Are you preparing for this year's round of graduation parties with a stack of cards and a wad of cash? A little creativity can help make the end of the school year a lot less expensive. And a well-thought-out gift, regardless of price, will be cherished and remembered for far longer than a few bills. The more you know about a graduate's plans for the future, the easier it is to come up with a cheap graduation gift. However, the suggestions below should work for most any grad and cost less than $25.
Shower caddy kit.
For a high school graduate heading off to a college dorm room in the fall, a shower caddy stocked with personal care products makes a useful and cheap graduation gift. Add shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, body scrub, a luffa, a pair of cheap flip-flops (for shower shoes) -- even a manicure kit.
Kitchen starter kit.
For those graduating from high school or college and moving out on their own, put together a kitchen starter kit. You can make this as small or large as your budget affords. For a cheap graduation gift, buy an oven mitt and stuff it with kitchen gadgets from the dollar store, such as a whisk, a spatula, salad tongs, and more. If you're willing to spend more, buy a large mixing bowl or kitchen trash can and stuff it with bigger items such as cups, a can opener, a cutting board, etc.
Grads on their way to a dorm or apartment likely dread the idea of schlepping their dirty clothes to the laundry. Make this chore a little easier by filling a budget laundry basket or hamper with detergent, dryer sheets or fabric softener, and stain remover. You can even include a roll of quarters and a laundry cheat sheet with tips from your own experience.
For high school graduates heading off to college, you can't go wrong with some school spirit, especially if the recipient will be attending your alma mater. You can find shirts, sweatpants, shorts, pillows, flags, posters, and just about anything else in university colors for reasonable prices online.
Books and magazines.
If someone in your life is graduating from high school or college and embarking on a new career, give a book or magazine subscription related to their chosen profession. For example, a graduate with a journalism degree would likely get a lot of value out of The Writer's Market. A biography of a famous figure in the graduate's field can also make an inspiring yet cheap graduation gift.
A high school teacher commenting on Money Saving Mom shares this super-cheap graduation gift idea: She gives graduating seniors "I need cookies" cards. When they go away to college, they can send the card back to her anytime, and she will mail them a batch of homemade cookies. About a quarter of the students take advantage, she says, and it sets her back only the cost of ingredients and postage.
If you're still stuck, try getting a group together to buy a big graduation gift. Group gifting sites can help you pool resources with other family and friends of the graduate.