30 Great Graduation Gifts Friendly to Your Budget

We've got plenty of budget-friendly gift ideas for you this graduation season.

It’s almost that time of year — gowns donned and diplomas handed out. Yes, the little boys and girls you once knew are now young men and women graduating from high school and college.

Now that they are adults, get your graduates something useful that will give them a head start on life. Here are 30 practical graduation gifts suitable for high school or college grads. Each one costs $100 or less.

1. Amazon Prime

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Amazon is the go-to shopping portal for everything from gadgets to groceries. With Amazon Prime, your graduate gets free two-day shipping as well as free streaming for Prime Video and Prime Music. Graduates can also get e-books, e-magazines and more for free through Prime Reading.

A three-month membership to Amazon Prime is $38.97, or you can buy a whole year for $99.

2. Netflix, Hulu or YouTube TV

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Cable television is expensive. Fortunately, there are many good streaming options nowadays. Netflix is great for movies, TV shows and original programming. Hulu and YouTube TV also provide the option to stream live TV from several networks.

You can buy Netflix and Hulu gift cards in a variety of denominations from online retail sites such as Amazon, Target and Walmart. YouTube TV costs $40 per month.

3. Chromecast

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A $35 Chromecast allows graduates to easily send movies and shows from a streaming service on a device to their TVs. Consider bundling this gift with a Netflix or Hulu gift card.

4. Box of kitchen supplies

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If your graduate is moving away from home after getting a diploma or degree, he or she will need to stock their new digs. Help out by giving them a collection of kitchen supplies.

The contents will vary depending on whether they are moving to an apartment, house or dorm. Include inexpensive small appliances, such as a toaster or hot plate. Also throw in pots and pans, measuring spoons and dishes.

5. Cleaning kit

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Pack up sponges, dish soap, laundry detergent, washcloths, a toilet brush and other cleaning supplies in a laundry basket.

While graduates won’t ooh and ahh over this at first, they will appreciate it when faced with a dirty bathroom. Rather than run to the store to spend limited funds on cleaning supplies, they’ll have everything they need.

6. Towels or linens

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Help your new grad stock up on high-quality items that won’t go threadbare in a month.

While it can be tempting to buy a sheet set, these can be tricky to gift unless you know the recipient’s bed size and fabric preference. For example, while some folks love flannel sheets, others want nothing but cotton. For that reason, bath towels and kitchen linens may be a safer bet.

7. Tool kit

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Even those who aren’t handy can benefit from having a tool kit. You can buy a toolbox that’s already assembled or make your own. Essentials for any box include a hammer, wall hangers, flat-head screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver, pliers and a measuring tape.

8. Luggage

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Even if your graduate doesn’t have wanderlust, he or she could probably still benefit from having a good piece of luggage standing by. Look for one that can be used as a carry-on for flights.

Luggage can be expensive, but you don’t have to break the bank to get your graduate a nice carry-on bag. Many quality brands are available for less than $100, or just a bit more, like this highly rated Delsey carry-on.

9. Frequent flier miles

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If your graduate wants to see the world but is short on cash, help out with a gift of some of your frequent flier miles. Airline policies vary, but most allow loyalty program members to transfer miles to others for a fee.

10. Budgeting book

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Although graduates might groan at the thought of reading another book, they will thank you later if it helps them avoid money mistakes and deep debt.

Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has several books — including “Life or Debt” and “Money Made Simple,” — that would make good gifts. Or if you want something geared specifically for young adults, try Beth Kobliner’s “Get a Financial Life” or the colorfully named “How to Be Richer, Smarter and Better-Looking Than Your Parents” by Zac Bissonnette.

11. Budgeting software

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Getting a gift of some budgeting software gives graduates a great way to keep their finances in order.

Popular budgeting software includes YNAB (You Need a Budget), which runs $6.99 for a month; and Quicken Deluxe, which lists for $89.99 for a 27-month subscription,. Other options include cloud-based applications such as Mvelopes, which starts at $40 for a year.

12. Noise-canceling headphones

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Noise-canceling headphones make it easier to study in the dorm, library or other public places.

While top-of-the-line noise-canceling headphones will set you back a couple hundred dollars, there are cheaper versions available. One best-selling model from TaoTronics sells for only $69.99 on Amazon.

13. iTunes or Audible gift cards

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You really can’t go wrong with an iTunes gift card. Not only can it be used to download music, but you can also get movies, TV shows and books in the iTunes store. Audible, which offers audiobooks, is another option that may be a great choice.

Gifts cards to iTunes can be bought in any denomination, while a six-month gift membership to Audible, which comes with a credit for a free book each month, costs $90.

14. Portable charger

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These handy devices ensure your graduate won’t get stuck with a dead cellphone or other wireless device. Although there are high-end portable chargers available, many highly rated models can be purchased for less than $50. Look for one that offers fast-charging, and wireless charging is a nice perk as well.

15. Portable speaker

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A portable speaker is a gift that’s practical but not boring. Most use Bluetooth technology to wirelessly play music off a phone or other device, and their compact size makes them ideal for travel. If you decide to go this route for a graduation gift, you’ll have lots of options in the $50-$100 price range.

16. Cloud storage

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Cloud storage offers a simple way to sync up files and save them for online retrieval should something go wrong with a computer or other device. Many cloud storage services offer a free version with limited features, but you could give your graduate a paid service for more bells and whistles.

