Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Inexpensive Graduation Gift Ideas

Judging from my email inbox, I'm not the only one struggling with graduation gifts.

If you are a parent, coach, pastor or teacher, you may have 10 or more party invitations this May.

What makes a meaningful gift? Do you give cash, and if so, how much? Will grads really like another picture frame?

Creative, thrifty friends: we're calling on you for help! Leave your best graduation gift ideas in the comments!

81 comments:

Haley said...

$5 gift certificate to local, favorite ice cream shop.

Leila said...

I love Haley's idea!

Depending on the person (and I wouldn't commit to 10 of these), a care package promise is a nice gift.

Kids really appreciate the special feeling of getting cookies mailed to them at college!

Molly said...

If the person is going off to college give them laundry detergent and a roll of quarters. $15 tops for the whole gift and it will be used and appreciated.

LynnMarie said...

Kids going off to College really like getting rolled quarters and laundry supplies. Those leaving college and entering the work force and living on there own like the cleaning supplies (and in some cases instructions how to use them)

mama2B said...

Much like Molly's idea, I like to make up a "laundry pack" for those heading off to college. Of course all these items are purchased on sale and/or from my stockple;

-fabric laundry bag (if one sews you can make a nice one out of scrap fabric and a cotton cord)
-dryer sheets
-detergent
-mesh bag for delicates (if the gift is for a female) Easy to find these in the Dollar Store
-laundry basket; I've found cute, straw ones for $2-3 at discout stores

Mod Girl said...

We are on the same wavelength this morning... just 15 minutes ago I was searching for a meaningful, yet inexpensive graduation gift idea. I have no suggestions to offer but I'm looking forward to reading through the comments for ideas!

Kirsten Hill said...

How about a gift certificate for a pizza place?

TwoMuths said...

We have given a card game like Uno or Phase 10 for game nights in the dorms. This year we are considering a towel set - Bath, Hand, Washcloth. We are among the youth workers with "10 or more" so we try to keep it around $5 - $8

blessdtwice said...

a few things...

1) Please post how you made that adorable cupcake...I see a themed birthday party in mind!! (if it is the archives, I apologize, just point me in the right direction, please!)
2. Laundry/quarters/iron- always a good idea.
3. A map, tire gauge, etc...(car care kit- many kids will be doing "long distance" traveling for the first time by themselves)
4. Thank you notes/monogrammed notecards- the kids will be sending out ALOT of thank you notes for all the gifts they will recieve...these can be made up easily with a home printer and notecards or even stamped.
5. A shower/towel wrap and shower tote (plastic tote like you get from walmart)- many kids in colleges have to use the showers down the hall and need to carry thier shampoo, etc... you can make a shower wrap with a towel and a bit of elastic and velcro

Breanna said...

I got (and appreciated) a filled phone card--$10 of minutes I think and could be used from any phone.

Sandy Toes said...

I give cash..depends on if it's family or friends..close or aquaintance....anywhere from $30-$100...OR I get something monogrammed...makes it special!
sandy toe

Tamara said...

I used my wrap towel A LOT in college, so I think it's a great gift. Quarters were always welcomed, and are not as likely to get spent over the course of the summer on frivolous things!

My mom used to always give office supply baskets because kids are acustomed to using tape, scissors, staplers, etc. at home and may not have all the necessities at school. If you can delay your gift until closer to August, you can pick up stuff on sale.

Microwave popcorn is a big hit in dorms, and would be great with a pack of Uno cards (or some other game).

If you know the student well enough to know his/her tastes (esp. with a girl), you can thrift some cute things for her dorm room, esp. if she's going with a theme or particular color scheme.

Occasionally, you can find cheap headsets online (like you use for skype). If you could find a deal on those, it would make a great gift for helping the kid keep in touch!

Bethany said...

Considering how broke and hungry I constantly was in college (I had the ten meal a week plan in the dorm, and lived the rest of the time on what I could carry out in my pockets), I'd say food is the perfect gift. Anything non-perishable, preferably that will make a whole meal, or close to one, like canned soup. Boxes of crackers, handi-snacks, canned fruit. They might think you're crazy at the party, but put them alone in a dorm for a couple of weeks, and they'll be singing blessings on you for thinking ahead. Meijer or other grocery store gift cards would also be great, to help fill in the perishable basics from time to time.

