16 Graduation Gift Ideas: Going-away Presents for New Graduates at Under $200

Graduation Day – possibly the proudest moment in a parent’s life after successful potty training! Your little one has graduated from high school or college and is now ready to tackle life head-on. But you worry because, in your head, they’re still innocent little infants in a big, bad world. While that may be true, you need to let them go at some point. If you’ve already made that decision and they’re off to college or higher education or the workplace, you’ll be looking for something memorable to gift them before they finally leave the nest. Your main graduation gift is probably a really big one, like a car or an investment in their name (check out these graduation gift ideas), but you can also give them smaller gifts that they’ll have an immediate use for. That’s what we cover here, and all the gift ideas listed here are available at under $200, which we think is a reasonable amount of money to spend on a functional and practical gift that will last a while. Alternatively, if you’re buying for a friend or a relative, this is a good selection to choose from.

Graduation Gifts for Under $200

Smart Pen

A Smart Pen is a digital device that records everything you write and everything you hear! It’s ideal for a student headed off to college to write reams and reams of lecture notes. Lectures can also be recorded as audio, and all the files are transmitted directly to a laptop via Bluetooth. The pen holds about 2GB of data, which should last quite a few days before it has to be purged for the next set of sessions. There are plenty of models available for under $200, and this is definitely something they’ll be grateful for when their friends are in a harried search for lecture notes. It simply digitizes everything you put on paper. The only downside is that it only works on a special notebook and takes a special cartridge, but they’re not that expensive considering the amount of time they can save your child at college.

Car Video Recorder

This is a really useful gadget to have onboard, and it doesn’t cost a pretty penny. The data is stored on a microSD memory card so the information can be uploaded to a laptop or to a cloud service. God forbid, if your kid is ever in an accident, a car video recorder will capture the whole thing. For minor accidents, it can provide evidence to insurance companies to prove that your son or daughter was not a fault. If your kid has a car without a built-in dashcam, this is a great alternative. The good ones have got a wide, 160-degree viewing angle and a large aperture for clear image and video capture at night. Get two of them and you pretty much the entire car covered, save a couple of blind spots. It comes with either a suction mount that makes it easy to move around or an adhesive mount for a more permanent fixture. You also have 16GB and 32GB options. You’ll see a lot of dashcams for under $200 from well-known brands like Transcend and Garmin.

An Introductory Flying Lesson

This one’s not so much a utility gift as a fun one. Learning to fly is nearly every kid’s dream, and some of them keep wanting to do it when they grow up. So why not treat your daughter or son or a few flying lessons so they can decide if they want to pursue that as a hobby? Flying lessons are generally expensive but a single lesson can be purchased for as little as $110. It’s enough to give your son or daughter a taste of the sky and maybe even fly the plane, if only for a few minutes with a seasoned pilot by their side. It could be the thrill of their lifetime and you could be reigniting a childhood dream!

3-month Subscription to Pizza of the Month Club

Who doesn’t love a nice hot pie when they’re hundreds of miles away from their family? You can consider gifting your graduate child a subscription that gives them three pizzas a month for three months. They can order in that many times each month, giving you full value for the money you spend on the subscription. If your kid is a pizza lover (and who isn’t!), this could be the perfect going-away present that will linger on the taste buds for at least a few months after they’ve left the nest. You can always renew after six months or consider getting them a longer subscription.

Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker with Alexa Voice Control

The Amazon Echo isn’t waterproof but there are several options with Alexa integrated into them. Voice control gives them the freedom to tap into their playlists by just asking for it. The variety of models available today is really impressive, with superb designs and color schemes that go with almost any interior decor – including the bathroom! Your graduate daughter or son is going to love this going-away gift because it’ll last them a couple of years at least.

Running Shoes

For a child that’s naturally athletic or tilted towards a healthy lifestyle, a solid pair of running shoes might make the perfect graduation mini-gift. Mind you, don’t go for the big brands because you’d be paying hundreds of dollars; less well-known brands are equally good in terms of serviceability and life span, and the choices are virtually unlimited. Of course, if they’ve always wanted those branded kicks, you might not be able to squeeze yourself out of that one with a pair of $150 runners!

Formal Wear

gifts for new graduates at under $200

If your little one is off to face the big world in their first job, you might want to think about formal clothing. Formal shirts for men or tops for women are available for between $50 to $70, so you can look at buying a set of 3 or 4 pieces within your $200 budget. If they’re entering the workforce, they’ll inevitably need formal clothes, if only for meetings and conferences. A suit might also be a good idea if you’re willing to stretch your budget a little bit.

