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With May quickly approaching, graduation ceremonies are just around the corner. This year, some graduation ceremonies are back to being in-person affairs, while others will remain virtual. Whether your grad is donning their cap and gown across a stage or via Zoom, you can still celebrate their achievement.
As nervous but excited young adults approach a new chapter of their lives, family and friends inevitably find themselves looking around for great graduation gift ideas – big or small – that show their love for the graduate. Celebratory gifts and gifts to help make post-grad life a little easier are good places to start.
And don’t worry about big displays like a car with a bow. While that’s certainly an incredible gesture, a lavish gift isn’t necessary to show the grad in your life how proud you are. There are plenty of thoughtful and affordable graduation gifts to be found whether you’re hoping to supplement the check or bouquet you’re planning to bring to the ceremony, or you just want to say congrats from afar.
Here are 21 of the best graduation gifts under $50
The Amazon Echo Dot is a small, unobtrusive personal helper that can set timers while you cook, report the weather and traffic to you from the comfort of your bed in the morning, and perform many, many more helpful tasks without taking up much room at all.
The Dot is also really easy to use, and it’s a big plus that it will work with any Amazon tech purchases they make in the future, since they’ll be in the same tech ecosystem.
A cast iron skillet for to get them started cooking
Get the graduate started cooking on their own or up their kitchen skills with a do-it-all skillet. This our top pick for the best cast iron skillet thanks to its smart design that features curved handles and pour spouts, making it a great pan for cooking just about any dish.
A travel mug that keeps beverages hot for hours
Whether they’re starting their first job, heading off to an internship, or will just a lot of coffee to fuel their next chapter in life, this is by far the best travel mug you can buy since it keeps both hot and cold drinks at enjoyable temperatures for hours longer than the competition.
A plant that’s easy to take care of
Whether they’re moving into the dorms or into a new apartment after graduation, this beautiful succulent trio in a ceramic pot can double as a nice housewarming gift. The succulents are easy to care for and you can have this delivered right to their door if you won’t be able to see them in person this year.
A custom map
Whether you want to help remind them of home, a cherished trip, or of their favorite college town, create a beautiful custom map they can proudly display wherever they’re headed next.
A Book of the Month subscription for new reads
Graduates are bound to be excited about the end of classes, but learning can actually be pretty great when it’s self-directed and at their leisure. They might realize a few months out of school that they’re actually a little starved for something new to think about. If that’s the case, you may want to pick up an inspirational book like “The Happiness Advantage” ($15.22).
If you want a list to start your thinking, here are 10 books that famous CEOs loved reading. Otherwise, you might like signing them up for three months of the Book of the Month club ($49.99), which is a great tone to set for the summer.
Three months of Birchbox deliveries
In general, subscriptions are some of the best gifts that you can give. A monthly treat, especially on a tight budget, can be an extremely nice thing to look forward to. Every time it’s delivered, they’ll be reminded of you.
Birchbox is one of the best subscription services available and uniquely well-suited for graduates. It combines monthly deliveries of personalized samples and an e-commerce shop to get around how inconvenient and expensive shopping for and trying new products can be.
The woman’s subscription will likely include products like face primers, conditioners, cleansers, mascaras, etc. and the Birchbox Man box will have four grooming samples (like nice aftershave, body wash, or even cologne), plus a stylish accessory or gadget each time.
You can gift a woman’s subscription for 3 months for $45, 6 months for $84, or a full 12 months for $156.
You can gift a man’s subscription for 3 months for $30, 6 months for $60, or a full 12 months for $110.
A framed memory
Framebridge is one of our favorite photo services because they make framing your memories and pictures easier and more affordable than ever. If you want to commemorate the years they’ve spent in school, or, if they’re going far from home for more schooling or a job opportunity — frame a nice picture of their loved ones. It’s thoughtful, sweet, and something they’ll be glad to have for years to come.
