Graduation Gifts That Won’t Break the Bank

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By the author of What School Should Have Taught You: 75 Skills You’ll Actually Use in Life

So let’s say that you have a graduate in your life that is soon to enter “the real world.” It’s customary to give a gift to these people, and you want to do so, but you also can’t afford to spend a hundred bucks at the moment. What do you do? It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, as long as it’s from the heart.

Here are a few thoughts.

Get them what they’ll need for a new place.

They probably won’t be going back to mom and dad’s and because of this, they’re going to need to outfit their own little abode. It costs money to turn a place into a home, though. You need cooking utensils, silverware, pots and pans, plates, and a host of other essentials. All of these little things quickly adds up. But that’s one of the good things for the gift giver. You’re only picking up one of these little things.

Giving somebody a Lodge cast iron skillet and telling them why (you’re going to need it, you can cook just about anything on it, and it’s healthier than that non-stick stuff), is a great way to give a gift that they can literally use the rest of their life that won’t cause you to have trouble paying the electric bill.

Coffee, coffee, coffee. 

Because if somebody doesn’t like coffee as a gift, do you even want to be their friend in the first place?

Get yourself a few fancy-looking bags from that little roastery that’s the next town over, and gift those. It’s a lot more fun to both gift and receive “fancy” bags of coffee from distant locations or small-time roasteries than it is to just show up with a can of old-man coffee. Keep your can of boring coffee at home for your own use. Give the cool stuff to your friends.


Get a book that you think will help the new grad on their way. Did you really enjoy The Richest Man in Babylon? Do you think that Dave Ramsey’s myriad of budgeting books can help this guy out? Are there other books on life advice that you wish you had read when you were a graduate?

Those are the ways you need to think when you approach this question. Writing a few words on the inside of the book is always a great way to detail the ‘why’ with the gift. You can find a ton of books for cheap here.

Symbolic gifts

Where I grew up, it was customary for all of the men to get together and take the newest 13-year-old boy out to eat somewhere where he would be given life advice, encouragement, and a bunch of symbolic gifts that were supposed to remind him of what it meant to be a man as he grew older. The thing is, none of these symbolic gifts were expensive.

They were always easily affordable items that, when affixed with meaning, became worth a whole lot more. Why not do the same for your graduate?

This is pretty easy to do with just about anything. A tool, an heirloom – I mean, really anything. It can’t obviously be an “I forgot about you, but here’s a piece of trash with meaning” kind of gift. That’s never the goal here. The idea is to give something thoughtful that you are giving as a symbol of something else.

Restaurant gift cards

Why do graduates like restaurant gift cards? Because they can take their girlfriend out to eat then! Only in the rarest of circumstances do graduates have money. Guys like to shower their girlfriends with gifts. Going out to eat is one of the ways that guys like to do this. When you give a guy the means to do this, he is thankful for it.

And if they have a girlfriend that balks at his using a gift card to take her out to eat? Well then, you sit that fella down, give him a new pair of shoes, and tell him that he needs to run. She can go live alone with her daddy at his bank.

Graduation time is a time of excitement.

It’s fun to see that person off as they begin the next chapter of their life. They’re jumping off of the springboard of education into the real world, and who knows where they’re going to end up? Possibilities are what lay ahead of them and it’s a time of hope and anticipation.

It’s fun to send these people off with a gift along the way, and yes, it is entirely possible to do this without making yourself broke in the process. By gifting the above gifts, you can do that.

What are your thoughts on all of this, though? Are there other inexpensive graduation gifts that you’ve either received or gifted in the past that you think other people should know about so that they can consider gifting the same? Let people know in the comment section below.

About Aden

Aden Tate is a regular contributor to and Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, What School Should Have Taught You, The Faithful Prepper An Arm and a Leg, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

Aden Tate

Aden Tate

About the Author Aden Tate has a master’s in public health and is a regular contributor to,,,,, and Along with being a freelance writer he also works part-time as a locksmith. Aden has an LLC for his micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has two published books, The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American at Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

2 thoughts on “Graduation Gifts That Won’t Break the Bank”

  1. New grads today need to know — : There are multiple ways of giving the gift of knowledge. Despite working in my long ago high school library, it was unforgiveably not taught to me that the usually free interlibrary loan system had been around and working via the US postal service for over a century. With exceptions for extremely rare or high value books, most others that have passed six months since the publisher’s release date are usually fair game for an interlibrary loan request. That’s a dirt cheap way to look over a book to see if a copy is worth buying, or … without violating copyright law … scanning a copy for personal use only (if one has the equipment … or the right connections … or the time to pursue this website:

    Other ways of searching for books might include using the misleadingly titled which can spot book titles for sale around the world — vastly beyond the limited lists on

    One source of freebie book downloads that applies to older out-of-copyright books is

    Knowledge is one thing. Another gift is a record of family heritage IF the giver has done the homework to assemble a substantial family history to make available to such a graduate. But this only works if the digging has already been paid for … and especially if a genealogist was needed. There is an old expression in that pursuit that a genealogist can take your history as far back as your money will go. So this comment is mentioning the records reproduction expense only (for ancestry digging already done) to keep within the budget guidelines of today’s article.


  2. Ringling Brother

    About 6 years ago I got one of my nephews some toy that was the whatever he was into at the time. He was about 10 years old. He opened the gift and rolled his eyes. Swing and a miss on my part. That got me thinking about what to do for the large gaggle of nieces and nephews I have. I decided then to get them precious metals for all gifts. Other than the big bonus of having something of true value, it also won’t be never to be used again sitting in the bottom of a toy chest in a few months.

    I have three graduations to celebrate and gift up in a few weeks. The suggestions in the article are great, however two of my gaggle are graduating high school and they each are getting two 1oz silver rounds. The other one graduated with two bachelor’s degrees and will be getting one 1oz silver and one gram of gold.

    To add something to Lewis’ post above, a great place to get reasonably priced books is Better World Books. Such great deals on used books with free shipping. Many of the books I’ve gotten there are library books and I’m fine with that. The other tremendous thing they do is the following copied from their website:

    “Better World Books is a for-profit, socially conscious business and a global online bookseller that collects and sells new and used books online, matching each purchase with a book donation. Each sale generates funds for literacy and education initiatives in the U.S., the UK, and around the world. Since its launch in 2003, Better World Books has raised $33 million for libraries and literacy, donated over 32 million books, and reused or recycled more than 397 million books.”

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