16 Last-Minute Graduation Gifts Under $30

Say goodbye and good luck to the class of 2016 with a thoughtful gift that doesn’t put a strain on your budget.

Spoiling a new graduate with a generous gift is never a bad idea, but if you’re on a tight budget, you might need to explore some affordable alternatives. The average planned spending for one graduation gift is $53.73, according to the National Retail Federation’s Graduation Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. It’s not too late to come up with graduation gift ideas that will impress, inspire and support your grad this year and not spend nearly that much.

Here are 16 last-minute graduation gifts for 2016 graduates — all for under $30.

1. Personal Finance Book: $12

Give your fresh grad a chance to learn about budgeting basics and debt prevention with a personal finance book that can guide them through the money management process and help them learn good financial habits. Some good examples of graduate-friendly reading material include “Rich Bitch: A Simple 12-Step Guide for Getting Your Financial Life Together … Finally” by money expert Nicole Lapin or “Smart is the New Rich: Money Guide for Millennials” by CNN’s chief business correspondent Christine Romans.

Read More: 25 Best Personal Finance Books for Your Summer Reading List

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2. Phone Charger: $12

Busy grads will be getting even busier in the upcoming year. You can make sure their smartphone is always accessible and charged with a mobile charger. Buy a charger with a compact design and a powerful battery pack that will keep smart devices charged for hours on end. These chargers can be thrown into purses, briefcases and even backpacks or pockets for some pocket-friendly charging when it’s needed most.

3. Cookbook: $15

Grads who will be living away from home for the first time or moving to an area where dining options are limited might enjoy some cooking tips. Pick out a hardcover cookbook for that vegetarian, paleo enthusiast or low-carb dieter, or stick with the classics like “Joy of Cooking” for a comprehensive guide on cooking fundamentals.

4. Portable Furniture: $15

From folding chairs to collapsible storage bins, the new grad will need some dorm room or new apartment furniture that doesn’t take up a lot of space. Choose from a few basic items that will help them furnish their new space — and save them space — like a collapsible laundry basket or folding chair.

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5. Travel Bag: $18

Grads who are already making travel plans to spend a year or more abroad, or will be looking at a long commute in the upcoming year, will appreciate having a bag or small piece of luggage by their side to transport their items. A sturdy bag with pockets is the perfect weekender and go-to travel bag for any college-bound student or young professional.

Related: 24 Useful Gifts for College Graduates to Actually Use

6. Herb Garden Kit: $20

Give the new grad a chance to grow his or her own herbs in their new home with an at-home herb garden kit. These miniature gardening sets include planters, soil, seeds and instructions to create a set of fresh herbs they can use to cook up their favorite meals.

7. Journal and Stationery: $20

Support your grad’s new transition in life by gifting them a beautifully designed journal or notebook. In addition, you can include some stationery or note cards, so that they can keep in touch in a more personal way. From watercolor prints to distressed paper covers, pick out stationery with an inspiring message or image so grads can jot down their thoughts.

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8. Alcohol: $20

Now, if your graduate just graduated high school, this isn’t for them. However, any college graduate would appreciate a nice bottle of liquor or wine, or a six-pack of their favorite beer, to celebrate their accomplishment. You can get a decent bottle of whiskey or bourbon for under $30, or go the wine or beer route for under $20.

9. Portable Speaker: $20

Music enthusiasts will appreciate having the option of setting up their own sound system wherever they go with a wireless, Bluetooth speaker. Pick up a speaker with a unique design and remote so they can place it on their desk or tabletop in their new home, apartment or dorm.

10. Noise-Isolating Headphones: $25

Whether they’re hitting the gym at sunrise, taking the train to work or needing to block out noisy dorm-mates, having a set of noise-isolating headphones can make the experience just a little better. Pick out a pair of ear buds or over-the-ear headphones with noise-isolating technology for under $30 for the new graduate.

11. Gas Card: $25

Some new graduates will be commuting to a new job and still be on a tight budget, so a gas card is sure to be well-received. Some cards can be reloaded so the cardholder can use it as a convenient way to monitor and manage their gas purchases.

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12. Gourmet Food Basket: $25

A basket filled with sweet treats, nuts, snacks or even homemade items will keep a pantry full for at least a few days — and help them save money on grocery shopping. Shop at World Market or even Trader Joe’s for some tasty snacks and treats that you can arrange in a basket you picked up from a party store for a personalized graduation gift that will also keep you within your budget this season.

13. Gift Card: $25

If you’re not sure what your grad will be thrilled with, a retail store, restaurant, Starbucks or Amazon gift card is sure to please. You can buy electronic versions to take care of a last-minute graduate via email or have the card sent to the recipients home with a congratulatory message attached.

14. Laundry Kit: $28

If the new graduate is going away to college or renting a home after college, they’ll need some basic supplies to get laundry done. Get them a care package that includes a laundry basket, laundry bag, detergent, fabric softener and stain remover. You can create this yourself with individual items or buy an already-made kit on Amazon for under $30.

15. College Team Hoodie: $28

Let them show off some college pride with a team or school logo hoodie or shirt. Look for the Officially Licensed Collegiate Product stamp to pick up something high-quality and durable that they can make use of at the gym, on weekends and to cozy up in on a night in after a stressful day.

16. Cash: Your Choice

Let’s face it, sometimes cash is appreciated more than any other gift. That way, the new graduate can spend it on what they need — like bills — or use it toward a fun trip they’re taking. You can even get creative and fold the money into some cap and diploma origami. Watch the video below to learn how.


No matter if a high school graduate is heading off to college for the first time, or a college graduate is heading into the work world to start a new life, these gifts can help make that transition a little smoother. But most of all, you don’t have to spend a fortune to say congratulations.

Keep Reading: 5 People Who Should Get Cash Gifts — Like Recent Grads

Jamie Young contributed to the reporting for this article.

Disclaimer: All prices are based on the lowest price available online.

About the Author

Sabah Karimi

Sabah Karimi is an award-winning writer with more than 10 years of experience writing about personal finance, lifestyle topics, and consumer trends. Her work has appeared on U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, Yahoo!, AOL Daily Finance, MSN, and other mainstream publications. She was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal and CBS News about her work as a freelance writer early in her career and now works with a variety of clients.

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