20 Old-School Graduation Gifts That Cost Far Less Than a Laptop


View as:

Photo credit: sirtravelalot/shutterstock


The tech world is filled with new gadgets seemingly designed as ideal graduation gifts. But not everyone has the means to send a graduate off to college or the work world with a brand-new laptop. How about mixing it up with some "old-school" favorites and out-of-the-ordinary picks? Don't be surprised when you become known for your truly thoughtful and memorable gifts.

Photo credit: Courtesy of swatch.com


Price: $50, Buy it from Swatch
Talk about old-school. A Swatch watch may bring back memories for you, but it will mark new ones for a graduate. We like the classic simplicity of the Once Again watch, with its sleek, black, and unisex design.

Photo credit: Courtesy of cross.com


Price: $40, Buy it from Cross
A fine pen is pure tradition. Cross, an iconic maker of fine writing instruments, offers an 18-karat-gold set for a cool $7,000. (The graduate can buy that after hitting it big.) More affordable is a ballpoint from the same Classic Century Collection in polished chrome.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com


Price: $19 paperback, Buy it on Amazon
Whether it's a gap year or one last fling before joining "the real world," a trek through Europe is a rite of passage for many graduates. Give them a little advice that doesn't require an international data plan with a travel guide such as "Fodor's Essential Europe: The Best of 24 Exceptional Countries."

Photo credit: Courtesy of fossil.com


Price: $148, Buy it from Fossil
A courier or messenger bag has become today's briefcase. Fossil offers the sturdy Graham EW Messenger, a 100 percent cotton bag that boasts a 15-inch laptop compartment and comes in olive or navy. It's a bit rustic, a bit preppy, and gender-neutral.

Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com


Price: $8.50, Buy it on Amazon
Sure, photos are digital now, but an album with a vintage-camera design may prompt the graduate to actually print out some celebratory photos for a tangible cache of memories.

Photo credit: Courtesy of target.com


Price: $30, Buy it at Target
Shed some more light on the subject at hand, whether in a notoriously under-lit dorm room or a bare-bones apartment. This "schoolhouse" desk lamp offers a dose of practicality with vintage appeal.

Photo credit: Courtesy of bhphotovideo.com


Price: $160, Buy it from B&H
Sometimes a smartphone camera just doesn't cut it. Outfit the new graduate with a playful-looking but seriously sturdy digital camera. The FinePix XP90 from Fujifilm, a Cheapism.com top pick, is a point-and-shoot model that features waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof, and dustproof construction. It comes in four colors and also shoots video.

Photo credit: Courtesy of llbean.com


Price: $200, Buy it from L.L. Bean
Between long weekends and out-of-town job interviews, graduates will likely find themselves packing a few bags in the coming months. This rolling duffel bag is an attractively sporty option available in three colors. It features zippered dividers to keep things organized, a laptop sleeve, and heavy-duty, locking zippers.

Photo credit: Courtesy of rustico.com


Price: $45, Buy it from Rustico
Graduates will have many new experiences, no matter the path they choose. Encourage them to chronicle their steps with a classic writer's log. This large, refillable leather notebook, available in a number of stately hues, features a charming flap-tie closure and includes a book of lined paper (additional from $13).

Photo credit: Courtesy of hayneedle.com


Price: $140 (white) or $150 (black), Buy it at Hayneedle
There's still a place in any home for a bookcase that showcases reading materials and collectibles, and this one conveniently rotates. This gift also gives a graduate the chance to accomplish something tangible: Basic assembly is required.

Photo credit: Courtesy of survival-supply.com


Price: $55, Buy it on Survival-Supply.com
A graduate may soon be driving to and from college or to a new job, so add a layer of safety with a gift that hopefully will never be used. This AAA-branded emergency kit includes everything from an air compressor and booster cables to first-aid supplies.

Photo credit: Courtesy of personalizationmall.com


Price: $70, Buy it at PersonalizationMall.com
A graduate can wrap up in memories with a personalized fleece blanket. You specify the primary and accent colors, school name, class year, and mascot. There's also the option to add extracurricular activities, interests, and more.

Photo credit: Courtesy of houzz.com


Price: $30.50, Buy it at Houzz
How many posters did you have in your dorm or first apartment? Offer a graduate some encouraging home decor with a motivational poster mounted on wood. From "Believe You Can" to "Work Hard" to "Be You," the support is clear.

Photo credit: Courtesy of uncommongoods.com


Price: $58, Buy it from UncommonGoods
A paperweight may be an unusual choice in the digital age, but it's delightfully designed by California artist Tamara Hensick, who used lead-free pewter to create a unique keepsake. Her Sky's the Limit paper-airplane paperweight soars with meaning and encouragement.

Photo credit: Courtesy of barnesandnoble.com


Price: $17, Buy it from Barnes & Noble
Since it was first published in 1990, "Oh, The Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss has become a perennial graduation gift. Barnes & Noble offers a hardcover "graduation keepsake" edition of the whimsical commentary on the ups and downs of life.

Photo credit: Courtesy of wayfair.com


Price: $45, Buy it at Wayfair
Give a graduate the world, literally, with a vintage-globe bookend set. The wood trim and rich colors can elevate the style of even a modest grouping of books.

Photo credit: Courtesy of moma.org


Price: $40, Buy it from the
Museum of Modern Art Store The Faces of the Moon Stress Ball, designed by Makiko Yoshida in 2003, is still selling strong at the MOMA Store. Squeezing this toy should ease some tension in the face of an uncertain future, and the quirky design is likely to bring out some laughter, too.

Photo credit: Courtesy of nordstrom.com


Price: $60, Buy it from Nordstrom
Encourage a graduate to see the world. Learning never stops, after all. With a sophisticated leather passport case, they'll be traveling with more than a little elegance.

Photo credit: Courtesy of bosca.com


Price: $175, Buy it from Bosca
For graduates with a decidedly Old World outlook, a leather address book and weekly minder from Bosca recognizes graduation as a major milestone and encourages them to keep in touch. The planner comes with a spiral address book and calendar, business card and pen pockets, and a leather and moiré silk lining. Ah, adulthood.

Photo credit: Courtesy of rembrandtcharms.com


Price: $22 to $225, Buy it from Rembrandt Charms
A "Key to Success" charm is a clever source of always-there inspiration. Options from sterling silver to 14-karat gold easily attach to a bracelet, chain, or keychain.