For instance, Microsoft OneDrive offers 5GB of free storage. However, for $69.99, your favorite student can have a year of service through Office 365 Personal. He or she gets not only 1TB of storage space on OneDrive, but access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other applications as well.

17. Roadside assistance

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Shocking as it may seem, fixing flat tires is not a life skill taught in most schools. Make sure your graduate has a Plan B available when he or she can’t decipher the cryptic description in the owner’s manual about how to release the spare tire.

AAA is the granddaddy of auto clubs offering roadside assistance services. Costs vary depending on where you live, but services typically include things such as four 100-mile tows, emergency starting, flat tire replacement and more. An alternative is the Allstate Motor Club, which has plans that cost $52 or $99 annually.

18. Business cards

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College graduates just heading out into the world will likely appreciate having a stack of personalized calling cards.

While you could probably get 500 business cards for less than $25 from online retailers like Moo.com, VistaPrint or Office Depot, don’t overlook your local print shop. A gift certificate to a business that will create a custom design allows your grad to get something that really reflects his personality and goals.

19. Planner

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If your favorite student is constantly scribbling notes and diagramming plans, a paper planner might be the perfect gift.

If you’ve never shopped for a planner before, you might find all the options overwhelming. Popular brands include Erin Condren, Plum Paper and BestSelf Co. Expect to spend anywhere from $25-$75 for a quality planner.

20. Meal prep box

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Young adults busy conquering their new lives post-school may not have the time, energy or inclination to cook healthy meals at home. Motivate them to make good food a priority by giving them a meal prep box.

Meal service subscriptions have taken off in recent years, so you have plenty of options. For $60, you can provide two meals for one week from Blue Apron. Or you can spend around $60 at Hello Fresh and give three meals for one week.

21. Clothing delivery service

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Get your graduate a gift card to a local store, or try something more novel like a clothing-delivery service.

For a fee, these services will send a box of clothes and accessories, often customized to a person’s preferences. The recipient tries on the clothes, keeps what he or she likes and returns the rest. Stitch Fix was the originator of the concept and sells gift cards in a variety of denominations. Elizabeth & Clarke specializes in work essentials and also sells gift cards. For men, try Trunk Club.

22. Gift-box subscription

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Is there really anything more fun than getting a box full of goodies in the mail each month? In addition to cooking boxes and clothing boxes, graduates might appreciate getting one of the many other gift-box subscriptions available.

There’s Bean Box, which sends coffee for three months for $68; or Birchbox, which offers accessories and beauty supplies for $10 a month when you buy at least three months. There are also gift boxes for socks, jewelry, food, toys and just about anything else you could imagine.

23. Emergency kit

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Hurricanes, floods, wildfires — having an emergency kit doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. However, it likely won’t be on the top of a new graduate’s mind. Help them out by giving a supply of essentials.

The Department of Homeland Security has recommendations for a well-stocked kit. For the basics, you can’t go wrong with a flashlight, batteries and first-aid supplies.

24. Umbrella

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An umbrella combines old school charm with practicality. Many good-quality, attractive umbrellas can be purchased for $25-$50 or less.

Consider a classic, stick model for the dapper graduate or a compact, automatic one for the graduate always on the go. Wirecutter has some reviews to help you select the right model.

25. Gym membership

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If your high school grads are going to college, they probably won’t need a gym membership. Their campus athletic center should have equipment they can use free of charge. However, college grads will be losing that perk and might appreciate a gift membership to a local gym.

Some gyms can be pricey, but affordable chains like Planet Fitness can bring the cost down to as low as $10 a month.

26. Coffee maker

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To-go coffee can quickly take a bite out of anyone’s budget. If your grad loves a good cup o’ joe, get a quality coffee maker to encourage him or her to brew at home. Connoisseurs may prefer one with a built-in grinder, while those who like their coffee flavored may prefer a basic machine along with a basket of syrups, creamers and other add-ins.

27. Gas or transit card

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No matter where your graduate is going next in life, it’s going to cost some money to get there. Graduates won’t need to spend so much if you give them a gas card or transit card as a graduation gift.

28. Grocery store gift card

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Groceries are another staple of life. Even college students need to run to the store occasionally to stock up on ramen and snacks. Scout out which grocery store will be closest to your graduate’s new home base and buy a gift certificate for that shop as a parting gift.

29. Personal safety device

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It’s a scary world out there. Having a can of pepper spray is the old way of warding off unwanted advances. Today’s technology offers new and improved ways to get help in the event of an emergency.

A Wearsafe Tag serves as a personal panic button that can quickly alert authorities. For $60, you can buy the tag on Amazon along with 12 months of service. Revolar is another company that makes a similar product. Meanwhile, personal alarms are safety devices that can be purchased for less than $25. These emit a loud noise to deter attackers.

30. Cash

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All the other gifts on this list are great ideas, but let’s face it: When it comes right down to it, many graduates simply want cold, hard cash. High school graduates may not have much to their name while college graduates may be faced with overwhelming student loan debt.

So if none of the other options sound like a winner, you can’t go wrong by tucking a little green into a heartfelt card.

Do you have more great gift ideas? Share them in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Maryalene LaPonsie
Maryalene LaPonsie
After 13 years as a staffer for a Michigan legislator, I decided it was time to quit the commute and work from home instead. For the past three years, I’ve been penning ... More

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