Frugal recipes or basic cooking utensils are also great things to go along with this.

Jennifer said...

Though not particularly meaningful, iTunes gift cards always go over well with the high school/college kids I know. Not sure if they come in smaller denominations if you need to give to 10+ kids.

lisa said...

I have 3 in college and money is the best thing. Rolled quarters is good but if they go to the college that has the card to pay everything with then money is the best thing so they can fill the card. I have 2 at universities and one at a community college. The one that goes to the Community college liked the cash for gas to get to school. Also we just sold alot of things my daughter HAD to have her first year and she never used it.Brand new and still in packages...If you don't use the things at home save your money..wrapped towels and shower shoes is a must..microwave and dorm refrigerators is a must..AND yes do send them homemade goodies...those prepackaged stuff that the universities encourage the parents to buy is not good...They waste half of it because they don't like it...and most of the friends didn't like it...My kids encouraged the baked goodies from home...I sent them bubbles because there grandma sent them bubbles when they were little...it's a tradition but became a hit with the college kids..And with the economy the kids need all the help with the expenses...Lisa

Frugal Homemaker said...

Great ideas! We've got an eighth grade graduate going into high school. We made high school the age at which she could start wearing makeup, so I purchased several different Physician's Formula makeup products at Walgreens when it was 40% off plus coupons and rebate. Not a typical grad gift, but it will be meaningful for her. I'm also finishing up a scrapbook album of school memories. One of her Confirmation gifts was a pair of TOMS shoes which means a child in need also gets a pair of shoes because of her.

momtoomany said...

What about a 'coupon book'? With a dozen baked goodies or so... Stating that every month after school starts they'll receive some homemade treats? For those with many graduates the shipping would be expensive, but for just one gift it might be fun!

Empty Nest Full Life said...

This year I had girls and found some photo books ( I had seen these priced @ a specialty shop for 18.00), and a journal. I got both for less than $10 at TJMaxx. I know it is a gift my daughter would like to have received. We have been on the receiving end of grad gifts and the sewn laundry bag is one my daughter still uses and she is married now. The laundry items are a big help. I know this from my kids experience. We considered all gift thoughtful no matter what they were. When my kids left home they needed their own hangers, laudry baskets, supplies etc and most parents I know appreciate these gifts as well as the graduate. Hope this helps. Jackie

Sandy aka Doris the Great said...

My girls never received graduation gifts! But yeah; I'd stick with a $5 gift -- quarters for the laundry, gift certificate to a subway sandwich shop (very popular here in NS), food stuffs, etc.

Tracey said...

QUARTERS FOR THE WASHING MACHINES AT COLLEGE ARE GREAT! ALSO LIKE THE BASKET OF OFFICE SUPPLIES...PENS, PENCILS ETC.

Eleanor Joyce said...

love Haley's idea . . . or it could be to a coffee shop. For a guy - a frisbee with a coupon on it for a free box of homemade cookies - do it up cute on a self-addressed postcard he can mail back to you when he wants to cookies.
For girls - a cute necklace or bracelet is always welcome - and they can be found or made very inexpensively.
I asked my son - who is graduating this year- what would be the best frugal graduation gift and he said "food, or money for gas"

Michele said...

I think gift certificates to a pizza chain such as Papa John's or Dominoes would probably be appreciated for people I am not close to. On the other hand, for people I am close with, such as my niece or nephew, I put money into their bank account with a small gift to decorate their dorm.

Blushing hostess said...

When we graduatedfrom college, my Mom asked for people to bring flowers from their gardens in order to discourage them feeling they had to give money or anything else. I was surrounded by flowers in my lovely room for two weeks, it was joy and she did not want people to feel they needed to do anything for us, indeed, we had a college degree we should make our own money!

Amber Schmidt said...

I skimmed through the comments and a favorite college gift of mine is to give a sweatshirt or t-shirt from the college that they will be attending. Most of our kids end up at University of Kentucky (GO CATS!) and you can get a NICE shirt for $5!

Sue said...

All great suggestions you have here! Another one to consider: Dave Ramsey's book- he had them on sale.

Kristina said...

