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All through the month of May, nervous but excited young adults will be receiving college diplomas and leaving their home for the last four years to start a new stage in their lives.
Families, friends, and loved ones will be looking for ways to celebrate them and to ease the transition however they can.
Depending on how close you are to the graduate in your life, a big graduation gift might not be necessary, but you probably don’t want to show up empty-handed either. Even something small is nice, and especially on another person’s big day, the thought alone will carry more weight than the gift itself.
For others, you might just be looking for small, inexpensive gifts to supplement the check or cash you’re planning to slip them to help ease the financial burden of becoming an adult in earnest.
Using input from colleagues, fellow students, and my own input as a graduate-to-be, I’ve rounded up 16 of the most thoughtful gifts you could give for less than $50, so you can pick one up or mix and match a few to suit your graduate.
A well-loved business book meant to motivate
Even though the long-awaited end to classes might make some graduates vow never to open another book, doing exactly that would be a major disadvantage. If your graduate wants to get ahead in life, inspirational and pointed books like the one we’ve chosen will help them to cultivate the skills they need, build confidence and vocabulary, and sustain their desire to make an impact.
A framed college memory
Framebridge is one of our favorite photo services because they make framing your memories and pictures easier and more affordable than ever. If you want to commemorate the years they’ve spent in college, or, if they’re going far from home for a job opportunity — frame a nice picture of their loved ones. It’s thoughtful, sweet, and something they’ll likely be glad to have.
An Echo Dot
This hands-free, voice-controlled device uses Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, make calls, send and receive messages, provide information, read the news, set alarms, read audiobooks from Audible, and a bunch more. Plus, it’s a bargain deal for that much convenience from a piece of tech that costs less than $50.
A monogrammed planner
Life is extremely busy in college. After college, it’s even more so. Getting a monogrammed planner for your graduate is a thoughtful way of keeping them organized and looking professional and prepared.
A fun cookbook
As I’ve said before, a lot of graduates are coming out of school with little knowledge of cuisine or the human palette as it pertains to tastes not covered in mac and cheese or $1 pizza. Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook is one that most graduates will have heard about beforehand — which is really saying something. The recipes focus on meals you’ll actually want to eat, and they’re simple enough to follow even as a beginner.
A wine gift set
If your graduate likes to have a glass of wine once in awhile, Winc has some of the best gift sets for them. Their cheapest option presents a bottle of wine and four gourmet caramel popcorn flavors in a nice suitcase-like box delivered to their home.
Though it might seem like the kind of gift that doesn’t inspire fireworks and confetti, graduates are at a unique point in their lives where budget and big life decisions mean there’s heightened importance where utility is concerned. They might not think to buy stationery themselves, and if they’re going to be writing thank-you notes for the gifts or really any handwritten note, they’ll be happy to have this in their possession.
Flowers — you can really never go wrong with them. Sending a nice bouquet doesn’t have to break the bank, and it’s a nice way to remind your graduate of their accomplishment and how proud you are of them for many days after the event itself. Plus, by ordering online and having them delivered, you won’t have to walk around holding them, and neither will they.
A book meant to inspire
Not every book your graduate reads must be business-oriented and not every thought they have should be streamlined for calculated efficiency. This is one book that will be there to incite curiosity and fan it back to life after a long day. Inside are tons of dream weekends with practical itineraries that anyone can take within the US and Canada. There are multiple editions executing the same idea, including Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world, but with their budget and vacation time, this is the most thoughtful option. Being young is something you only do once, and growing old with an imagination and lust for life is a goal worth emphasizing as they enter adulthood.
A personalized leather passport wallet
Cousin to gifting your graduate a copy of “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” with an inscription is this personalized leather passport wallet. It’s a classic rather than trendy, so they won’t learn to hate it over the next six months. They’ll think of you and your support every time they use it, and each excursion will hopefully feel even more personal.
A commemoration of their college town
Your graduate might appreciate having a way to commemorate their college town in a more lasting and aesthetically pleasing way than their threadbare college sweatshirt. If they’re leaving their college town to come back home or travel elsewhere for their job, this is one thoughtful way to take some of their best four years with them.
A fun luggage tag for their upcoming trips
Now that they’ve finished what for many students will be their last experience with formal education day in and day out, the possibilities and times open to them are unprecedented. Hopefully, the future includes travel and new opportunities, and today is one giant reminder of every single limitless option ahead of them.
A lighthearted card
In case you’re planning to show up with a check or cash as your main gift, grabbing a fun and unique card to commemorate the occasion is a fun way to make sure they still have something to save from the day that you personally gave them. They likely feel that this day was made possible by all of the people close enough to send gifts, so it’s nice to have memorabilia that reflect that kind of community. Plus, there are some pretty funny cards out there.
A personalized flask
If they’re a new college graduate, they’re likely able to drink legally and maybe are even prepared to do so a little more responsibly in the future.
A flask is one of those gifts that carries an endearing traditional charm and a certain acknowledgment of adulthood. Getting them a personalized flask is a nice way to say that you see them as an adult, and also as one deserving of some leisure.
Six months of language prep
Many students have had to take language courses as part of their degree, and many of my peers want to use their upcoming free time to make the most of the building blocks that they have gotten from those courses.
Proficiency in another language is an extremely desirable trait for both marketing purposes and in their ability to interact with the world that exists apart from them. Plus, without regular classes, they’re much more susceptible to losing what they’ve learned. If you know they have an interest, this is a nice, no-pressure way to make sure they have the opportunity to grow, should they like it.
An Amazon gift card
If what you really want to do is just give cash but are looking for a nicer equivalent, an Amazon Gift Card is a subtle way to accomplish the same freedom and utility. Or, if you’ve already gotten them a small gift but it doesn’t quite cover it, a gift card is a nice supplement.
Amazon has virtually everything a new grad could desire (in this life or the next, really, there is everything), so you know that no matter what they’ll be getting something they genuinely want — which, in a lot of cases, is best since they know what they need better than anyone.
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