8 Graduation Gift Ideas for Every Budget

graduation gift ideas

Graduation is a major milestone on the journey to adulthood and independence. Parents and loved ones want to honor the graduate with a meaningful gift that will celebrate their achievement or a practical gift that will make their transition to adulthood easier.

graduation gift ideas

We’ve put together a list of graduation gift ideas that features both sentimental and practical gifts and can be equally enjoyed by men or women. Let’s take a look!

1.) Custom College Planner ($)

Help the graduate organize life after school with a custom planner. Instead of a generic planner, get one that’s tailored for the grad, featuring their name, favorite colors or hobby, a quote celebrating their achievement, or even a favorite photo. Custom planners are better than stock planners since you choose the month the planner starts, meaning no pages are wasted. You can also choose custom add-ons you know the grad would enjoy, like sticker packs, to-do lists, and student checklists.

Inner Moonlight Quote Planner from PurpleTrail

A physical planner provides many advantages over using a smartphone. This low-tech method is less straining on the eyes, never runs out of batteries, and doesn’t stress you out with the constant ping of push notifications. Besides, many grads enjoy the feel of traditional writing and even find that they remember things better when they physically write them down using pen and paper.

2.) Laptop ($$$)

A laptop is the most expensive grad gift on this list, but also the most useful. Whether the graduate is college bound or plans to stick around for a while, the graduate will use it for everything from applying for jobs and searching for apartments to keeping in touch with friends and watching movies. College bound grads will get the most benefit, however.

graduation gift ideas
A laptop is the ultimate practical gift for a graduate.

For college bound grads, some laptops are better than others for meeting specific needs, so it’s best to consult consumer publications and industry websites to sift through all the options. For example, Laptop Mag periodically publishes its list of best college laptops, focusing on which laptops are best for studying business, engineering, art and design, and other areas that require specific computing strengths.

3.) Custom Graduation Pillow ($)

Many high school grads are only a few short months away from leaving their families and hometowns to attend college. Even the toughest and most adventurous graduates will get homesick. When they go off to college, a cozy custom pillow with a printed photo of their family will feel like a warm hug from their loved ones.

graduation gift ideas
Custom Graduation Pillow from PurpleTrail

As an alternative, you can have a photo of the graduate with their friends as a unique memento of high school or a pillow with personalized graduation text like the example above from PurpleTrail. Aside from being nostalgic, custom pillows are also practical. Along with accenting the bedding of their first dorm or apartment, custom pillows are also something they’ll lean on for comfort or snuggle up with to sleep more soundly.

4.) Noise Cancelling Headphones ($$)

All too soon, the grad in your life will be heading off to college or the working world, which often means noisy dorms or new living arrangements that don’t allow a moment’s peace. Noise cancelling headphones will help them block out unwanted noise so they can study or simply decompress from a busy day. Another perk is they allow grads to enjoy their favorite music without damaging their hearing since they won’t need to crank up the volume to drown out excess noise.

graduation gift ideas
Noise cancelling headphones are a thoughtful graduation gift.

Noise cancelling headphones are also great for grads who will be taking public transportation regularly to get to college and/or work. The gift will help them better utilize that time for reading, study, work, or even just sleep. It’s a particularly good gift for introverts who wish to avoid unwanted small talk with strangers.

5.) Grad Coffee Mug with Coffee Gift Card ($)

Once summer break is over, and the grad enters college or the working world, chances are they will face a lot of early mornings, either for 8 a.m. classes or clocking in early for work. A custom coffee mug with a gift card to their favorite coffee shop (Starbucks is a big favorite) is a thoughtful way to help the grad actually look forward to dragging themselves out of bed.

graduation gifts
Chalkboard And Purple Mug from PurpleTrail

Custom coffee mugs can be printed with the graduate’s name, favorite colors, an encouraging quote, or even a favorite photo or two. Aside from custom photo mugs, popular ideas include monogrammed initials, chalkboard backgrounds, and geometric prints.

6.) Airline Gift Cards ($$-$$$)

Who doesn’t appreciate the gift of travel? Maybe the grad in your life has always dreamed of visiting the Grand Canyon, or dreams of a relaxing tropical getaway before entering the grind of college or the working world. Perhaps the graduate is taking a gap year before college to backpack around Europe and see the world. The gift may even be used for more practical reasons — a means of flying home to see family when away for college.

graduation gift ideas
Airline gift certificates can be used by the grad at any time for any destination.

To help the grad get the most benefit from airline gift cards, look for airlines that offer gift cards or certificates that don’t expire and whose balances do not diminish until the entire amount is used. Alaska Airlines and Southwest are a couple examples. Last but not least, if you happen to know the destination the grad is most excited about, make sure the airline offers that location as a destination.

7.) Smartwatch ($$-$$$)

Wearable tech is quickly moving beyond a mere trend to become a staple of modern life. The most practical piece of wearable tech is the smartwatch, which lets you quickly view email notifications at a glance, makes showing your boarding pass easier when flying, and can serve as both a fitness tracker and navigation option.

graduation gift ideas
Smartwatches come in a variety of price points for every budget

While most smartwatches are meant to complement a cell phone, some of the higher-end cellular smartwatches can almost replace a cell, allowing you to make and answer phone calls without being linked to your cell. Popular smartwatches are made by Apple, Pebble, Samsung, and LG, but we recommend doing some research on tech industry websites to explore unbiased reviews of the smartwatch you’d like to buy as a gift.

8.) Leather Weekender Bag ($$)

Leather weekender bags are yet another practical gift the grad will use again and again. Necessary for holidays at home from college and quick weekend travels, a leather weekender bag is more grown-up than a backpack and more stylish than a gym bag.

graduation gift ideas
Leather Weekender Bag from Old Fisher Bags via Etsy

It’s a great option to celebrate a graduate who is crossing over into adulthood, and equally appealing to both men and women. The bag shown above is from the Old Fisher Bags store on Etsy.

Celebrate Your Grad

We hope this list of graduation gifts guides you toward that one gift that makes the graduate’s eyes light up when they see it!

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