My daughter graduated last year and received so many things that she appreciated but simply did not use. She received 20 towels, numerous Rubbermaid tubs and laundry baskets, etc. Of course money was her number one favorite thing. Pizza Hut, Subway, and fast food gift cards were hits -- even the ones for $5. Every bit helps. She also got a pink toolset that included pliers, changeable screwdriver, flashlight, etc. in a pouch. She said she used this so many times.
This year I had 11 graduates to buy for. Hobby Lobby has some beautiful leather, embroidered photo albums for $7.99. I asked my daughter's opinion before I purchased them and she said absolutely -- they are cool. I watched the website for printable coupons and when I found one for 40% off any item I purchased 8 of them -- on different trips of course. That made them $4.79. For the guys this year, I had stumbled upon a bulk tool sale at a local autoparts dealer and found cool tool sets for about $5. They each had pliers, flashlight, screwdriver set, etc. I don't know if this is helpful to anybody. I enjoyed everybody else's ideas.

Janet said...

As a rule my husband and I give $25.00 grad gifts. A little more if it's a relative. We save money by buying a bulk pack of cards. We figure most folks feed you a nice meal and it would cost us that much to eat a dinner out. It also relieves the headaches that come with trying to figure out what suits everyone.

Amy said...

I have given a personalized laundry bag filled with detergent, printed off laundry hints, fabric softener & a roll of quarters... but later I learned that the kids no longer use quarters, but cards that are swiped through the machines. Ah well.

Last year I gave my cousin a large mug with his college name on it, filled with chocolates, and inside I put a $10 Target gift card. If I'd have had more grads to gift, the mug and chocolate would have been enough... about $5 for that.

VanderbiltWife said...

For my sister's graduation, my uncle penned my sister's favorite Bible verse in calligraphy onto some nice paper and framed it. It says "Happy Graduation Day, 2003, Love, Uncle Steve," or something near that. It was very sweet and she still has it hanging.

oh amanda said...

Great ideas! I loved the gift I gave my cousin last year...it was a "green" gift...

a green shopping bag from our grocery store...and some green school supplies I found at the dollar spot at Target...a green picture frame...some green washcloths (for his new dorm)...and of course, a wad of GREEN cash at the bottom. The cash was all in 1's so it looked like more than it was. A silly gift but really fun!

Amy @ Finer Things said...

Hmmm... maybe I should write my Frugal Friday post on this. :)

We go to tons of graduations each year. Last spring I found ESPN photo frames that play the ESPN theme song. They were marked down to $4.50 from $18 so I grabbed all they had for my husband's football players. Then, of course, I found photos of all of them to put in their frame.

Another favorite idea? $5-7 first aid kit for them to carry in their vehicle or have in their dorm room.

Liz said...

If they are going off to college:

hot pot, noodle mixes, other nonperishables

Laundry kit - don't just give them a roll of quarters!!! Go out and get a pack of M&Ms minis, the biggest roll one you can find. Feed the m&ms to your kids, and put your roll of quarters in there, all opened up. Your roll of quarters went from the third they got today to AWESOMETACULAR. Once quarter rolls are opened, they spew EVERYWHERE. And then you donate more quarters than you can afford to the laundry room.

car cleaning/maintenance kit.

If work: A bucket with cleaning supplies
A single skillet - doesn't have to be nice. $10 is more than I could afford when I got my first apartment. So was going to McDonald's.
Tool kit
if their new apartment doesn't have a w/d, laundry kit.

Money is also useful, and the most appreciated in the short term, but sometimes you don't realize how much you appreciate the things you didn't think to get until you need them.

I received all of these items. Every one of them was more meaningful than money (in the long run), and save for the hot pot (I blessed someone else with that) I still have all of the solid items. Yep, even the m&ms minis container. I use it to wind yarn now!

Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

We have 9 graduates this. For the girls, I purchased pendants and chains from SilverJewelryClub.com. Some of their stuff is pretty funky (in a bad way), but keep checking. Really pretty stuff cycles through if you have patience. I spent $11 for each girl's gift, and they're really nice.

For the boys we're buying MagLites. We're defraying some of the cost by using Home Depot gift cards that we get from our credit card's rewards program.

I just want to remind people to make sure you know the graduate's after-school plan. A laundry-themed gift, for example, may not work for the kid staying home for community college or heading into the military.

Katie @ makingthishome.com said...