Portable Fishing Kit

If fishing is part of your lifestyle, your child might want to recreate some memories of their own. A portable fishing kit is easy to carry around and it takes up very little space. Of course, it depends on where they’re moving to, but if it’s near some great fishing spots, this might make a fantastic graduation present. Alternatively, if they’re already carrying their fishing gear, some accessories might help, such as a new tackle box, extra lengths of line, and so on.

Connected Friendship Lamps

graduation gift under $200

This is what you might call a high-tech high-touch product – literally. It’s a pair of lamps that work with their local Wi-Fi networks and communicate with each other via the Internet. Once they’ve been set up, touch one lamp and see the other one light up in a pre-chosen color. It’s that simple but it’s a very effective means of communication that doesn’t involve calling or texting. When your son or daughter misses home, they just touch the sensor plate at the top of their lamp and yours will light up in the color they picked. It’s perfect for overseas family members, long-distance couples, siblings living in different cities, etc. Here’s how they work and here’s where to buy a pair of Friendship Lamps.

Elevated Leg Rest

“Putting your feet up” can be a very literal thing with this elevated leg rest. Elevating your legs has several health benefits, such as pressure relief, allowing blood to flow more naturally, and reducing inflammation in the veins. If your kid is going to be on his or her feet the whole day, this is a long-term gift that will give them good health in later years. It’s better to start doing this early so they can avoid a lot of vein-related problems in their middle-age years. You can also buy yourself one of these while you’re at it. It has so many health benefits that you won’t even feel the pinch of the price after a while.

Sterilizer Wand for Frequently Touched Surfaces

graduation day present

In the age of the novel coronavirus, you can’t be too careful about hygiene. This amazing gadget instantly sterilizes surfaces that are touched often, like laptop keyboards, doorknobs, and even cooking surfaces like cutting boards or the kitchen counter. If your child is forced to live in a shared space, you can get them one of these to keep them safe from unwanted microscopic intruders.

Electric Barbecue Grill

In places like apartments, it’s not always practical or even permitted to use a charcoal grill. But if your son or daughter is used to those family cookout weekends, you can give them a taste of home with these compact units that can be used just about anywhere. They won’t give you the real taste of charcoal-grilled food but it’s the next best thing. If space isn’t an issue, you can even consider a proper portable charcoal grill – something they can carry on picnics or use on their balcony at home.

Fitness Balance Board

graduation present

It’s vitally important to stay physically fit with the right exercise regime, but you might need to complement it with something that builds core body strength. The balance board in all its variations is perfect for this. If your graduate child is health-aware and lives a clean lifestyle, this will help them go farther down that road. There are different types of balance boards available, so pick one that you think will be the most suitable for the kind of space they have and what they’d like to own. Most of the good-quality ones are around $200 or less.

Chargeable Jump Starter for Automobiles

Assuming your child has a car they use often or on occasion, a rechargeable jump starter kit is a must-have for any automobile. It’s a compact unit that can be recharged over 1,000 times and provides ready power when your battery is down. This is especially useful if the car is only used infrequently because the battery tends to run down quickly in such cases. Having one of these can save a lot of time and money in the long run. They can also use it to help their neighbors jumpstart their vehicles on cold mornings. it never hurts to be a good neighbor!

Connected Personal Safe

A personal safe that’s connected to your graduate child’s cell phone is a great way to keep stuff safe. Whether it’s their passport, their money, or something else equally precious like their college degree, a personal safe that’s also digital provides an additional level of safety. It usually comes with screws for wall installations and is fairly lightweight. Newer models have features that remind you to take your meds or let you know if someone is trying to move the safe or attempt incorrect passcodes.

Deadbolt Smart Lock

Security is a major concern for parents of children that are moving away to live on their own. If you don’t trust traditional deadbolts, this smart lock will put your mind at ease. It’s easy to install and it works via a PIN and Bluetooth on their smartphone. The companion app can be installed on their phone and those of babysitters or house guests. You can then change the PIN whenever you want, giving you total safety and peace of mind.

