Know a grad?  Almost everybody does, and while you may want the very best for that newly graduated guy or girl, many of use can’t afford much more than a twenty for their gift (especially if you’ve received dozens of invites!)  These gifts won’t seem cheap, and they can really make an impression:

A letter of recommendation – This costs you nothing but time and an investment of your word.  Dole it out to only those grads you trust and can honestly recommend, and let the grad know in their “congrats” card that they’ll have a letter waiting when they’re ready.

A gas card – $20 won’t get you much gasoline these days, and quite possibly will buy even less by the time the cap and gown are worn.  The extra twenty in fuel can be handy tucked into a wallet for an emergency, however.  I don’t know anyone who hasn’t welcomed this gift.

Cooking utensils – If the new grad is venturing out on their own, either to a dorm or an apartment, they will need something to cook eggs with.  I remember how useless I felt when I figured out that a spatula, whisk, wooden spoon, and other necessities weren’t something I could get by without, and they are rather difficult to get a full set at yard sales. You can find great value at Amazon.

Cleaning supplies – Here is another “moving out” gift that new grads won’t want to buy themselves.  Toilet cleaner isn’t a priority for kids on a budget, so help them (and their roommates out), by getting them started with a plastic caddy and products to shine the sink.  If nothing else, it gives them a blueprint for what items they’ll need to keep things manageable.

A home-cooked meal – Feeling hospitable?  Leave a note in the graduation card letting them know that they will have one home-cooked meal a month waiting for them during their first year (eating it with you is optional.)  You can easily whip up an extra plate of pasta, chicken, or whatever they are craving.  (This obviously only works if the grad lives close by.)

Postage stamps – Another rising commodity, stamps aren’t something young adults usually budget for.  Get $20 worth of forever stamps and set them on a path of paying bills and sending birthday cards on time.

First Aid Kit – Yep, this is another “you don’t know you need it until it’s too late” gift, and nothing beats a box of band aids, some first aid products, and a good manual on handling an emergency.  They can set you back more than $20 if you aren’t careful, however, so consider buying one from a warehouse retailer or stocking one yourself from items you buy individually.

College book store gift card – While $20 won’t even make a dent in the cost of a single textbook, it can be a blessing to a student stuck having to grab something in an emergency from the campus store.  The sticker shock at these places can be bad.  A twenty dollar head start is more than thoughtful!

Your professional skills – Handy at auto repair? Not too shabby at polishing a resume?  Offer an hour or two of your time to a new grad.  Assuming it’s the right skill, it can be something that they will really value!

A care package – Those sappy commercials are full of well-meaning adults sending care packages to college kids.  Except for holidays and that eventful first month of college, however, most college kids I know never see them come to fruition.  Make a commitment to send a care package to each kid on your graduation list this year, and follow through.  You can stay in contact with their parents, if you aren’t sure of their destination.  Just make sure that the gifts are generally cool (candy, movie rental codes, etc) and not creepy.

Do you remember your first year as a new grad?  What item do you wish you received as a gift?  While I loved all the cold, hard cash that I got right out of high school, I wish I had received some items with a bit more heart.  You can’t after all, blow through antibiotic ointment quite like you can dollar bills.

Linsey Knerl

Linsey Knerl

Linsey Knerl is a homeschooling mom of 5 and a freelance blogger and writer. You can read more about her at