Some great ideas here. However I would protest to giving laundry soap and dryer sheets. If students are green-focused or don't like the harsh chemicals like I was a few years ago in college, anything but eco laundry soaps wouldn't really help.

I guess the same would go with microwave popcorn and similar foods that have a lot of chemicals. When I got those things, I always gave them away.

Thought I'd just mention these things so that gifts that are given can be meaningful to the person receiving.

Love the stationery ideas!
Katie

Rebecca of "Ezra Pound Cake" said...

These ideas are all great! We've also done:

-Magazine subscriptions (who doesn't want mail in college?)

-A nice Moleskine notebook or sketchbook (on sale or w/ bookstore coupon)

-Generic VISA gift card for cash

Biteofpunkinpie said...

I think finding a local restaurant in town and picking up a gift card so he/she can catch a night out instead of cafeteria food/ramen would be nice.

A good solid laundry bag (you could easily make this!)

An inexpensive laundry basket + a bottle of detergent and a roll of quarters- obviously the roll of quarters has a certain price, but the laundry basket and detergent would be great CVS ECB finds

A note w/a promise for a care package of homemade goodies (bonus of hand drawn/written notes from your own kiddos would make the care package extra special)

Shower accessories- rubber flipflops, bath soap, makeup bag, bath poof, all in a plastic container w/a handle

A trash can w/a box of trash bags, ziploc bags, paper towels, all purpose cleaner

A gift card to a local Walmart/Target (when I was a college student, Walmart was my go-to place for anything I needed)

A subscription to their hometown newspaper to be delivered to their dorm address (my husband got this as a gift when he was in college and I thought it was very thoughtful- many small town newspapers don't keep much information online)

A nice cross for their dorm room.

A package of blank notecards w/a book of stamps.

A marker board to hang on their door (you can sometimes find these on sale OR at garage sales!) w/a package of markers

Oh, and one gift that definitely got its money worth that I received was a "what to expect in college" book. I don't know what it cost or even remember who gave it to me, but being an introvert and super nervous about what to expect (I had no older siblings and neither of my parents went to a 4 year college). That summer I poured through that book multiple times, even highlighting things that were especially important.

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

We often give a $10.00 Starbucks gift card since all the kids we know enjoy them. Somehow they seem like more than just a ten dollar bill in a card.

A gift we have given to students going to college is a roll of quarters, a laundry bag, and laundry supplies.

Also, we only give gifts to graduates we've known for a long time.

gregandlori said...

Our neighbor is going into the military, which makes gift giving problematic. I gave her a gift bag with a momento from Indiana (remember where you are from), a Wanderlust journal (commemorate where you are going), a quotable magnet (words to guide you), and a Jesus keychain (don't forget to pray).

Best of luck everyone!

Lori of "One Day They'll Be Famous", following the adventures of Sara & Kelly

Michelle in HI said...

I agree that quarters may not be all that useful. I've been out of college quite a while now, but at both my undergrad and graduate school students used a refillable card to pay for *everything*.

Laundry detergent sounds nice but if the student is going further than the local community college they may not want to drag something dozens or hundreds of miles that they could buy at the store locally.

I think iTunes and Starbucks gift cards are great! They are little luxuries that often can't be afforded in college.

Erica said...

One of my favorite presents was two large cappucino-style mug/bowls and packages of ramen noodles. You can get the mugs at Dollar General for less than $5, or at least you could 10 years ago when I was in college, I haven't looked lately. :) I bet a person could find them at a thrift shop or garage sale if they were lucky.

mary bailey said...

This is a fun topic and you've gotten a lot of great ideas!

When I graduated from high school, someone gave me a laundry bag and it was my least favorite gift. My most favorite gifts were money, pajamas, and wall art to decorate my dorm room with. When I graduated college I was a newlywed and I used all the money I was given to buy a VCR and other household items.

For frugal and fun, I love the idea of giving an Uno card game with a box of microwave popcorn. Or maybe with a $5 tucked inside where they won't see it until the box is opened and a note that says "Order a pizza!"

Last year I gave my cousin a women's devotional book and $20. She was the only grad I had to buy for.

Let us know what you come up with!

Amanda on Maui said...

Cookware is a great one if they're planning on moving out. Lynn Rosetto Kasper of The Splendid Table recommends a wok as the first piece of cookware for someone, and these can be purchased for 20 dollars at Wal-Mart (at least here). Make sure it is rolled steel.

