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Best Thrifty Gifts for Grads in 2019

The art of giving gifts takes years to master, and it can be challenging to get it right on a budget. As graduation season approaches, there may be a few students in your life who you’re considering gifting something special to.

This post will offer a few ways to give gifts that are sustaining, appreciated, and practical without stretching your wallet.

Start them out with a membership

Memberships can have their pitfalls, but they can also make a great gift for someone who is just starting out on their own. There are few directions you can take with this, and they all depend on your price point and your grad’s needs.

  • Get them a membership to the gym. If they don’t already have a plan, check out Planet Fitness locations and rates to see if it might be a good fit. At $10 a month, it’s a fine way to share fitness with them for their first year out of college.
  • Give the gift of entertainment. Hulu, Netflix, and other entertainment streaming service fees can add up fast for a new grad. If it fits in your gifting budget, consider buying them a year-long subscription to one of these services. Of course, you can also subsidize part of a year by sending along a gift card charged with the amount that best fits your budget.
  • Give roadside assistance. If your new grad has a car, there are few more awesome gifts than roadside assistance to help mitigate the costs of any unexpected breakdowns or popped tires. AAA is a popular choice, and if you have a subscription already, you can add your college grad for as little as $21 a year.
  • Try Amazon Prime. This one isn’t cheap, but you can start your grad off with free shipping and other perks by gifting a Prime subscription for a month or two for under $40.

While most subscription services offer a free two-week or one-month trial, giving the gift of a few months can give your grad a sense of how valuable the subscription would be for them in the long term.

Give them something to remember you by

Sentimental doesn’t necessarily mean “mushy” – a meaningful gift should be full of significance. These two ideas are great opportunities for you to send a heartfelt message:

A photo album

If the grad you know is someone near and dear to your heart, there’s little else as personal as a photo album.

In this age of digital tech, you can create an online photo album on sites like Snapfish or Shutterfly. These sites frequently offer discounts for printing photo albums as personalized books. There’s something special about having a small book of pictures of happy days to pick up when you’re feeling blue.

One great book

Not everyone loves to read, and it probably seems downright inconsiderate to gift a non-reader a popular novel. However, there are two books for graduates that are easy wins:

  1. Any grad will be happy to have a cookbook. If you’re looking for a classic, the Fannie Farmer Cookbook is a great old standby for those looking to learn how to cook.
  2. The Dr. Seuss classic, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! hasn’t grown old yet. If you’re looking for a lighter option, this is a slam dunk.

To make the most of this option, give one thoughtful book to your grad with an inscription on the inside front cover to show your new grad you care.

(Of course, books can be hard to move, and new graduates often find themselves in a position to move between apartments or states. If your grad is a budget-conscious book lover, make sure they know how to get the most from their local library!)

Equip your new grad for success

It can be difficult to come up with a practical gift for a graduate, whether they’re on the job hunt, off to a new school, or headed into a new job. These two gifts may be useful to a new grad, whatever their circumstances:

Planner or financial planning journal

It can be hard to stay on top of job interviews, coffee dates, and bills. While a lot of people use apps and digital tools to keep up to date, many still prefer a more traditional method. A planner or a financial journal can help new graduates keep an eye on the month ahead, track spending, and use their time wisely.


Great, functional luggage is easier to find than ever. Amazon has an excellent list of affordable luggage. Your graduate will appreciate having a new piece of professional-grade luggage that they can bring along on a job interview out of town or a business trip.

The classic graduation gift: money

Financial support at any level is the go-to graduation gift of many because it is often what recent graduates need to strike out on their adventure. Every dollar toward rent or a down payment counts, and whatever you can give will be appreciated.

Give the gift of help when they need it

If your new grad already has a job, consider giving them the gift of SafetyNet coverage. While pricing varies by state, you may be able to provide them with income insurance for their first year of employment for as little as $4.50 a month.

If adding a gift to your budget isn’t in the cards this month, you can always give the gift of a helping hand. Consider giving them a card with a handmade gift certificate for help – redeemable for moving or assembling a bookcase – with whatever skills you have to offer.

Of course, you can also go the route of a thoughtful, handwritten letter. In three or six months when their graduation party is a happy memory, surprise them with a small care package to show you’re still thinking about them and rooting for their continued success.

When giving a gift to a recent grad, what’s important isn’t how much you give. Any gesture of support can help boost a person’s confidence and reinforce the fact that you care.