I still remember both my high school and college graduation ceremonies after all these years. I remember being very proud of myself for making it across the stage without tripping or falling. I also remember how many people seemed keen to give me advice that day, even though I was too overwhelmed to remember it. Today, when someone I love celebrates a graduation, I always try to pick a gift that will stick with them through the years—and hopefully secure their financial future.

These ideas will leave your wallet (mostly) alone and help your graduate get an early start on building a secure financial future.

1. On-the-job survival kit

This gift idea is made for your stockpile—and you can customize it based on what you have on hand, what your grad likes most, and what they need most.

What to do:

  • If you have a reusable insulated lunch bag, this can be ideal to use for your kit itself.
  • Add extra pens, breath mints, gum, snacks, chapstick, Post-it notes, hand sanitizer.
  • Tuck in a bit of "emergency cash."
  • For extra points, if you have these items in your stockpile, add a travel sewing kit, a stick of deodorant, and a small mirror.
  • Add an envelope full of coupons for items your graduate will likely use most: coffee, frozen pizzas, chips, condiments, deodorant, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc.

How this gift helps your grad save: Your grad may not realize that just because you can afford to offer a nice gift doesn't mean the money to do so fell into your pocket. You are showcasing how saving helps you afford nice things—for yourself and others—and the coupons envelope drives the message home AND helps your grad save towards their future needs!

Related: 7 Tips for Building Your Gift Stockpile!

2. Gift card survival kit

If you have been holding on to a stash of gift cards (or Swagbucks points), now is the time to put them to use! One thing nearly all new grads need is a few freebies to tide them over between their graduation date and their first professional paycheck…and gift cards can sure come in handy!

What to do:

  • Coffee and dinner gift cards will be used quickly.
  • Gift cards for professional attire and shoes will be much appreciated.
  • Gas gift cards will never go to waste (unless your grad is headed to a subway city!).
  • Entertainment gift cards (movies, music, etc.) can help your grad blow off some steam.
  • Tuck in a note about how you earned some of the gift cards—or send your grad an email referral link to join Swagbucks (or your favorite rewards site!).

How this gift helps your grad save: Not only are you able to give your grad valuable gifts for free—but you’re sharing a resource where they can go to earn more gift cards in the future!

3. Dave Ramsey's The Graduate's Survival Guide

Every new graduate will have to tackle money management at some point (sooner rather than later is better).

  • $20 on Dave Ramsey's site (book + DVD).
  • Do a little sleuthing, and you may even score a used copy for cheap (check Amazon)!

How this gift helps your grad save: There is student loan debt to pay down, retirement options to review, big purchases to save for…and this graduation gift that can help with all of these and more!

4. A Treasury savings bond

One of my favorite graduation gifts came from my grandpa. He gave me a Treasury bond, which technically was my first investment. It made me feel a) grown-up, and b) potentially rich. And I felt eager to learn more about how the money I had could grow. What a great gift!

How this gift helps your grad save: With just a tiny bit of explanation into how bonds work, your graduate will learn the basics of investing to save—invest a little now, have more to enjoy later!

5. Offer to match graduation money gifts if they’re deposited into a savings account

This gift would have been right up my grandpa's alley, as befits a man who built his own successful company from just a few bucks!

  • Offer to match all or part of all graduation funds received, but require proof that the funds have been deposited into a savings account or interest-earning vehicle of some kind.

How this gift helps your grad save: Sometimes the best way to teach new graduates (graduates with actual cash burning a hole through their pockets for the first time ever) about savings is to offer an incentive too powerful to pass up.

6. Buy a share of a popular stock for a company founded by someone financially inspiring

Companies like Walt Disney, Apple, and Walmart started with a founder's dream and the few bucks in their wallet.

  • You can gift stock you already own to your graduate. (BONUS: this may also help you at tax time!)
  • You can also buy one single share of stock (some companies to consider: Unique Stock Gift, Give a Share, and One Share).

How this gift helps your grad save: Every dollar counts, and this gift shows your graduate how—especially if you package in the company's start-up story with the gift!


6 Gifts That Teach New Grads How to Save