatulas and spoons purchased from a dollar store or bargain shop. You can include other kitchen necessities, like kitchen towels, meat thermometers, dish scrubbers, and serving utensils.

The “Please Stay in Touch” gift – You may wonder if your grad is ever going to keep in touch. Luckily, these days, most of us have access to FaceTime, and long-distance calls are no longer the pricy indulgence they once were. Skype gift cards, however, ensure that the grad is able to connect with you and anyone else he or she may want to contact. But for the international grad, consider the purchase of a phone card or pre-paid cell phone with international coverage. You can also gift some nice stationery and stamps, which the grad will hopefully use to write you a thank you note.

The “No, I’m Not Crying” sentimental gift – You’ve watched the grad grow and develop, and maybe you have some great memories to share. Put together an inexpensive photo album with memories and thoughts. This creative dad put his gift plan in action when his daughter was in pre-school, having every teacher she ever had write a message and sign a copy of Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go. You can do something similar, or make a mix CD (or shareable playlist) with songs that you think the grad will love, or from the year the grad was born. For a fun blast from the past, you could make a playlist of songs that came out from every school year for the grad, K-12.

Financial Preparedness Kit – Many grads, at both high school and college, are not educated in personal finance. Get them a personal finance kit, or print out some of our resources for grads and students from our Youth and Money Resources. You can also get them some personal finance advice books to make sure that they don’t end up with lots of debt or run into credit problems.

Do you have any other ideas for cheap graduation gifts? Share in the comments below!

This month, we’re polling readers about their tax returns. Did you get one? How did you spend yours? Visit our poll page and take the quick poll (no registration or sign-in required!)

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