Frugal Family: Inexpensive Graduation Gifts

In this edition of Frugal Family, we offer you some thoughtful, yet penny-wise graduation gifts that won't break the bank.

With Stoughton High School’s Senior Class , the weekends ahead will surely be full of parties celebrating the students’ worthy accomplishments. 

However, with many parties, come many challenges.  Just how can you give each deserving graduate something personal without breaking the bank?  Here are some ideas to help you do just that. 

Of course, not all college students will be living on campus; therefore, I have provided a couple of ideas that are universal as well. 

Gear Up

Grads are so proud of their school of choice so why not let them share that pride all summer by wearing some of the school’s gear.  Sweatshirts and Tees will probably get the most use.

Summer of Fun

Set the stage for a fun filled, pre-college vacation with a set of gift cards to all their favorite local hot spots…

  • Town spa
  • Crescent ridge
  • Zachary’s

You’ve Come a Long Way

Show your grad just how far they’ve come—literally—with a dual picture frame.  On one side, put a picture of the student’s Kindergarten graduation and on the other side one of their most recent milestone.

A Thank You Basket

When the parties wind down, the grad will actually enjoy writing out all those thank you cards on fresh and personal stationary.

Set your new grad up for success by providing all the necessary materials for writing thank you notes with ease.  Fill a container of your choosing with…

  • Personalized thank you cards and stationary-these can be ordered on-line through www.vistaprint.com, purchased at a local stationary store or simply made on the computer.
  • Postage Stamps
  • Extra Envelopes
  • Matching Pens
  • Glue stick (to avoid licking the envelopes)
  • Book of thank you sentiments to help the grad with wording

Caring Coupons

Create personalized coupons redeemable for such things as a “spur of the moment visit,” “a batch of their favorite oatmeal raisin cookies” or “a load of laundry done without hassle.”

  • Using blank postcards (or card stock cut to size)
  • Put your name, address and stamp on one side with the redeemable coupon on the flip side. 
  • Whenever they are homesick they can simply fill in the return address and put it in the mail!

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Relationship “Time Capsule”

Using tangible items relative to experiences you shared, create your own version of a time capsule. Such memorable trinkets of friendship could include…

  • A small bottle of water from Ames Pond
  • Grass clippings from Chemung Hill
  • A receipt from a dinner at Town Spa
  • Their water gun from senior assassination

“Ready for the Anything” Care Packages

For many students, next fall will require a great deal more independence than in the past. Why not help them along by creating a care package with some inexpensive, yet very important items.

Fill a shower caddy with such necessities as…

  • Sandals for the shower
  • Towel Wrap
  • Toothbrushes with plastic cover

Add these to a collapsible hamper (that way the hamper can be used to store anything they choose…

  • A typed up guide to doing laundry, (you could even insert pictures of each step or clip art to make it more fun!)
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Dryer Sheets
  • De-wrinkle Spray
  • Plastic Clothes Hangers

A small storage container can be filled with stereotypical college staples…

  • Ramen Noodles
  • 5 hour energy drink
  • Microwave Popcorn
  • Easy Mac
  • Various Other Snacks

Care Packages for Future Commuters

For those students making the daily drive to school, a commuting care package can be a lifesaver. Pack a passenger seat caddy with any of these…

  • Bumper Sticker of new school
  • Rain-X
  • New Wiper Blades
  • Armorall Car Cleaning Wipes
  • Air Freshener
  • Ice Scraper
  • Snacks
  • Travel Mug Gift Card Holder

The mug can be easily personalized with a picture of the two of you or with a quote describing your relationship.

Include one or more of the following gift cards in a travel mug for an easy yet practical gift: Dunkin’ Donuts; Gas Stations; Jiffy Lube (for additional oil changes); Car Wash; Membership for AAA.

Moving On to the Military

Many grads have made the decision to serve our country and we are forever in their debt.  However, gift giving can be difficult in this scenario since, they are limited with what they can take or need for this transition.

Ideas include: a hometown memento (to remember where you are from), a journal (to commemorate where you are going) and a poem or military quote (words to guide you).

Additional Ideas…

  • Gift Card to the University Book Store (often owned by Barnes & Noble)
  • Office Supplies
  • Tool Kit (Lillian Vernon sells pink ones for girls)
  • Magazine Subscription
  • First Aid Kit
  • When all else fails then cash is always an acceptable option, albeit, not very personal.  Add your own touch by writing out a check in the equivalent amount to the graduation year.

Several of the ideas above have been adapted from the following websites:

Sarah June 04, 2011 at 01:47 AM
great ideas, Christine! One to add for the military bound-- stationary and stamps. Often their access and ability to use the phone is quite limited, but letters home are permitted. When my husband was in the military just out of high school, he wrote a letter every single day!
Christine Iacobucci June 04, 2011 at 01:50 AM
That is a good one. I was thinking books and photos but unfortunately I don't know a lot of people who served so I modified the one idea I found on line. Please let me know if anyone else has any others to share.
Sarah June 04, 2011 at 12:40 PM
Its tough, because you really can't have much during basic training/boot camp. But, later, care packages with treats are always appreciated. Maybe along the lines of your coupon book idea-- a promise to send packages as soon as they can be received?
Jeannette June 04, 2011 at 01:42 PM
For boot camp - Phone Cards. There are NO cell phones, my husband loved having his cards at the ready when he got a chance to call home. Love your ideas Christine!!!
mom2qts June 06, 2011 at 12:39 PM
Thank you so much for these ideas! I went out this weekend and got everything for a shower caddy. I am going to give it to my nephew. Everyone I have talked to said it's a great idea!!!
Christine Iacobucci June 06, 2011 at 01:43 PM
Thanks to Jeannette and Sarah for the great graduation gift ideas for those going into the military!
Christine Iacobucci June 06, 2011 at 01:47 PM
I am thrilled that you were able to make use of the ideas! I am dying to know what your nephew thinks. I have a graduation party this weekend and have yet to decide which one to use-I am an eternal procrastinator. So while I can provide a multitude of ideas, I tend not to implement them until the very last second:) Thank you for taking the time to read my column, I really appreciate it!
mom2qts June 16, 2011 at 08:13 PM
Wanted to get back to you - He LOVED it!!!! I got him a blue bucket and filled it with soap/shaving cream/razor/tooth paste/tooth brush/shampoo/deoderant/q tips I wrapped the bucket with a bath towel! He loved having it all together! Thanks again for the idea!


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