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It’s spring, which means it’s time for high school graduation (and graduation gifts) and if you have a senior that’s graduating then this is a crazy, exhausting, exciting, emotional roller coaster ride for all of you. With graduation expenses and college deposits and all the shopping for graduation and summer plans, sometimes it feels like your bank account is hemorrhaging money.
Then there are the graduation gifts themselves. You not only have to buy them-that’d be too easy. Oh no, on top of everything else, you’ve gotta think of something suitable to give all these kids-preferably something that won’t cost a small fortune. You may not even know some of them!
It’s enough to make your brain hurt-as in an I drank my daiquiri too fast now there’s an icepick in my head kind of headache. Those are miserable. Short-lived, but miserable.
Lucky for you (and your brain) the
internet Pinterest is here for you. So am I. But, let me just get this out there on the front end– I’m not a Pinterest mom so if you’re looking for Martha-type gift ideas, you’re probably in the wrong place.
Still here? Awesome.
Anyway, to save you some time, brainpower and money (!) I’ve put together a list of 30+ affordable graduation gift ideas for high schoolers that aren’t just gift cards (though there’s a list of those too) or cash. I’ve included links to make things super easy to find and I also added a few extra ideas for making some of them even more special or personal.
Graduation Gift Ideas:
2. Ikea Bags: Large, heavy-duty bags, some are open like a tote and some have zippers, either way, they’re so, so useful! They can be used as laundry bags, storage bags, shopping bags, you name it! These are always a good idea.
4. Tool Kit: Purchase a tool kit or create one using a zippered pouch (option: have “tool kit” embroidered on front). Add a screwdriver, scissors, tape, sharpie, super glue, batteries, hammer, and duct tape.
5. Bottle Cap Opener Key Chains with College Logo
8. Tervis Tumbler: check to see if Tervis makes a tumbler with the emblem or mascot of the college they’re heading to and/or add a lid and/or straw in their college colors.
IDEA: package with the small Brita water pitcher.
9. First Aid kit: Go to the dollar store and fill a small plastic bin with band-aids, Tylenol, Motrin, Pepto-Bismol, Benadryl, anti-itch cream, small scissors, peroxide, cotton balls, and Neosporin
10. Large mugs (inexpensive in a craft store) with mug cake mix. You could add a couple of little things or maybe a microwave cookbook and wrap in cellophane for a cute gift idea.
11. 10-foot phone cord in a bright color for their dorm room. Color is to easily identify which is theirs!
12. Crisis Management Kit: Fill a small-medium sized plastic bin with all the items you know they’ll need but no one ever thinks of until the crisis hits! Ideas: Small sewing kit, fabric tape, super glue, Sharpie, duct tape, nail clippers, toilet plunger (seriously!), small fan, flashlight, a deck of cards, batteries, tweezers, clothespins, 3m hooks and hangers, rubber bands, bungee cord. You could also add a small tool kit and first aid kit (quick fyi: the linked tool kit is pink because a donation is made to breast cancer research)
13. A cardholder that sticks to the back of their phones-These come in a lot of different colors and can be monogrammed or if you know where they’re going then look for one with their school logo.
15. Small white board with dry erase markers to stick to dorm door
16. Tile for finding lost things. Being able to locate missing keys, phones, wallets, purses is priceless! Buy either a 4 pack of Tile Mates or the combo (2 Tile Mates and 2 Tile Slims) and split them into 2-4 gifts!
17. The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into In College is such a great book for all the new grads heading off to college!
18. Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…and Maybe the World is another great book for college.
20. Cookbook with simple, healthy recipes: The College Cookbook: Easy Recipes For The Next Four Years & Beyond or The Healthy College Cookbook
21. Good quality, compact umbrella.
22. Folding step stool (the tag/card could read “here’s to the next step!”)
23. Mac and Cheese Maker and several boxes of mac and cheese. This link is for 2, give both or split into 2 gifts!
24. Ramen Noodle Maker and several packs of Ramen Noodles. This link is for 2.
IDEA: Buy the 2 packs for the ramen maker and the mac and cheese maker and either package both sets together so they have an extra or split into 2. Add mac and cheese and ramen noodles, place everything in a basket and wrap in cellophane for a cute gift.
25. Charging hub to charge several devices at once
26. Stand-up phone charger. These are great for smaller spaces like a desktop or nightstand.
27. Good quality power strip with multiple USB ports. You could also add a 6-10 ft. USB (especially if you know what kind of phone they have!)
28. Pop Socket phone stand. These come in tons of colors and patterns. They aren’t chargers but they’re great for standing the phone up, especially when doing something like watching a video.
29. Laundry detergent, a roll/bag of quarters and a mesh laundry bag. Check first to see if students need to use quarters or just swipe cards.
30. Over the door shoe holder for back of closet door filled with snacks and drink packets.
Gift Card Ideas:
- If you know where they’re going- a gift card to a local restaurant that’s popular with the college kids at that school
- Movie ticket hub like Fandango
- Gas Card
- Fast Food: Subway, Chik-Fil-A, Krispy Creme, Zaxby’s
- Grocery Store
Looking for something a little different?
Instead, of each family in your graduate’s friend group buying multiple gifts, have the parents put $50 per kid into a pot and let the group go out for a special goodbye dinner right before the first friend leaves for college. Depending on the costs associated and money left in the pot, perhaps you could even arrange for a photographer to capture some group pictures to take with them.
Graduation is a special time for you and your teenager. It’s also super stressful and expensive so the last thing you need is to have to agonize over how not to go broke buying graduation gifts! Hopefully, you found the perfect idea somewhere on the list-or something sparked the perfect idea. Either way, I’d love to hear what you decide to do so let me know in the comments! If you’ve already been down this road, what did you do for graduation gifts?
Last but not least, congratulations to your new grad and to you! Graduation might be their celebration but we’re in the trenches too–we know it’s taken years of your hard work, nagging, pushing and prodding to get them to this point! Way to go Mama!