Graduation Gifts

Graduation GiftsAs graduation season approaches, families everywhere are planning the usual celebrations and gatherings. Whether it's high school or college, graduation is a significant achievement that deserves acknowledgement. But what's an appropriate gift for a new graduate? Especially when money's tight? Whatever your budget, here are some ideas for gifts that are useful and will certainly be appreciated by any new grad.

1. Money

Every poor student loves to get money! And they need it. Let's face it, in this economy, who doesn't? But new grads, especially those without jobs or who are just starting out on their own, certainly can use cash. As long as you don't care how or where it's spent, money is always a well-appreciated, appropriate and popular graduation gift.

2. Stock

Consider what field your new grad is entering and their interests. If you don't want to make a big investment you can buy as little as one share of stock in many publicly traded companies and have it framed. It then becomes a multi-faceted gift - it can become artwork to replace those old posters that have been hanging on the wall, plus it may inspire and remind a young graduate to save and invest. And of course you hope it will also increase in value over the years.

3. Career/College Major Guidebooks

Especially important in a recession, new grads need to have a clear idea of where they're going. Now more than ever, no one can afford to spend money on a college major that will never be used. For those entering the work force, following the wrong career path can lead to painful struggles and unnecessary failures. Guidebooks are a great resource for graduates who need help in taking the next step. They can also help graduates who already know what they want map out a path to get there.

4. Gift cards

There was a time when giving a gift card was considered impersonal, but those days are long gone. Today gift cards can be purchased almost anywhere and for just about anything. Personalize the gift by thinking about what your graduate may need or want and go from there. Your options are limitless. Combine a movie theater gift card with a restaurant card and you've given the graduate a night on the town. Not as much fun, but always useful might be gift cards to a supermarket, drugstore, gas station or hardware store.

5. Handmade or Personalized Items

Who says a gift has to come from a store? Some of the most memorable and meaningful graduation gifts aren't purchased at all. One-of-a-kind handmade items are often kept for years as special keepsakes. Consider making a personalized scrapbook for your grad. You can include pictures of friends and events, clippings, and other items like library receipts, test papers, playbills and memorabilia from school. Another homemade gift idea is a gift basket. Customize it for a graduate heading off to college by filling it with items for the dorm, quarters for laundry and a t-shirt with their new college logo. For grads entering the workforce, fill a basket with office supplies or other items related to their new job. And if your graduate is moving to a new city, you could include maps, a subway pass and take-out menus to make their transition a little easier.

6. Group Gift

Sometimes what a new grad needs most is out of the reach of individual family members. In that case, it might make sense to combine resources and chip in for a bigger gift. If you know your graduate needs a computer, suggest everyone buy a gift card to a specific computer store. A group gift can be a great way to help a struggling grad take a big bite out of a much-needed purchase. Graduations are one of life's grandest celebrations. They mark our significant achievements and the start to a new phase of life. And while each graduate and every situation is unique, the most important part of any graduation gift is the thought behind it and the acknowledgment of the hard work and effort it took to get to this special day.