Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Economical Graduation Gift Ideas

With graduation just around the corner you may be thinking about how much you are going to have to spend on gifts, the good news is that you don't have to spend a lot to give a great graduation gift, and better yet it's not too late to start planning for next year's gifts and save even more.  Remembering back to when I graduated high school, the gifts that I still remember are the ones that I could really use, things like clothes, or luggage. Things that would help me as I headed off to college, or things with special meaning.  Cash is great but not only will the graduate not remember it later, it costs you more and it will likely be gone before it can do them any good.

Here are a few ideas to help you give big without spending big!

1. Dave Ramsey's Graduate Survival Guide - this is a new product from Dave Ramsey geared toward graduates and right now it has a promotional price of just $19.99.  The best thing about this gift is that it will not only save you some money but it will go a long way towards helping new graduates save money.  This new DVD discussion is hosted by Rachel Cruze (Dave Ramsey's daughter) and includes a reference book.  Topics include basics like balancing a check book, credit cards, part-time jobs, student loans and other practical advice about money.

2. Save Money On Gifts with Cash Back - If you purchase a gift for your grad online you can save some green by going through a cash back site like Ebates.  These sites allow you to shop on most websites, getting the same deals you would normally get but also getting a percentage of what you spend back in your pocket.  For instance, right now you can get 5% back when you shop at Brookstone through Ebates, 3.5% back at Things Remembered (think monogrammed) or 6% back from Barnes & Noble.

3. Discount Gift Cards - go through Ebates to purchase gift cards online and get the same % back, or get discount gift cards online through reseller sites like Plastic Jungle.  Even if your graduate isn't a reader, if they are planning to head off to college in the fall they will appreciate a gift card to Barnes & Noble (now one of the largest suppliers of college text books).  Just keep in mind that if you give a gift card as a gift, it may end up on Plastic Jungle, which works by providing those with unused / unwanted gift cards a way to sell them for cash, and also a place for others to buy them at a discount.

4. Plan Ahead - If your graduate isn't graduating this year, you have time to plan ahead.  Instead of spending actual money, you can always get their gift for free by signing up for Swagbucks and earning points for doing things you already do.  Then, you can trade those points in for actual items or Amazon gift cards that you can use to purchase their preferred gifts, without spending an actual penny. 

5. Get Creative - One of my favorite gift ideas for any special occasion is a creative idea that my mom passed along to me.  This works especially well if your grad is heading off to college or planning to move out on their own or travel over the summer.  Start with a large container that they can re-use often and easily.  If they are moving out on their own you might start with a hamper or nice kitchen or bathroom trash can. If they are heading off to college a nice laundry basket, backpack or small piece of luggage (these last two work great if they are planning to travel over the summer).  Fill the backpack or travel bag with travel size hygiene products.  Fill the laundry basket with laundry soap, & fabric softener or fill a backpack with notebooks and school supplies (or mix and match with a little of everything).

6. Use Your Stockpile - we all have a huge stockpile of drug store items, so either use the idea above or create a gift basket using some of your stockpile items.  They will especially appreciate these items if they are heading off to college (or traveling).

7. Magazine Subscriptions - Whether it's their favorite hobby or a magazine geared towards their chosen profession or college major, a magazine subscription is a gift that keeps giving (and reminding them of you) for at least a year.  This is another area where Ebates comes in handy, currently offering 26% cash back at (and often doubling to 50% cash back).

8. Personalized Coupon Book - Create your own IOU book of coupons that the graduate can redeem at a later date, include coupons for "batch of cookies", "care package of 4 items of their choice", "laundry service", and a "home cooked meal".  Whether they are heading off to college or out on their own, these are comfort items they will appreciate.

9. Ream of Resume Paper - If they are graduating from college, this is something that will come in handy for them as they head out into the world of job-hunting.

10. Netflix Subscription - A Netflix subscription allows them to get what they want when they want it, and you can choose how much of a gift you want to give, whether it's 1 month of online viewing for just $7.99 or a full year of streaming plus unlimited DVDs (1 out at a time) for $119.88.

Avoid gifts that are graduation themed. While they are cute at the moment, within 6 months they will be tossed aside and forgotten.

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