You could also get a set of knives for the same price.

I bought my entire set of dishes (minus glasses) for 20 dollars at Ross.

How about a beautiful blanket for their new home? Other types of decor? These can be bought at yard sales, hand made, found at thrift stores or flea markets, or even rather inexspensively on sale in retailers.

Sarah said...

Last year when my brother went away to UC Davis (Go Aggies!) I create a "everything you need" pack. One part was just laundry stuff which I used free samples and coupons to cut the cost down. Another part was office stuff which I found mostly at the dollar store. The other "section" was a basket filled with bath/shower items which were mostly freebies I got from walgreens and free samples. I added a nice, fluffy towel and a small face towel too. It was all contained in a basket from the dollar store so he could lug it to the bathroom.

Amanda on Maui said...

@Tamara I love your idea of school supplies like staplers, etc. Those are things that they probably won't have right away when they move out, and if they're going to school then they could definitely use them for that.

Sarah said...

p.s. I am recent college grad and just wanted to throw in that some universities still use quarters. Just double check before you give. And I would have LOVED a laundry basket. It was one of those things you don't think of in the midst of classes, dorm life, etc etc... until you are out of clean clothes.

Emily @ Little Home said...

I remember getting a big, fat, cute soup/latte mug with a poem inside it on all the things it could be used for at college! (mac n cheese, coffee, pens, spare change, candy dish, keys/ipod holder, etc.)

Emily @ Little Home said...

My mom likes to give gift certificates to the college bookstore if they are headed to a particular college in the fall.

Joan said...

I know it isn't unique and can't be wrapped for a "wow" factor (unless, of course, it is combined with some token present), but I can only say that my son really perferred money. He graduated in 1998 and I remember he got one check in the amount of $19.98 (which he preferred to monogrammed cufflinks from Tiffany's!), so if $20 is the amount you are thinking of giving, a check for $20.09 is an idea for just a bit of a twist that might be remembered.

Bee said...

My sister and I made a wordle print ( http://www.wordle.net/) for my neice's new baby. We chose words like mommy, daddy, baby, family and their names and printed it out on cardstock. Then we bought an inexpensive frame and mat from Hobby Lobby, painted the frame and covered the mat with some pretty fabric. When we were through, I think we had less that $10 in it.

You could do the same with words describing the graduate, or maybe the college he or she is planning to attend. I think it would be great fun!

Tamara said...

I just had a few other thoughts.

First, the Dave Ramsey book is a great idea, and so is the first-aid kit.

When I went to college, I received these 2 books, which I used a lot: http://www.amazon.com/Wheres-Mom-Now-That-Need/dp/0961539011/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1242843375&sr=8-1 and http://www.amazon.com/Wheres-Dad-Now-That-Need/dp/1885348169/ref=reader_auth_dp (not so much for the recipes as for the tips in the back).

Here are a few other random ideas:

A nice flashlight or book light would be useful for studying when the roomie is asleep.

A small hand broom and dustpan are helpful for spot-cleaning.

I received a very nice keychain when I graduated, which I loved.

Personalized or monogrammed things are popular now, and they would be easy to identify who they belonged to.

For a girl, cute pj's!

A handmade book-of-tips might be useful (laundry, simple cooking, simple car repairs, financial tips, medical tips (what to take for what, when to call the doctor, etc.). If you know where the student is going to college, a map or even a mapsco would be great.

Even if a college doesn't require quarters for laundry, the $ can be loaded onto a card or spent on other things (soda machine, etc.).

Shelley said...

We have given a small (like tiny) crock pot to kids heading off to college in which to warm their top ramen.

Mrs. Reverend Doctor said...

When we were first in the ministry I would give graduation gifts, now it's just too overwhelming,it would be hundreds of dollars a year. I give a nice card and also do this for Anniversary. I do give wedding gifts and baby gifts. I give identical wedding gifts usually a crystal vase and buy 10-20 of them when I find a good deal. For babies I give one outfit and a package of brand name diapers.

Willo said...

I find a favorite book full of advice for the future or wise words, order a bunch from half.com for super cheap, and write beautiful (if I do say so myself) inscriptions for each grad.

Holly said...

Here is a link to an idea that was frugal, and fun! http://thedelightfulhome.blogspot.com/2009/05/table-for-four-in-basket-please.html

s as in tset said...

