Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Inexpensive and Practical Gifts for Graduates

Photo Source: hhsara
It's that time of year again. Time for high school seniors to walk to "Pomp and Circumstance," cross a stage and receive that long-awaited diploma.  Some will go on to college and some will go straight into the work force. All will be making major life-changing moves into the "real world" though.

And so the graduation invitations start pouring in. But you're on a budget. What can you do?

Here are a few inexpensive gift ideas that will suit a new graduate perfectly:

Any Graduate:
  • A copy of The Tightwad Gazette, The Debt-Free Graduate: How to Survive College Without Going Broke by Murray Baker, or another similar favorite would not necessarily be the sexiest gift they received, but it would keep on giving if they dared to open the cover and learned to live within their means. 
  • A mop bucket filled with cleaning supplies that you score from pharmacies for cheap or free.  Include anything from sponges, glass cleaner, a dustpan, cleaning clothes (think bag o' rags), a toilet brush, all purpose cleaner, some Bar Keeper's Friend, some Magic Erasers (make your own), vinegar and baking soda, scrubbing brushes, cleaning wipes, and whatever else you'd like to include. These will all need to be purchased by the grad but aren't a lot of fun for them to spend their own money on, so this will be a huge help. 
  • A bin, basket, container (whatever you can find for cheap or free) - something that can be used as a shower caddy/tote - and fill with toiletries - also gotten at pharmacies and the like for cheap or free.  Think shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, disposable razors, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, handheld/makeup mirror, shower poof, lotion, sunscreen, nail clippers/file, tweezers, flip flops (for a community or shared shower) and any other item you might can think of. Again, they will need to buy anyway, so this will help offset their living expenses. 
  • First Aid Supplies - whether you buy a prepackaged kit or make it yourself, this is yet another in the category of the last two of things they need anyway.  Include alcohol, peroxide, bandages, gauze, ibuprofen, Tylenol, Pepto, cotton balls, antibacterial cream, sunblock, tweezers, aloe, and anything else that you have in your medicine cabinet. 
  • Tool Kit - This one you can opt for an actual tool box as a package or, for a less expensive route, just a bucket or box.  Include hammer, small panel nails, screw drivers (Phillips and flathead), pliers, screws, hangers like Command hooks, batteries, adjustable wrench, tape measure, utility knife, a small level.  These will be invaluable!
  • Office Supplies - Always a help to college students, but this gift is still perfect for those who will be setting up their new apartment/home away from the nest. Everyone needs pens, highlighters, tape, paperclips, stapler, staples, staple remover, correction fluid, post it notes, scissors, stamps, envelopes, notebook, day planner, rolodex/address book, and maybe something like a flash drive. 
  • Laundry supplies - Grab a laundry basket and fill it with laundry detergent, bleach, fabric softener, a roll of quarters, a mesh laundry bag, AND (most importantly) instruction on how to launder basic items and treat stains.Throw in a word find, Sudoku, or crossword puzzle book too.
  • A case of Raman noodles. Trust me on this one. 
  • A water pitcher with filter, filter refills, and a few reusable water bottles. Throw is some flavor packets if you so choose. 
  • Sewing Kit - this was one of the seemingly most strange gifts I got when I graduated high school and I still use it today, 15 years later.  Get a sewing organizer or just any plastic container with a lid. Include scissors, needles, safety pins, straight pins, a sampler of thread, and anything else you think would be helpful. I love mine still and have fixed so many holes/buttons/seams, etc in a pinch. 
  • A recipe book.  It can be How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman or it can be a binder full of the student's favorites (and some new ones to try). We've all got to start somewhere, right?  And there is nothing like home cooking. 
  • If it is a family member, like a child or sister, give them a day planer or calendar with birthdays, anniversaries or other important dates filled in. Include surprises like, "Dinner with brother"  or "the day sister comes to do my laundry." 
Photo source: aprilbell

Those Going to College: 
  • A basket full of food they can cook in a dorm room.  Think microwave pasta (include a can opener) Mac and Cheese, popcorn, Ramen noodles, PB&J, Nutella, nuts, crackers, oatmeal, soup, pudding, hot chocolate mix, tuna, and the like. Throw in a sponge and dish soap as well as some ziploc bags too. Their choices are limited in what they can cook in their room, but give them a basket of ideas to help!
  • Umbrella. Seriously. They'll be walking all around creation in wind, rain or shine. And unfortunately, many people don't think of one until they need it (too late!).
  • Some small select dishes like small tupperware, cereal bowls, a handful of utensils, a couple of microwavable plates, and a few cups should do. It's not like they'll have a lot of room to store dishes. 
  • Bed raisers (you can find them many places, but I like these adjustable ones) Sounds odd I know, but real estate is at a premium in a dorm room.  These gems will allow you extra storage underneath the bed with little effect on the space available in the room.
  • Baked goodies - wait until they arrive and send them cookies or brownies or whatever else they would love. You can do this anyway even if you've already given a gift for graduation.
  • Test Survival Kit (credit comments section here) - I had to include this because I thought it was adorable and genius at the same time! " How about a “Test Survival Kit” with all of the things that make for a great cram session. You could include notecards (LOTs of them), highlighters, colored pens, page flags, maybe even a few self-laminating sheets for those formulas or principles you will use over and over again. Also, a cram session would not be complete without some form of caffeine – think Starbucks Via packets or Mountain Dew. AND if you really want to make it great, top it off with a baseball cap and body spray – because they will more than likely roll out of bed with just enough time to make it to class the next day."

So what do you have to add?  Do you give any great, inexpensive gift ideas or any that are particularly practical?  Did you receive anything that really blew your socks off?  Leave us comments so we can all have more ideas!

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