12 Cheap and DIY Graduation Gifts (That You'll Actually Use!)

by Sarah Cotton |  06/24/2013


Summer is here, which means graduation parties are in full swing. It’s fun to give and get gifts, but when all of your friends and family members are graduating, things can get expensive pretty quickly! And what’s worse than buying or receiving an expensive gift? Not using it. That’s where we have you covered.

Whether you’re headed to a high school or college graduation party, or celebrating graduation at any age, check out these 12 inexpensive and do-it-yourself gifts...that a recent grad will actually use! We hope these gifts inspire you to celebrate the lifelong learners you know – those people in your life who are committed to learning and growing at any stage and any age.
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1) Business cards


Your first step to getting that awesome new job or internship – making contacts. Don’t miss out on a single opportunity and expand your network wherever you go. A set of 250 is just $15 on VistaPrint.

2) Memory board


All you need is a cheap frame and some photos, ticket stubs, and other pieces of memorabilia that hold a special meaning to your graduate. It’s a perfect first dorm decoration, to help ward off homesickness.

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3) College survival kit


Pack up a shower caddy with tools and essentials for surviving freshman year in college – all the little things they might forget. A small sewing kit, shower flip flops, laundry instructions, ear plugs, and a screwdriver.

4) Candy gram


Write a short poem on a poster and fill in the blanks with the corresponding candy. You could also tape the letter on a Mason jar and fill it up.

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5) Cash


This is one gift you know won’t go to waste! A clever way to give your grad some cash is to put it in a frame – you can get creative with your folding technique, paint the mat with their school colors, or take this more humorous route.


6) Car emergency kit


Put together a small box of basic emergency items to keep in the car, such as a flashlight and batteries, Duct tape, a blanket, and a simple first aid kit.


7) Gym membership


Joining a gym doesn’t have to be a time-sucking, wallet-draining experience. Planet Fitness is just $10 a month, and it’s just one of many affordable options. For Boston area students, a membership at GymIt will only cost you $20 a month.


8) Awesome water bottle


This water bottle, featured on the Today Show, has a built-in compartment to hold keys, an ID, money, and other items when you’re at the gym or on the go. Find it for just $14 from Contigo.


9) The Naked Roommate


The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College is a New York Times Bestseller. The book covers everything from sharing a bathroom with 40 people to sharing lecture notes, offering a behind-the-scenes look at everything students need to know about college. $5 on Amazon.


10) First job survival kit


Fill an insulated lunch bag with essentials to survive the first day or week on the job – a reusable water bottle, notebook and pens, and a pack of gum and some snacks. Perfect for adult learners and graduates re-entering the work force!


11) I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook


Make sure your favorite high school grad doesn’t have to eat Ramen every day! 150 Cheap and Easy Gourmet Recipes are included in this book. Even if you’ve never cooked before, this book shows how quick and easy it is to create delicious dishes on a college budget. $12 on Amazon.


12) Oh the Places You’ll Go



This Dr. Seuss book is a classic gift for graduates. But the parents of high school student Brenna Martin took it one step further – for her graduation, they gave her a copy that was signed by every one of her teachers since she was five years old. You don’t have to go that far, but writing an inspiring message is a wonderful way to add a personal touch.

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