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Thoughtful Graduation Gifts at Any Budget

Looking for the perfect gift to celebrate your graduate's big day?

Whether they're marking the end of high school, college, graduate school, or technical training, you can help make this important life milestone even more memorable with just the right gift.

The good news is you don't have to spend a fortune—though you certainly can if you've got a large budget and a generous heart! From super-big-ticket to or small-yet-thoughtful, we're sharing 80+ ideas for a great graduation gift.

Custom and Commemorative Gifts

Probably the most classic graduation gift would be something to commemorate the special occasion, often displaying the school and year of graduation along with the graduate's name. Consider gifting one of these customized grad gifts:

Tip: Commemorative graduation gifts can serve as a great memento for the future, but it's still important to make sure that the item itself is something the graduate will actually like, want, or have space to display. Also consider whether or not the graduate has a lot of school pride. If they aren't a raving fan of their alma mater, then maybe go with a less-themed gift.

Graduation Gifts That Inspire

No matter how brave the graduate is, there's always a bit of anxiety and self-doubt around a major milestone like a graduation. To inspire confidence, consider one of these more motivational or symbolic gifts—perfect for putting the graduate into the right mindset to move forward in a new phase of life:

DIY and Handmade Graduation Gifts

You can combine a bit of the commemorative spirit with an artisanal flair by going for something handmade! If you've got a crafty streak, you could even make the gift yourself. But if not, no shame, either—you can always support an artist, crafter, or small business owner on a site like Etsy or Redbubble.

Some thoughtful handmade gift ideas for a graduate could include:

  • Scrapbook of college/school memories
  • DIY "survival kit," filled with essential items to start college
  • Hand-decorated picture frame
  • Hand-knitted scarf or blanket
  • Quilted t-shirt blanket (but only with permission to use the graduate's old t-shirts!)
  • Care package of favorite childhood snacks and sweets

Graduation Gifts for an Aspiring Business Leader

If your graduate is about to leave school and enter the corporate world, these gifts are the ideal mix of inspirational, thoughtful, and practical. Even in our increasingly work-from-home world (or work from anywhere, really!), it's hard to get by without the staples:

Funny/Gag Gifts for a Graduate

For graduates who share your sense of slightly twisted humor, there's no time like the present to crack a joke! Here are some hilarious gifts that are sure to bring a smile—or maybe a little grimace—to the grad's face:

Learning Opportunities

Just because school is officially over doesn't mean the learning should end! Graduates who continue to pursue educational opportunities after school may not only get ahead in their workplace but may discover a totally new passion or career path, too.

Great educational gifts for graduates include:

  • Subscriptions to online courses like Udemy or Skillshare
  • A year of dues for membership in their industry's professional organization
  • Local hobby courses in art, design, or cooking
  • Continuing education classes or online graduate certificate classes

Practical Graduation Gifts

If the graduate is about to move away from home for the first time, then often the most appreciated gifts are practical in nature. Think about how many things you need just to survive on a daily basis as an adult on your own—or better yet, to actually feel comfortable—and then gift one of your absolute must-haves. This might be:

  • Higher-end cooking utensils (not the cheap plastic stuff!)
  • Cast iron skillet
  • A reliable coffee maker
  • A single-serving blender
  • A basic home tool kit
  • Extra comfy blankets, sheets, or towels
  • Command strips, hooks, or double-sided tape
  • Extension cords
  • Wireless charging docks
  • High-quality electric shaver
  • Insulated water bottle
  • Spare earbuds or wireless headphones
  • HEPA filter
  • Water filter system
  • Dependable vacuum

While these gifts may not be the most fun to receive, there's no better way to welcome the graduate into the "real world." After all, did anyone say that adulting is always fun?

Tip: If you want to give something useful but aren't quite sure which physical item would be best, then consider giving some kind of "coupon" instead! For example, you might give a coupon where you offer to pay for the graduate's first car repair (up to any amount of money within your budget). Or maybe you give a coupon to Venmo them to cover their first grocery store run or their first month of utilities.

Graduation Gift Cards

We can't talk about practical graduation gifts without mentioning gift cards. Gift cards are so useful (and, let's face it, easy for the giver) that we thought they deserved their very own section. Here are a few ideas for gift cards that a graduate will certainly enjoy:

  • Grocery stores
  • Gas stations
  • Home goods stores like IKEA
  • Catch-all stores like Target or Walmart
  • Apple gift cards
  • Amazon (or an Amazon Prime subscription)
  • Clothing stores
  • Fitness passes (or online memberships like Beachbody on Demand)
  • Restaurants (or food delivery apps like Uber Eats, DoorDash, or Postmates)
  • DIY meal delivery kits

If you're comfortable with it, cold hard cash is always appreciated, too! You could also opt for a general gift card from Visa or another credit card provider if you don't like the thought of just giving cash.

Luxurious, "Just for Fun" Graduation Gifts

Practical gifts can be greatly appreciated, but maybe you just want to give something special—something the graduate would never get for themselves. Or maybe the graduate isn't really in need of practical financial assistance, so you'd rather treat them to a gift that's purely for fun, even a little luxurious.

In that case, consider these graduation gift ideas:

Experience-Based Gift Ideas

Speaking of "luxurious" gifts…if you have a large-enough budget, the ultimate graduation gift could be an experience, not an item! After all, research consistently shows that people are happier with experiences than possessions.

And maybe you don't need that big of a budget after all. There's a whole list of experiences you could consider giving the graduate, ranging from small to large:

  • Fancy dinner and/or drinks
  • Low-key lunch date
  • Trip to the state fair
  • A day in the city with museums, coffee, and lunch
  • Concert or music festival
  • Weekend at the spa
  • Weekend getaway (camping, glamping, renting—up to you!)

How to Pick Out the Perfect Graduation Gift

Have you read all the ideas above and are still not sure what might be the best? Then use these quick tips to brainstorm a great gift for the graduate in your life:

  1. Consider their life situation. Some grads would prefer a fancy luxury, while others would really appreciate something more practical. It depends a lot on their circumstances and personality. If you aren't sure which is best, gift cards are always a reliable standby!
  2. Make sure your gift is really a gift. Some gifts can feel like obligations—like a fancy dinner at a place the graduate doesn't like or an oversized wall hanging that they would rather not put in their tiny apartment. Be sure to consider the graduate's point of view and choose something that is really a treat for them, not you.
  3. Ask friends or family. If you're stuck on a good gift, don't be afraid to ask around! The graduate's friends might know something very specific that they've been eyeing for months.
  4. Don't stress. It ultimately does not matter whether you've picked the "perfect" graduation gift. Just the fact that you've thought of the graduate and are sending anything is a kindness!
  5. Don't forget a card. Whatever you decide to give, you can put a thoughtful finishing touch on any gift by including a thoughtful card. Write out your well wishes, throw in an inspirational quote, and give the graduate some lighthearted tips for life success.

To send your card right away, check out Foxdog's selection of graduation cards! You can fill in your own message, and we'll send it directly to the graduate. Many cards ship the very same day!

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