What to Give on Graduation Day? 25 Ideas More Unique (and Practical) Than Cash

Lifestyle What's Happening May 12, 2020



What to Give on Graduation Day? 25 Ideas More Unique (and Practical) Than Cash

Graduation gifts can be among the most difficult gifts you will ever be tasked with giving.  There is no universal, magic answer to the best graduation gift. What might wow one person, may simply be underwhelming to another.

Sure, there’s nothing wrong with gifting cash or a gift card. Cash is, after all the most popular graduation gift. 55 percent of gift-givers in a recent survey stated they believed cash to be the most useful gift.

But for some of you, there is nothing worse than ending up ‘just another card on the pile’, stuffed with money. There are a couple of  steps you can take improve your chances of finding something a little more personal or a bit more unique, than cash.

When searching for a gift, you can consider the recipient’s interests, hobbies, lifestyle, and near-future plans, as a starting point for your gift brainstorming process. If you aren’t super close with the new graduate, remember, you can always ask someone who knows them better, for ideas or specific information on the tech and trinkets they use daily. You may also be able to glean their interests by browsing their social media accounts as well.

The question of ‘how much i should spend?’ on a graduation gift, might also be crossing your mind. According to an annual survey prior to the current pandemic and economic situation, the answer was somewhere in the ballpark of $105 dollars. Just know, when considering the current climate, less than that amount is perfectly acceptable.

We’ve given you some gift shopping tips to get the ball rolling, but we also have a short list of 25 unisex items from a few different product categories, which we’ve compiled. Hopefully something on this list might be a good fit for the recent high school or college graduate in your life. Whether the student is college-bound, taking a gap year or jumping straight into adult life and career, these gift ideas should be practical,  useful, and fun!

Affordable tech options:

1. Digital Assistant

Having a digital assistant to replace mom or dad as post-snooze alarm clock, question answer-er and gentle reminder-er can be invaluable to someone heading away from home for the first time. Plus it can play back music and control the TV with only a voice command – what’s not to love.  Just a word of advice: go for the cheaper, smaller, speaker only versions of these devices over the screen options.  An 8 to 10 inch screen, on which, a parents face can pop-up ‘at anytime’, isn’t likely the kind of ‘convenience’ your high school graduate is looking for in their new chapter of life.

Suggestions: Amazon Echo Dot, Google Home Mini


2. Portable Charger / Power Bank

When it comes to modern, thin and sleek smartphones there is one thing that we all have in common. We need more juice! Or heaven forbid you find yourself in a situation were your safety might depend on having a backup phone charge. A great solution and safeguard is a portable charger or power bank. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when shopping: a higher power rating (milliamp hours) means more charges, but often at the cost of heavier weight. (a 3,000 milliamp hour capacity, should provide at least one full charge) multiple ports will let you charge more than one phone or device at a time. In addition, if available a fast-charging option is always better!

Suggestion: Make sure you are aware of whether they use iPhone or Android phone


3. ‘Waterproof’ Bluetooth Portable Stereo Speaker

You never know when (or where) your graduate might want to blast music without using headphones. In the dorm room, the car,  a park, parking lot, or swimming pool. When things ease back to normal, who knows where out in the world you might be! So, don’t just go for affordable here, but look for a portable bluetooth speaker that is stereo so you can be sure you’re getting decent sound quality. Since we are going for quality, why not go waterproof or splash-proof as well, just in case.

Suggestion: Anker is a solid quality, mid-range, affordably priced brand with great sound.


4. USB Hub

You can never have enough USB hubs. With increasingly fewer ports on modern laptops, a portable mini USB hub will allow your graduate to use all of the devices they need, without compromise.

Suggestion: Go with USB 3.0 for speed and compatibility. Be aware that some of the newest Apple MacBooks only have the smaller USB Type C ports and not standard full size USB ports. For those you would need to buy a USB 3.1 Type C hub.


5. Instant Digital Camera

Sometimes what is old is new again, and these new instant digital cameras are fairly popular with the retro-style loving crowd. If you are slightly older, then this concept is not new and is simply the Polaroids that you remember, except this is smaller and produces far better image quality.


6. Hulu and Spotify Combo Subscription

A combined subscription to both the internet-streaming video/tv service, Hulu, and the music streaming service, Spotify. It’s a discounted way to get two services that a graduate will likely want (or need), combined into one convenient annual or monthly subscription fee.


Practical Necessities

7. Mini Safe / Dorm Safe

Sometimes you need a small space to keep a few items of value stowed away from prying eyes and sticky fingers. Keep your wallet, passport, meds, nice jewelry, and more, in a compact safe. These safes are small, sometimes fireproof, and can be secured to tables, furniture et cetera, in a variety of ways.


