Personal Finance

Spend less and say more with graduation gifts

So how many graduation announcements have you received so far this spring? Maybe I’m lucky to not have a huge family or many friends with kids old enough to be graduating. I don’t have to shell out much in the way of gifts yet. But I know people who do …

And while it may not rival Christmas, graduation season can be a serious budget-buster. Everyone loves to get cash, but what if you don’t have much to spare (or the amount you wish you could give)? Here are some ideas I’ve come across for inexpensive but meaningful graduation gifts. Spend less and say more!

For the college-bound Go team

– Find out which college they’re headed to and get them an inexpensive apparel item with its name, logo, etc., something to start the school year with next fall. A nice long-sleeved shirt can be $25 or less.

Everyone needs one

– Yes, the dopp kit! They’ll need something to put all their toiletries in, and it’s one less thing to buy come fall. A nice dopp kit can be had for under $25. has some great deals on these.

Monogram it

– Monogramming is hot right now, and it makes good sense for someone living with a large group of young people. Towels and tote bags are good, cheap choices, as in $25-$40 including monogramming. Etsy is one of my favorite places for this type of stuff – (

Prepare for the grind

– A small, personal coffee maker is perfect for a dorm room and a life-saver when the cafeteria is closed during that all-night cram session. These can be found for as little as $14 – (! )

Oh, goodies

– You can’t go wrong with a sturdy laundry basket or storage bin filled with things like laundry soap, toothpaste, mac-n-cheese, candy, and other essentials. This can be done for around $30 with a good assortment of goodies. Just insist they don’t consume them before college starts!

For the college grad
Bottle cap and gown –

I found this on Pinterest (

/2010/06/graduation-champagne.html) covering a bottle of champagne with simple black fabric cut in the shape of a gown, with a cap to cover the cork. Less than $25, as long as you don’t splurge on the bubbly.

What’s under your bed?

– If they’re moving into their first apartment or starter house, chances are closet space will be minimal. Under-bed storage cases and bins are ingenious and inexpensive. For around $17, you can help them utilize the wasted space under the bed. Bed Bath Beyond has some affordable options – (

Tools for success

– Most of us only buy our first hammer, screwdriver and other basic tools when we need them. For around $40, you can give a small, basic combination tool set. They’ll think of you every time they hang a picture on the wall.

What, more books?

– Yes, but not textbooks. Actually, personal finance classics like

The Millionaire Next Door


The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom

( ) should be required reading for anyone entering the workforce and the “real world.” Pen a personal note inside the cover and they’ll keep it forever, and maybe thank you down the road.

As you see there are tons of things you can do. The key thing to remember is that, for the most part, these people are going out on their own for the first time. So they literally need everything.

Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click