The other day my best friend and I were kicking around graduation gift ideas for her nephew who is going to college in the fall. After working at a University in Student Housing for 6 years, I was endlessly shocked at the parade of useless junk college kids brought with them and how they lacked basic necessities that were completely overlooked. I mean, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss is a very cute gift, but they’re not going to use it. It’s going to sit on a shelf for years and years (I know this to be true because that’s where my copy still is and I can’t even tell you who gave it to me now). Cutesy gifts are fine, but these kids need stuff to survive college life! Here are 10 awesome, practical, and yet, affordable graduation gifts that will be appreciated for years to come!
1. 15 Piece Nonstick Cookware Set and Beginner Cookbooks
If a student has a kitchen available to them, they will use it. I was always impressed with the volume of students cooking for themselves. Not only is it economical, it’s a fun break from the books. Vremi 15 Piece Nonstick Cookware Set is cheap, dishwasher safe, and oven safe – and it’s so cute and colorful!
Most college students told me that a beginner’s cookbook would have been helpful and they make for affordable graduation gifts. Here’s a few that I personally recommend:
2.6-Cup Pot Style Rice Cooker and Food Steamer AND The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook
I know this sounds crazy, but rice cookers can cook way more than rice! I was amazed at what students would whip up in a simple rice cooker! From breakfast, lunch, and dinner to even dessert in these little bad boys. It’s cheap and easy dorm room cooking. It runs on low heat and cuts it’s higher heat after 20 or so minutes.
Most college residence halls will allow rice cookers (check first of course) and other low heat cooking appliances. Don’t be tempted to buy the “single serve” rice cooker. Students don’t cook several times a day, so having something left over will keep them hitting the books through the night. The cookbook offers 250 different recipes from Pilafs, Risottos, Polenta, Chilis, Soups, Porridges, Puddings, and More! Together these make a stellar and affordable graduation gift that will keep that kid well fed!
It was mind blowing to me how many college students felt that it was in their budget to hit up Starbucks daily for their morning, afternoon, and evening… and late night… and late late late night coffee. I had one student who was spending almost $600/month on just coffee shops. She hadn’t bought herself a coffee maker because she didn’t think she drank that much coffee. Well that added up quickly!
Having an on the go or one cup coffee maker that is super easy to use and clean, they won’t be blowing all their text book money for coffee. Plus buying them a Subscribe and Save K-Cups from amazon, you’ll actually save even more!!! That’s a pretty awesome affordable graduation gift that keeps giving all year.
4. Book Secret Hidden Security Safe & Cash
When I went away to college, one of my best friends gave me a secret hiding place book, Live from the Battlefield, it was titled. It was one of the greatest gifts I have received to this day. I still use it… 20 years later!! It’s a great place to stash cash, jewelry, important documents, and other… um… secrets. Now they are fancy with locks and security keys, but they are a super affordable graduation gift! Stuff it with a bunch of dollar bills and trust me… they’ll love it.
Shower totes are very, very popular college student buys. However, after a few weeks, they are typically discarded because they become disgusting mildew mold factories. One thing that I love about these fabric totes is that they are mildew resistant, dry quickly, and can be machine washed. That means this one little shower tote could last a student 4 years!
A wheeled bag is so easy to fill up, toss in your laundry supplies, and head to the laundry floor or room that may be a ways away. It’s also handy for toting groceries and other items as well. A laundry bag or basket is fine if it’s stationary, but when you have to schlep it to a laundry room, it’s a pain. What does this result in for college students – not doing laundry. No joke. Stink-a-roo! Both of these are affordable graduation gifts that a student will use daily… well hopefully!
All gift cards are awesome and affordable graduation gifts, but I HIGHLY recommend a grocery store gift card. You could give them a general credit card gift card and they can use that for anything… and they trust me they will use it for anything but what they need. At least this way you know they won’t starve this week because now they have emergency grocery money. It comes in very, very handy on those lean weeks. Find out what grocery stores are close to where they will be and pick them up a card that’s in your budget. Whole Foods offers great student discounts on groceries and prepared foods!
7.Enjoy Your New Roommate Gifts
I was so fortunate with amazing roommates in college – not that they were perfect, far from it, but I sure loved living with them. However, young people haven’t been given the tools to effectively deal with living with a stranger that may have different habits and schedules. It was the biggest issue that I dealt with in Student Housing – cleanliness, food stealing, night owls, etc. But arming kids with problem solving tools was incredibly helpful.
Besides effectively communicating with their roommate, here are a few things I HIGHLY recommend for grads about to be in a shared environment. The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College is a great book that discusses cohabitation with a stranger in college.
Bedtime Bliss Contoured & Comfortable Black Sleep Mask with Moldex Ear Plugs will let them sleep and the roommate cram! Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones will let their roommate sleep and your grad can keep binge watching on youtube videos for the night. All of these combined make a practical and affordable graduation gift that they will use more than they even know.
8. Safety First! Fun Second!
My cousin gave me a pepper spray key chain as a graduation gift. I thought she was a bit nuts and it was an odd gift. But I carried it for many years and it did make me feel better to have it with me. Luckily the only time it was used was on me, when I was showing someone how to work it and a gust of wind blew it back into my face (there may have been alcohol involved during that instructional). It’s not something we like to think about, but college students put themselves in potentially dangerous situations all the time… walking home from the library late at night, going to a new friend’s house, parties, etc. Better safe than sorry!
SABRE Red Pepper Spray Keychain is light weight and easy to use, however pepper spray isn’t legal in all states, so make sure you check that out first. I love Mini Stun Gun – Rechargeable with LED Flashlight, it’s so cute! I like that it doubles as a flashlight as well, and it’s easy to charge.
Vigilant Personal Alarm – LED Flashlight – Rip Cord Activation is a better alternative to a whistle. If you are scared, digging around for a whistle and then having enough breath to blow several times could leave someone in a dangerous situation. This is an alarm and you just pull the rip cord and an alarm will go for an hour if needed! Sounds safe to me! This affordable graduation gift will keep them safe and give them – and you – piece of mind.
9. Echo Dot & Amazon Music Unlimited
If your grad is a music person – this is a GREAT and affordable graduation gift for under $50! It will also keep music purchases to a minimum because they can hook up pandora or their prime music. Not only that, the Echo Dot is way more than just a speaker!! Your grad can tell it to add due dates, tasks, shopping lists, alarms, and so much more, right to their phone. No missed deadlines, meetings, or oversleeping. It will keep them organized and it’s a pretty fun gift if you ask me – I love mine! Plus they can even order a Domino’s pizza through it – talk about college survival at it’s finest.
If your grad is like most students, they are going to take out student loans… LOTS of them. Student loans are a real hardship in life for all college graduates. If I told you what I have to pay back in student loans, you’d vomit. But GiftofCollege.com gives you an opportunity to help your grad start paying back those crushing student loans. You can determine the amount, and that’s one less little chunk they’ll have to pay in their lifetime. It’s probably not going to be their favorite graduation gift, but six months after they graduate and that loan deferment comes to an end… they will appreciate this gift!
What practical and affordable graduations will you give this year? What’s the best and worst graduation gift you’ve ever been given??