16 Of The Best Frugal Graduation Gift Ideas

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Graduation season is upon us and while this is an exciting time for the graduates and their families, it can get expensive, as well.  Trying to come up with thoughtful, useful AND frugal gift ideas can be one of the toughest things to, especially if you have multiple invitations and a tight budget.  So, I’ve given it much thought and I’ve come up with 16 frugal graduation gift ideas that won’t bust your budget.

I tried to think a little outside the box because, so often, we take the easiest route and put cash in a card, rather than taking a chance on buying something that the graduate may or may not like or need.  When you’re not sure what to give, cash is always a safe bet, but it can be it can be a little impersonal.

Here are some frugal graduation gift ideas that are useful practical and certainly within the means of a tight budget.  These items will work for the high school or college grad, as well.

*This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure page.

frugal graduation gift ideas

Frugal Graduation Gift Ideas That Won’t Bust Your Budget

Gift Cards

Like cash, gift cards are also usually a safe bet.  I mean…they’re like cash, right?  But the good thing about gift cards is that they aren’t quite as impersonal as cash.  You have to think about where the recipient likes to shop and what they’re likes are.

Personally, I prefer gift cards over cash because then I know I HAVE to use them at a certain store or for a certain item.  If someone gives me cash, even for an intended purpose, I may or may not end up spending it on that certain item or at that certain store.  With most people, including myself, cash tends to get “absorbed”.  Meaning, used for other things.  Some good gift card ideas may include (but not be limited to) Pizza places/restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, Walmart, movie theaters, college bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, favorite jewelry store, Academy, Hobby Lobby (for dorm room decor)…the list can go on and on.

Laundry Kit

If you have a graduate going away to college, a laundry kit is a very useful and practical gift.  Everyone has to do laundry, right?  For your kit, include:  a laundry tote or basket, detergent (pods are great! No measuring required! Just don’t eat them!LOL), stain remover, Purex scent crystals, dryer sheets, small portable iron/ironing blanket, instructions on “How to Wash” and maybe even put in a roll of quarters that they use at the laundromat.


Kitchen Starter Kit

There’s so much you can put in this one!  If they’re going to be living in a dorm room, they may only have a small fridge and microwave, so you need to take that into consideration.  They’ll still need some utensils, though.  Get an oven mitt (from Dollar Tree) and fill it with cooking utensils, such as wooden spoons, spatula, rubber scrapers, a pot holder (or two), a dishtowel, etc.  Put tissue paper in the oven mitt, tie a bow around it and VOILA!

Another idea might be to buy some melamine (plastic) plates, bowls and glasses and maybe a larger serving bowl and fill it with those items, plus microwavable food…Mac cheese, popcorn, Ramen, instant coffee, instant tea, etc. Sky’s the limit!  Cover with large piece of cellophane or tissue paper and top with big bow.


I’m not talking Pioneer Woman here.  More like “The 5 Ingredient College Cookbook”, “101 Things To Do With Ramen Noodles”, or maybe a homemade recipe book of the graduate’s favorite, easy recipes.    You can also check out my In The Kitchen tab here on the blog and print off some recipes that you think they would like, put them in a binder and voila!  You have a homemade cookbook!  Be sure to put each recipe in a sheet protector for easy wiping (in case of splatters).


Personal Bath/Toiletry Kit

Who wouldn’t love to get this!  You can find plastic totes with handles at the Dollar Tree.  Fill it up with shampoo, conditioner, bath gels, bar soaps, washclothes, loofahs, toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, facial cleansers, body lotions, deodorant, razors, nail clippers, mani-pedi kit, q-tips, cotton balls, nail polish remover, makeup remover, tweezers, flip flops and so much more!

First Aid/Medicine Kit

This is something that we don’t think about until we actually need it, like when we get sick or hurt.  Again, look to good old Dollar Tree for a basket or bin and fill it up with stuff like:  Acetominophen/Ibuprofen, DayQuil/Nyquil, Benadryl, throat lozenges, a thermometer, Vitamin C, box of tissues, a couple cans of chicken noodle soup, bandaids, surgical tape, gauze, antiseptic throat spray, Neosporin, sunburn spray, sunscreen, Aloe cooling gel, (for burns & sunburn), lip balm/chapstick,antacid, Zycam (prevents colds).

Necessity Kit

This can be a basket, bin or box of just about anything.  Some things that they might need but may not think about until needed are stamps, envelopes, batteries (AA, AAA, 9V, D, DD, C), stationary, post-it notes, pens/pencils, Sharpies, ear plugs, a soft throw, beef jerky, gift cards to Starbucks, Domino’s, grocery store, Walmart, etc., lightbulbs, small frames, a memo board, a dry erase board, coffee mug.  Have fun with this one and creative!

A Small Coffee Pot

This is a great gift for anyone who enjoys coffee.  If space is an issue, you can purchase a small, 1-2 cup maker.  If it’s a Keurig, throw in a box of K-Cups or purchase a Reusable K-Cup Filter (my preference).  Keurigs tend to be on the pricey side.  If it’s not in your budget there are several less expensive options, like the one below.  Add a pound of fresh ground coffee with the coffee pot and you have a terrific gift for about $20.



“The Graduate Survival Guide” by Anthony O’Neal and Rachel Cruze.

This is the book you needed when you left for college! The Graduate Survival Guide will help students:

  • Learn how to make smart financial decisions at college
  • Create healthy money habits to avoid debt
  • Take responsibility for saving money and spending with a plan
  • Discover how to avoid student loans and pay cash for college


Everyone can use a bath towel or two.  While your at it, have them monogrammed.  A monogrammed towel is a great thoughtful and personalized gift and what’s best is there’s less of a chance for the towel to “walk away” when it has the recipients initials on it.


A nice overnight bag and a toiletry bag is always welcomed.   Both are great gifts that can also be personalized with a monogram.

A Planner

I’m lost without my planner.  It’s what keeps me organized and allows me to be a little more productive.  A new college student will need some way to remember tests, due dates, class schedules, etc.  They come in so many designs, colors and sizes.  You can get ones that have daily, weekly or monthly pages. So many choices!

A Smart Phone Charging Station

Having a docking station for phones and tablets can save so much space and will allow you to charge multiple devices at the same time.  It’s a great gift when space is premium.

A Basic Toolkit

This is another item that you don’t think about until you need it!  We all need a hammer, a screwdriver, a tape measure or pliers at one time or another.  I have my own little toolkit that I keep in a kitchen drawer and let me tell you…that thing gets used ALL.THE.TIME!  You can make one yourself or buy one very reasonably online and I’m sure they will thank you for it later. 🙂

Team Apparel

Every high school/college grad loves supporting their team.  T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, baseball caps, koozies, jewelry, totes, towels, shoes, pajamas, you name it!  My son in law is a huge Notre Dame fan (even though he went to Sam Houston SU).  Last Christmas, I went online to the Notre Dame bookstore and order him a ND polo and had it shipped right to my door!

Offer To Pay For a Text Book (or two)

College is so expensive and so are textbooks!  If you can’t pay in full for a textbook, you can always put money on an account at the college book store.  I’m sure any amount would be appreciated.

I hope these ideas will inspire you to come up with a thoughtful, useful and personal gift for the graduates in your life.  Every one of these suggestions can be done on a tight budget.  You just have to decide which one best fits your budget.

Let me know what types of frugal graduation gift ideas that you have come up with.  Leave me a comment below and be sure to subscribe to Love To Frugal so you never miss a post!

frugal graduation gift ideas

Frugal Graduation Gift Ideas




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