The Gift Closet Part Two: Thrifty Graduation Gift Ideas

It has been awhile since I talked about my gift closet, but with the graduation season upon us, I thought this might be a good time to chat again about it.

The first part in my gift closet series included information on how to wrap your gifts and explained how a gift closet worked. Gift closets are such a fantastic way to take advantage of clearance and thrift store opportunities, and will make gift-giving a lot cheaper when planned out this way. Be sure to read that entry for the information you need to get started.
Today, for the second part in this series, I would like to share with you a list of great gifts you can give to a high school graduate. Please be sure to share a favorite gift you received or gave for graduation.

Thrifty Graduation Gifts:

1. College Coupons– One of my favorite things to ever get in the mail, when I was in college, was a care package…from ANYONE! Giving the graduate coupons for care packages can be a very frugal gift and one that they can enjoy throughout their first year in college. Coupons can be assembled with a self-addressed stamped envelope. I like to provide a menu of choices and let them write on the coupon what they would specifically like. I include simple family favorites that can easily be packaged and enjoyed by them. Cookies can be shipped to them in empty Pringles containers or in Christmas tins. Bar cookies are very good choices for your menu options because they hold up well in the shipping process. You can download a template for creating your own college coupons by visiting the download section on, and create any kind of coupon that you would like to give. I mount these coupons on cardstock and tie them together with ribbon. They are a fun & creative gift and it is a gift that the graduate can look forward to throughout their school year.
2. Gift Cards– Gift cards, while not the most inexpensive choice, are something that a broke graduate can truly appreciate. I love to give gift cards to their local supermarket so that they can stock up on food while they are at school. Other good choices for gift cards are the gas station (if they have a car while they are at school), the local salon, the campus bookstore, local eateries, or the movie theatre.
3. Useful Gifts– Try and think of the things that the graduate will need to take with them when beginning college. Some of the things that come to mind are a backpack, an umbrella, alarm clock, a shower tote (filled with things they need), a small lamp, bed linens, towels & washcloths, school supplies (cheap during the beginning of the school season), luggage, or zip drives & disks.
4. Food Kit– My food kit is all put together inside of a dish tub. Within the dish tub, I provide a set of four place settings (plastic forks, knifes, spoons, bowls, & plates) and a sponge & dish soap for doing their dishes. I also put in Ramen Noodles, Cup of Noodles, and any other food that I can find that can easily be prepared in their room. Just tie a bow on the outside and know that this is a gift that they will actually use.
5. Laundry Kit– This is one of my favorite gifts for a graduate. Just assemble everything in a laundry basket and tie a bow on the handles of the basket. Inside stick a roll of quarters, a mesh laundry bag, detergent, fabric softener sheets, a Downy Ball and you can put together a tutorial for them on how to treat stains and easy directions on how to do their laundry. Step-by-step instructions, for the newbie to doing laundry, (as many graduates are!) can be found here and ten tips for the perfect wash can also be given to them too. If you are even more ambitious than that, you can put these things in a binder for the graduate and include your own tips and recipes for getting stains out or you can laminate these.
6. First Aid Kit– What graduate is actually going to remember to stock a first aid kit before they leave? Put together a container of items for their medicine cabinet so that they are prepared when they leave home. Fill it up with aspirin, band aids, stomach medications, ointments, cotton balls, tweezers, and sun block. Include anything & everything they might need for an emergency.
7. Journals & Address Books– Gifts for a graduate who is not planning on attending college or who will be attending a community college can be a challenge. Many of the gifts, traditionally given to a graduate, are made for those who are going away to school. For these graduates an organizer or a journal can be a wonderful and thoughtful gift option. Address books, so that the graduate can record where all of their friends are going, are also nice for them. These can be purchased at your local dollar store or found at local card retailers.
The important thing, in my opinion, is to offer a gift that they can actually use. I can’t tell you how many books I got for my graduation- the infamous Dr. Suess book, Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and coffee table books. These are nice, but are usually read once and put away. I rarely reread them and they ended up collecting dust on my shelf. I am disappointed when gifts I give are not used because, to me, it is like money going down the drain. Don’t be afraid to ask your graduate what they are in need of so that your gift is actually used!
If you are the mother of a graduate, I wish you congratulations on making it this far with your child. It is an accomplishment for you both and you should be very proud!

Published April 11, 2007 by:

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of You can read all about her here.

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