The last graduation gift I gave was a plastic water bottle, filled with snacks and a note written for them.

Another idea for a recipient that you know well (haven't actually given this yet):

Write a letter to the recipient sharing all the great qualities/characteristics/etc. you see in that person. Then make a special folder/envelope/etc. that would be his/her "kudos" folder. A place for them to put special recognitions or things that build them up when they read them. I think everyone needs to know they are loved and appreciated. And some days we all need that reminder.

Marcee said...

I made my brother a small "book" of recipe cards--just 3x5s with a ring in them. He didn't have much cooking ability, and it's a bit daunting to cook for yourself, and to switch out of the mindset of cooking for a family vs cooking for one (which was my problem when I went to school). I tailored the recipes for things you can make in a saucepan and did breakfast, lunch, dinner, fast meals, meals to impress, cook and save for later, etc. etc. I tried to make them cheap but healthy. I found a nice but inexpensive saucepan and with a little bit of creative computer skills, it was a cute little "book" and present all together.

So there was some work to set it up, but I've since been able to just hit print and give them out by the dozen. I've had a lot of positive feedback from many of the receivers.

Edi said...

How about if they are not going away to college or if you don't even really know them well but they've sent you an invite to the graduation "open house"?

We had a deal like that and the kid is real nice but not a close friend - know family from church - so I just opted for a cash gift...

Your Frugal Friend, Niki said...

Oh man. You are reading my mine! My first invitation rolled in the other day already and I do have one gift put away that I found NIB at a yard sale last year (a picture frame, gulp).

:)

Your Frugal Friend, Niki said...

Hmmm...I was thinking of 8th grade graduations, not high school grads. If they were going off to college I would do a college survival kit with flip flops for the shower (old navy is having their $1 sale soon), quarters, pizza money for study sessions, coffee gift card for all nighters, ramen noodles, etc.

Kylie's Mom said...

Too many comments, and I'm too lazy to read them all...

I keep my eye out for really, really good deals on used laptop bags or shoulder briefcases. VV or Goodwill usually has lots of these...just make sure it's very clean and doesn't smell funky ;) .

Kelly said...

For High School Grads a gift card to the campus book store would be very appreciated . a lot of the college bookstores are Barnes and Noble .
Pizza Hut , Poppa John's gift cards are also helpful .
A gas card is good if they will have their car or our going to community college .
The gift my son ended up using the most was a plastic divided folder . He now purchase one for each class and keeps each semesters work in them.

Chris said...

I ended up with tons of laundry supplies when I graduated, so I tend to shy away from giving those myself.

For girls I usually go with a really nice journal or a cute tool set. For guys, we usually do a snack basket.

CatholicMom said...

I gave first aid kits this year.

Amiyrah said...

If they are graduating from college, then the gift is easy! Still to this day, the one gift I still remember I got at my high school graduation party is a laundry basket full of dorm items: can opener, plates, ramen, laundry detergent, silverware, batteries, etc. My mother's best friend gave it to me 10 years ago, and it's still my favorite graduation gift that I've gotten. I still have the laundry basket!

Susan said...

One gift that I like to give to those who are getting married or starting out on their own after college is Amy Decyczyn's "Tightwad Gazette" book. I like giving this as a gift because it teaches the young person how to live on what they make and still have a wonderful and satisfying life! I feel sorry for the many young people who are graduating from college and trying to find jobs in this economy. It's got to be very frustrating and demoralizing, and I think that just reading Amy's book opens up an entirely new way of looking at finances that most young adults desperately need. An awful lot of them grew up getting just about anything they ever wanted; their own adult lives may be very different (for at least a while), so I think that the book, along with a gift certificate to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, might be a great start to their adult lives!
Susan

Melanie said...

A roll of quarters for doing laundry when off at school!

Gina @ The Shabby Chic Cottage said...

How about a gift certificate to the movies or for movie rentals? Always a hit!

Jordana said...

It's not the thriftiest of gifts, but I like to give a small tool kit with a multi-head screwdriver, a small hammer, some pliers and a few other little things. There are always times when a few tools come in handy.

B. Durbin said...

Hmm. Some of the things I used in college that I would never have thought of:

—Silverware. Because not everybody has a complete meal plan.