A personalized passport cover and luggage tag
Gift them a passport cover and luggage tag for all the destinations they haven’t yet made it to. You can also get it monogrammed for $20 more. Plus, this company sends all purchases in beautifully luxe boxes with ribbons already attached; no extra wrapping needed.
A waterproof portable Bluetooth speaker
Perfect for activities with their friends where they don’t want to worry about sensitive equipment that can’t get wet but still want to listen to their favorite songs. This is one gift that will inevitably see lots of use.
The Best Self Co. Journal that helps make their 10-year plan tangible
No more classes ushers in a lot of fun and free time, but many recent graduates will find that they miss the clear goals given in their 15 or so years of schooling. The Best Self Co. Journal helps people map out their five- or 10-year plans in a tangible, easily managed way. It’s a nice and low-pressure way to provide growth and direction after graduation.
An Amazon gift card
If what you really want to do is just give cash but are looking for a nicer equivalent, an Amazon Gift Card is a subtle way to accomplish the same freedom and utility. Or, if you’ve already gotten them a small gift but it doesn’t quite cover it, a gift card is a nice supplement.
Amazon has virtually everything a new grad could desire (in this life or the next, really, there is everything), so you know that no matter what they’ll be getting something they genuinely want — which, in a lot of cases, is best since they know what they need better than anyone.
Flowers delivered to their door
Flowers — you can really never go wrong with giving them as a gift. Sending a nice bouquet doesn’t have to break the bank, and it’s a nice way to remind your graduate of their accomplishment and how proud you are of them for many days after the event itself. Plus, by ordering online and having them delivered, you won’t have to walk around holding them, and neither will they.
Six months of language prep
Many students have had to take language courses as part of their degree, and many of my peers want to use their upcoming free time to make the most of the building blocks that they have gotten from those courses.
Proficiency in another language is an extremely desirable trait for both employment purposes and for their ability to interact with the world that exists apart from them. Plus, without regular classes, they’re much more susceptible to losing what they’ve learned. If you know they have an interest, this is a nice, no-pressure way to make sure they have the opportunity to grow their skills, should they want to.
A monogrammed planner to look and feel organized
Life is busy, and it doesn’t stop being busy after graduation. Having a professional-looking, organized way to start off the year like a monogrammed Moleskine planner is a thoughtful and useful gift. It will also look nice in an internship or office setting.
A wireless keyboard
Lightweight and compact so they can bring it with them to new classes or to a job, this wireless keyboard can pair with devices like phones and tablets for a comfortable experience when typing up notes, reminders, and more.
A business card holder
Their company will likely give out business cards, but they’re not likely to already have a business card holder they can feel good about pulling out at work or internship events. This looks polished and high-end, and Leatherology delivers orders in beautiful boxes, which doesn’t hurt for gifting. You can even get the holder monogrammed.
A commemoration of their town
Your graduate might appreciate having a way to commemorate the town they’ve just spent the last few years making memories in. Especially if they’re leaving town post-graduation, this is one thoughtful way to take some of their best four years with them.
A scratch map that tracks where they’ve been and encourages further adventure
This scratch-off-where-you’ve-been map keeps track of past adventures as well as encouraging the new. It’s a fun decorative tool that will hopefully keep them curious about the world at large.
A toolkit for “real life” moments
After graduation, you enter some version of the “real world” and the real world will include putting together furniture, Googling how to fix leaky faucets, and enticing your friends to help you mount your living room TV with pizza. It’s not the most strictly “fun” gift, but it will absolutely be necessary. Your grad will be thankful for the tools needed to handle whatever life throws at them, and this is one gift they may not immediately buy for themselves, but which you really want to have before the very second you need it.
A steamer to keep clothes looking crisp
Help the graduate enter the next phase of their professional life by always making sure their clothes look fresh and crisp. This is one of the best clothes steamers you can buy for the price since it’s easy to use, portable, and doesn’t take up too much space.