8. Small Fix It Kit

A small portable collection of handy tools inside of a sturdy container or bag is useful for just about anyone. Especially when you need to start fixing little issues on your own, for the first time, without any assistance.


9. Burrito Blanket Throw Tortilla

It’s a throw blanket that looks like a tortilla. Some people may find it fun or goofy and if you know your graduate well enough, you’ll likely know if this blanket is for them.


10. Ruffled Shag Throw Blanket

A shag throw blanket, a little bit retro-70’s inspired, but a lot less gimmicky than the burrito blanket.


The Gift(s) of Reading

11. Amazon kindle e-reader

Many of us would be better-served by reading more often than we do. Perhaps your graduate could use some encouragement to read more frequently, or maybe they absolutely love reading. Either way, the Kindle Family of E-Readers from Amazon.com could be a great choice.

Speaking of reading, how about some books, either digital or physical, to inspire or offer instruction to your graduate?


12. The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to Act by Russ Harris

This book explains that most of us go about trying to find happiness the wrong way, which ends up making us miserable. To counter, this book presents insights and techniques of a revolutionary new psychotherapy designed to help the reader clarify their values and develop mindfulness.


13. How To Be an Imperfectionist: The New Way To Self-Acceptance, Fearless Living, and Freedom From Perfectionism by Stephen Guise

Carefully avoiding mistakes? Endlessly ruminating about what you didn’t do?  Find that what you do isn’t enough?…then, this book encourages you to embrace the concept of imperfection. This book may seem like a strange suggestion for a graduate, but, in a world which often demands perfection and sets unrealistic expectations, it’s good to remember, mistakes will happen, perceived failure can create growth and laughter and relaxation is healthy.


14. Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give If She Thought You Were Listening by Becky Blades      

*Note* Reviewers say this book is more targeted toward girls

The perfect graduation gift―practical, motherly advice about everything they still need to learn. About dreams. About life. About laundry. Covering everything from posture to finances, with a hint of motherly sass, this book has compiled the best tidbits of advice into one thought-provoking, conversation-starting collection.


15. The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into In College by Harlan Cohen

The Naked Roommate touts that it is the go-to-guide for your very best college experience. From sharing a bathroom with 40 strangers to sharing lecture notes, it’s packed with real-life advice on everything from making friends to managing stress. Hilarious, and outrageous, stories from students on over 100 college campuses, cover topics on college living, finding people, classes, dating, the party scene, & money.

Suggestion: As a word of caution, reviewers have said that this book is fairly forward on topics of sex and partying and therefore may not be for all college bound students.


More Personal Selections

16. A Self Journal

A good old-fashioned journal which sometimes contains tools to encourage writing and self-reflection. Maybe this isn’t a fitting gift for every graduate, but, in an era where handwriting is becoming a lost art, maybe it would be worth giving a try.


17. Inspiration Socks

Consider these ‘notes to self’ socks with a positive word to remind your graduate how wonderful they are. (You might want to buy a dozen to be ready for the college care packages in your future.)


18. Graduation Year Penny Keychain or Inspirational Keychain

These are affordable, slightly personalized and they’re keychains (which everyone will need).  These keychains are understated, small and unique, and might just be the perfect low-cost gift.


Handy Food Items

19. Chef’s Portable Multi-tool

It’s like a Swiss Army knife for dorm room cooking!  An all-in-one tool that is both super convenient and extremely space efficient. Should be the perfect gift for a new college students’ pseudo kitchen.

Speaking of pseudo dorm kitchens, these cooking appliances should also come in handy.  Designed to be both space-saving and time-saving, single use appliances for your grads favorite (or soon to be favorite) foods.

20. Single Pie Pizza Box Oven

21. Single Serving Breakfast Sandwich Maker

22. Microwave Ramen Cooker

23. Retro 10-can Vending Cooler

24. Electric Kettle


Fun Group Games

25. Cards Against Humanity, Bananagrams, What Do You Meme?, or Never Have I  Ever

These fun, familiar and sometimes offensive group games are great at breaking the ice and getting to know friends new and old. They are also incredibly likely to provide a laugh! So, skip the old-fashioned board games and stock your graduate up with fun group games like: Cards Against Humanity, Bananagrams, What Do You Meme?, or Never Have I Ever.

Suggestion: cards against humanity is popular and has been around for some time, so even if your grad already has it, the expansion packs may be a safer bet. that way, if they don’t have it, all they’ll need is the base (or someone who has it) to get started.


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