Graduation Gifts for the Budget-Minded

You’ve only spoken to your niece or nephew three times in their life and now they are graduating from high school. You have an invitation to the party and you want to go but don’t want to look like an idiot for buying the wrong gift.

Your first thought: gift card. They are #2 on the wish list behind cash. But it seems so impersonal and you know that if you give them $25 your older brother will give them $50. What do you do?

Here is a list of perfect graduation gifts, sorted by price.


Classic Rock CD- Remember the first time you heard Led Zeppelin wafting out like that funny smelling smoke from your uncle’s room? Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd are also great starter CD’s. Make one yourself for less! A handwritten letter with a funny anecdote or recommendation of favorite song absolutely must accompany these.

Concert or play ticket- Buy two, you keep one, take the kid to see some live music or acting even if they’ve already done it. Experiences are worth far more than gifts.

Photo frame-Ask their parents for some favorite pictures, copy, colorize, distort and frame them. Family photo art makes great first apartment accessories.


Bookshelf radio- a dorm room or apartment has a limited amount of space so a small radio with more than one function is a must. An alarm clock CD player is also a great gift.

Cookbook- The kid is going to be cooking now so why not make it easier? Add kitchen accessories for a great basket gift.

Wooden Letter/Memory box- It’s like a treasure chest; you can start their collection with a letter telling them how proud you are of their accomplishment.

$40.00- $60.00

DVD Collection- From their favorite classic movies or cancelled television show to classics like Monty Python or Saturday Night Live these will keep them busy while they avoid looking for a job or getting ready for college this summer.

Clock- a nice looking clock is a necessity for anyone and is a perfect commemoration gift.

Tree- sounds a little strange but start a family tradition of planting a tree for graduation and watch it grow along with the life of the young person giving it a start. See if you can get the school or local park to allow you to plant it on grounds to make it spectacular.


Camera- a decent digital camera could start the kid on a hobby that could aid their profession or just some funny stories for later.

Cell phone- a prepaid cell phone could be the first step to freedom for the new graduate. Be sure to get enough minutes, they won’t see their friends daily anymore.

Mini microwave- They don’t require special wiring so they can be put in a dorm room, studio apartment or bedroom.

Over $100

We believe it’s safe to go for that Gift Card at this point. Young tastes are fickle and $100 is a lot to waste on something they may already have. If someone trumps your gift card you can smile knowing it won’t be valued more. Any kid who gets a $100 gift card will definitely appreciate it. Checks and Cash? Seems like you forgot about them until the last minute. Don’t do it unless you actually have!

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