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9 Gift Ideas for College Grads | Family Finance

If you have a loved one graduating college this spring, you may be wondering what type of gift will be most appreciated. Considering that this major life milestone often marks an exciting yet overwhelming time for many college seniors as they take their first steps into adulthood, you can ease their transition with a thoughtful gift they’ll actually put to use. And though cash and gift cards are popular graduation gifts, there may be something more personalized and practical you can give without breaking the bank.


“The amount of money you give or spend on the graduate depends on many factors, including your budget and the relationship you share,” says Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert, founder of The Protocol School of Texas and author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.” If you want to give something practical, ask the graduate for ideas and remember money is always a safe bet, she says.

With that in mind, here are nine practical gift ideas for new grads:

  • A tool kit.
  • A business card case.
  • A single cup coffee maker.
  • A leather portfolio.
  • A portable charger.
  • A white noise machine.
  • A streaming device.
  • An electric pressure cooker.
  • A lunch tote.

A Tool Kit

Chances are the newly minted grad in your life will be moving into his or her first apartment after school and tasks, such as building furniture to hanging wall decor, are steps every adult should learn to do on his or her own. A tool kit is one of those necessary items just about everyone needs to have on hand. While it’s not the most extravagant gift, it’s a useful one. Though prices vary, you can find tool kits from $18 to $50 at home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot, or at big-box retailers like Walmart.

A Business Card Case

Every young professional needs business cards on hand when networking. Even new college grads that haven’t landed a first job yet should carry a card with personal contact information to stand out. A business card case is a great gift for any young adult getting ready to step into the workforce. With so many styles and colors to choose from, you can make this gift personalized and even have it monogrammed.

“A surprising place to find budget-friendly folios and business card cases is Etsy,” says Trae Bodge, a shopping expert at TrueTrae.com. “There are countless affordable options, and you’ll be purchasing something unique, while also supporting independent craftspeople.” On Etsy, prices for business card cases range from around $10 to $30.

A Single Cup Coffee Maker

Grabbing coffee on the way to work may be the easier option when mornings are rushed, especially for recent grads who are adjusting to their new work-life schedule. However, you can help start their day right by gifting a single serve coffee maker that ensures that hot cup of joe is ready to go when they’re running out the door and saves them from overspending at Starbucks.

“Good places to buy coffee makers are off-price retailers, like Marshalls and J.C. Penney,” Bodge says. When it comes to K-cup styles, Bodge recommends gifting a refillable K-Cup along with the coffee maker. “That way, your grad won’t be contributing to landfills and filling their own K-Cups is much less expensive than buying them prefilled,” she says. You can find a selection of well-priced options at stores like Walmart or Target. Average prices range from around $20 to $40.

A Leather Portfolio

Not all graduates have a job lined up after school, which means lots of endless nights applying to gigs. Though most applications require you to submit a digital copy of a resume, you should still bring one with you to an interview. A professional-looking leather portfolio can help a recent grad look polished and prepared. You can find an assortment of choices online at varying prices, depending on the look and style. You’ll find affordable options at big-box retailers like Target or Office Depot, and high-end options at specialty sites like Leatherology.com. Average prices range from around $20 to $120.

A Portable Charger

Keeping up with meetings, interviews or networking lunches is a new endeavor for every grad and it’s easy to drain your smartphone battery when you are constantly checking your text messages, voicemails and email. An external battery pack will allow you to fully recharge your phone and other devices on the go. The compact size makes it convenient to carry in your handbag, briefcase or pocket. Check Amazon for a wide selection of chargers and spend time reading user reviews to find a quality charger that matches your ideal price point. Average prices range from around $10 to $50.

A White Noise Machine

Living with roommates is a great way to keep monthly costs down post-college, but trying to get some quality shut-eye when they’re up late at night can be tricky. A white noise machine is a practical gift that can help create the perfect sleep environment so your newly minted grad gets the rest they need to perform better at their new job. In fact, a 2019 study by researchers are the University of South Florida, published in Sleep Health, the journal of the National Sleep Foundation, found that missing out on just 16 minutes of sleep from the night before can affect your job performance the next day. Amazon offers a large selection of sound machines featuring a variety of noises that help you feel sleepier and stay asleep longer. Average prices range from about $20 to $80.

A Streaming Device

These small devices allow you to stream video content and games from the internet to almost any TV. This gadget can help college grads keep up with their favorite shows and movies without the added cost of cable. Plus, these streaming devices plug into just about any TV, so there’s no need to spend hundreds of dollars to upgrade to a smart TV. As an added bonus, streaming devices are portable. With product choices ranging from many brands such as the Roku Streaming Stick to Google Chromecast to Apple TV to Amazon Fire TV Stick, you have lots of options to choose from. You can score great deals on streaming devices at electronic retailers like Best Buy or Target. Average prices range from around $30 to $200.

An Electric Pressure Cooker

Young adults often find it easier to grab takeout on their way home from work rather than spend another couple of hours to prepare their own meal. But this can have a lasting impact on their budget. Help your recent grad build better cooking habits by gifting an electric pressure cooker, which provides a hands-off way to get dinner ready quickly. These gadgets work by raising the boiling point of water and trapping steam inside to decrease cook time by up to 70 percent. You can find a selection of pressure cookers from specialty retailers like Williams-Sonoma and Crate and Barrel or check out deals at your warehouse store like Costco. Average prices range from around $60 to $125.

A Lunch Tote

The average household spends $3,365 per year dining out, according to the 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey. This is a considerable amount of money that could be used toward paying down student loans rather than wasted on meals out. Help college grads spend their hard-earned dollars more wisely by inspiring them to bring lunch with a new stylish lunch tote that keeps food cool on the go. Some styles even come with ice packs and reusable containers. You can find a wide selection of gift options at HomeGoods without breaking the bank. Average prices range from around $10 to $20.

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