That’s our collection of going-away presents and gifts ideas for graduates for under $200. A few tips before you go:

  • If you haven’t planned for a major graduation gift or simply don’t have the budget right now, these gifts can help ‘fill the gap’ until you’re able to get them something bigger.
  • Be picky about what you buy, considering factors such as their tastes, the space they’ll be living in, the presence of roommates, and so on. It’s hard enough to find the right gift for anyone, let alone a specialty gift for a graduate setting out on a new life of their own.
  • Think about their POV, not yours. A gift you like might not be the ideal choice for them. Try and put yourself in their shoes rather than thinking like a typical parent. The days of you watching over their every step are soon to be gone, so get used to treating them like the adults they now are.
  • Don’t overspend. It’s tempting to splurge on your kids, but remember that you’ll be accustoming them to a lifestyle that they might not be able to immediately afford. Luxury is good, but only in small measures. Otherwise, you’ll leave them with more desires than money at the end of every month, and that’s never a good thing if taken to extremes.

Buying the Perfect Graduation Gift: Ideas for Soon-to-be Empty Nesters

Finding the perfect graduation gift is a challenge for any parent who’s fledglings are ready to leave the nest. As it is, Graduation Day brings a mixed basket of emotions, some good, some sad, mostly nostalgic. You want your graduation day gift to be the beginning of a memory that will last a long time. Some soon-to-be empty nesters buy their kids cars when they’re ready to leave home, some make financial investments in their names, and some might even sponsor a “go find yourself” trip to Europe or the Far East before their son or daughter heads off to college.


Graduation gift ideas

On the other hand, graduation gifting doesn’t always have to be an expensive affair. Sure, you’ve probably set aside some money for this, but what if you don’t want to go the traditional way of buying a car or some plane tickets? What gift ideas should you be looking at in terms of broad categories? What’s the starting point for finding that perfect graduation gift? Here are 6 of the most popular categories of gifts that will be appreciated – hopefully, for a long time after they’re given.

Cold, Hard Cash is the King of Graduation Gifts


Money as a graduation gift - quote

Cash always tops the list of most-wanted gifts. And why not? As an etiquette expert from Florida points out: “It’s rarely returned, and one size fits all.” Cash is and always was the king of good times, and nothing says “take me, I’m yours” like a great big wad of dough or piles of neatly stacked currency notes.

But if you don’t want to be crass about it, how about throwing a ‘costume’ over the graduation day bundle you’re about to drop?

Idea 1: Put wads of money into new shoes and gift-wrap it in a proper shoebox. Imagine the look on their face when they struggle to get their toes in and find the cause of the obstruction!

Idea 2: This one’s adapted from an idea by blogger Izzy Anderson. Take several bills and tape them together end to end to create a long strip of money. Roll it into a tight roll that will fit on the inside of a tube of toilet paper. Sounds like fun already, right? Now, get the cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper and cut a slit into the side about the width of a dollar bill, maybe just a little wider. Next, insert the roll of money into the tube with the slit and get the first bill to peep out of the tube. In the image below, they’ve used a Pull Me tab on the first bill.


There are literally hundreds of gift ideas for gifting cash, so get as creative as you like. Just make sure none of the bills are damaged in the process. To match the gift to your budget, use ones, fives, or twenties.

If cash just won’t cut it or you think it’s no fun receiving money (are you kidding me???), consider some other gift ideas. Here’s one that immediately comes to mind…

Jewelry: Graduation Gifts that Glimmer

“You can always tell what kind of a person a man really thinks you are by the earrings he gives you.”
― Audrey Hepburn

Ah, jewelry – another word that appeals to everyone but is like music to a girl’s ears! Diamonds, in particular, make excellent graduation gifts for young women. That doesn’t mean men won’t like it. A solitaire tie pin for a son off to do a corporate internship might be overkill, but how about a diamond-studded watch or platinum bracelet that can eventually become a family heirloom? Graduation is a fitting rite of passage for such precious gifts.

Jewelry needn’t always be of the expensive kind, either. Depending on what you plan to spend, you can consider a necklace and earring set, a bracelet, a finger ring, a locket, a pendant, a tie pin, an ear stud, and so on. The only problem with jewelry is that the appeal is very specific; be sure you know what she’ll love or he’ll appreciate before you go and splurge several hundred dollars or more on a jewelry item.

Investments as a Graduation Gift Idea

If you’re investment-savvy, you can consider gifting some long-term Treasury ETFs, or stocks from a defensive segment like consumer packaged goods or utilities. These can be sound investment choices in a volatile environment because they focus on essential goods that people will always need. It’s not as glamorous as owning stocks in Apple, Inc. perhaps, but shares in a soap company or one that makes toilet paper or a consistent dividend-grower can provide more than a little financial stability over several decades.