—a sharp kitchen knife for the same reason. Plus cheap plastic cutting board. And instructions on how to do a bleach rinse of same.

—Cooking instructions. Now that I'm older, I wish I'd had Alton Brown when I went off to college. His books are sensible and teach you why things work a certain way— which is more useful than a bunch of recipes that might call for things not on hand.

—Laundry instructions & tips. For example, we've found that vinegar in the center post instead of fabric softener makes a fabulous rinse, and is cheap besides.

—Bed risers. These can also be cinderblocks.

a King's daughter said...

I like the book ideas. Dave Ramsey's books for sure, plus giving something about creative storage, repurposing, and doing junk make~overs are great. Remember what we had in college: everyone's cast-offs. If I had known how to repaint everything, my space would have looked much nicer, and you know THAT makes a girl happy! ;-)

Eric said...

Because I teach at the college level and am tired of receiving multi-page assignments that are taped together, paper clipped together, have the corners folded, or have a cutout in the side and then folded in some crazy way.......I give HS graduates office supplies featuring a stapler or two and one of those mini-staplers for their backpacks.

Sarah Schreffler said...

I would not give anything for a graduation for a grade below graduation except, PERHAPS, for my own child.

Sarah Schreffler said...

er a grade below gradution from high school, I meant to say of course.

Maureen said...

The best gift I received (years ago) was a laundry basket filled with office supplies.

My mom always gives a sweatshirt from their college. Very popular with the graduates.

I like to give personalized stationery. I know grads are tech savvy, but I like the USPS.

MaryAnn said...

A dear family friend's daughter graduates from UVA this year, and she is headed to NYU for graduate work. My plan is to get in touch with a friend who lives in Brooklyn, have her buy a loaded Metro card for the subway and mail it to me, and give it to our graduate along with an insider's guide to NYC.

faerieeva said...

I didn't see this mentioned yet, but a college cookbook really saved my life! Either a microwave cookbook, or if the dorms have kitchens one with quick and easy student and budget friendly meals. You could even make on yourself with your own recipes that you know to be frugal and easy.

analytical.rhetoric said...

You guys forgot the universal fixer, duct tape!

=) I got some when I graduated glow in the dark, aqua, and hot pink!

Needless to say, that and the tool kit saved my butt many times. :)

Karen said...

How about a nice pen?

Alicia said...

I've given my music students (girls) those bulletin boards that have criss cross ribbons. I personalize them with pictures,photographs, poems, recipes, and a note of advice.

I've also given books like the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, or a Greek lexicon to students headed to Bible college, or any students that engage in serious Bible study.

My youngest brother graduated this year and since he's headed to a community college and still living at home, I'm thinkin of sending a copy of Do Hard Things to encourage him.

For my sister that graduated from college and plans to begin teaching, I'm debating on some school supplies or book on teaching - waiting to see what grade she gets :^) Maybe a few prepackaged bulleting boards.

Tim, Allyson, Emahry, and Jonathan said...

For family or close friends going away to school we purchase 30 small items (can repeat some) and individually wrap each one with tissue paper or newspaper. We then place all thirty items in a gift bag with a note telling the new college student to open one each day for their first month away from home. We give this to the grad right before they leave for school. Everyone has really appreciated this.

Ideas of what to buy: toothpaste, Post-Its, paper clips, mini stapler, gum, Ramen cup of noodles, granola bars, highlighter, pen, lead pencil, deoderant, etc. For multiple grads, simply buy multi packs and divide them evenly.

My little brother actually called us his 2nd week at school and asked if deoderant was one of the gifts, since the one he took had run out. Thankfully, it was :)

Elizabeth said...

I need lots of graduation gifts this spring. For close friends, I plan to spend more and get nice monogrammed gifts. But there are many, many neighbors or school friends who my daughter will be invited to grad parties or open-house celebrations for, & I just can't spend even $25 each on those casual acquaintances b/c there are so many of them. So I am making laundry bags w/cute preppy coordinating fabrics. These are $20 to $35 in the boutiques, plus an extra $10 to $12 if you opt to get them monogrammed. (Mine won't be monogrammed). These will cost $8 or $10 each for the cute fabric, cording for drawstring & some cute ribbon embellishments. I don't think I could buy anything in that price range that would look as nice or be as useful!