Also Read: 101 Gift Ideas for 2020

Always look at the long-term horizon when making an investment as a gift for someone else. Many thousands of millionaires have been created by the capital markets, and you want your graduate son or daughter to have a backup if they ever need it in the future. Don’t get sucked in by sure-money deals or things like mutual funds. Look for solidly-backed opportunities that are relatively low-risk and have yielded results for decades, through recessions and boom times alike.

Technology Gifts for Graduation Day

When you think of gifting technology, gadgets are probably the first things that come to mind. But remember that you’re looking for a very special gift, not the run-of-the-mill gift like the latest iPhone or Samsung S series smartphone. Why not a more practical gift, like a convertible notebook for a college freshman or a new home security system for a daughter moving to her own apartment?

For that matter, it doesn’t even have to be a physical product. How about a digital gift like a Netflix annual subscription or a year of Amazon Prime? These offer prolonged value and will be much appreciated. If you think about it, technology is a great enabler for the art of gift-giving.

Nuts and Bolts, a.k.a. Essential Gifts

This category of graduation gifts has a decidedly practical bent to it and there’s no end to the possibilities it brings. But you have to be careful to stay away from things that might look practical but hold very little actual value. An example of that: a son living off-campus and mostly eating take-out or home delivery won’t appreciate a dishwasher but one who loves cooking in his apartment and entertaining friends will thank you after every party.

Here are some of the other things you can consider gifting a graduate about to leave home for the great unknown:

  • Cooking utensils, silverware, or crockery
  • Clothing, shoes, accessories, etc.
  • Bed, mattress, bed linen, etc.
  • Appliances: microwave, hairdryer, coffee maker, toaster (ah, the classic wedding gift!), and so on
  • Computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone
  • Toolbox with all the necessary tools
  • First-aid kit with specific medicines for your child
  • A food subscription plan for convenient meal delivery
  • Travel gear and accessories
  • Portable chargers, also known as power banks
  • Amazon Echo or any of the Alexa voice assistant products
  • Heavy appliances: air conditioner, washing machine, dryer, refrigerator, wall TV, deep freezer, oven, etc.
  • Vouchers, coupons, and digital discounts – perfect for the frugal graduate struggling to pay down their student loan!
  • A professional DSLR camera for the outdoorsy graduate who loves hiking, biking, and anything that keeps them moving.
  • A set of our own Friendship Lamps, perhaps?

There’s no dearth of websites telling you about the best graduation gift ideas, but we advise you to think it through and figure out what your now-adult child will find of practical value and for a prolonged period of time. Keep this in mind:

““They always gives me bath salts,” complained Nobby. “And bath soap and bubble bath and herbal bath lumps and tons of bath stuff and I can’t think why, ‘cos it’s not as if I hardly ever has a bath. You’d think they’d take the hint, wouldn’t you?””
― Terry Pratchett, Hogfather

Time and You: The Greatest Gifts of Them All

This might sound corny but the most valuable gift you can give as a graduation present for your precious child who’s going away is the gift of time. Communicating with Home Base is not something for your children to “get to it when they can”, especially for sensitive kids going out into a tough world. They might not have the financial safety net or social protection they enjoyed when they lived under your roof but you can certainly make sure they get the emotional support they need to get through the average week as an adult.

“The best gifts come from the heart, not the store.”
― Sarah Dessen, Lock and Key

Scheduling special FaceTime or Skype calls throughout the week is a great way to keep it consistent. Consider buying a video calling tool like the Echo Show or Echo Spot from Amazon or a 10″ Facebook Portal for a larger screen.

A word of caution is appropriate at this point: don’t overcommunicate. And that includes putting pressure on them to make every call on the schedule. Don’t let it be an obligation; it should be more of an open window when they know they can reach you for sure at those times. It’ll give them a tremendous sense of security and confidence knowing you’re there for them.

And God knows we could all use a little of both in our lives right now as the threat of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 starts cutting a swathe through a totally unprepared modern human civilization.

Our gift ideas for graduation will hopefully lighten the burden of separation. In these troubled times, we need something that brings us closer as a family. Gifts are a powerful way to make yourself present when you’re absent, to coin a new Master Oogway expression.

We’ll leave you with this final nugget of wisdom; not from Oogway but someone equally wise in the ways of the world:

“A gift consists not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer.”
― Seneca, Moral Essays: Volume III

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