17 Perfect Gift Ideas for New College Grads
Newly minted college graduates are about to march off campus and into the adult world. If you’re looking for a gift that can help ease this rite of passage, here are 17 ideas - many costing less than $10 - that have proven to be winners with readers of Grownandflown.com, a popular site for parents of teens, college students and recent college grads.
1. Professional Financial Advice
Life gets very real when all the bills come to your grad’s mailbox. Give your newly fledged adult an hour or two’s consultation with a fee-only Registered Investment Advisor. (Don’t get confused by “fee-based” advisors, who charge fees and still have an incentive to sell high-commission products). Unlike many brokers, RIAs are required to put their clients’ interest first. The advisor can help set up a plan enabling a 20-something to manage both student loans and a 401(k). If you already have your own financial planner, ask if they’ll give a free or discounted session to your child. Otherwise, this can be a little pricey. Advisors typically charge around $200 an hour, and a fleshed out one-year financial plan will likely cost at least $500. But this is a gift that can pay dividends for a lifetime. You can search for a fee-only adviser at the National Association of Personal Finance Advisors or the Garrett Planning Network.
2. Business Card Holder
First jobs often come with a first set of business cards. Instead of letting your twenty-something try to jam them into their wallet, consider giving them a business card holder. Kate Spade’s $29 holders can be personalized with an initial.
3. Work Clothes
For recent grads who are starting a job that does not call for jeans, leggings or T-shirts, a gift card to a professional-style clothing retailer such as Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, Theory or Zara.
4. Cooking Help
Without a campus cafeteria, your grad may be faced with learning to cook. Consider supplying them with a starter set of cookware. One must have: an iron skillet. These are indestructible, retro, and can cook anything. A Lodge 9-inch skillet runs just $15 and will last a lifetime. Another lifetime gift: an enameled dutch oven. Le Creuset’s round casseroles start at $90. If they really need help getting going consider buying them a subscription to a meal delivery service like Blue Apron, Plated or Hello Fresh. for about $10 per meal.
5. Commuter Bag
Graduation is the time to upgrade from that filthy college backpack your student has been toting around for four years. The Wirecutter has a good list of recommended laptop backpacks . For shoulder bags, MacWorld recommends the handsome Timbuk2 Proof laptop messenger bag for $228.
6. Personal Training
Working out in college was easy and “free” (if you don’t count the thousands of dollars of tuition) but now it suddenly becomes more expensive. Almost all fitness facilities offer gift cards that can be used to pay for spin classes, a personal training session, or towards monthly dues.
7. Travel-Related Gift Cards
The time between graduation and the start of a new job may be one of the last long spans of time your new graduate has free. Many recent grads take the chance to grab a few friends and take a trip. You can support their adventure with a gift card from an airline, gas station, camping store, Airbnb, or other travel site.
8. Digital Assistant
Your graduate is likely to be the most junior person at work, so make them the boss at home: A digital assistant like Google Home ($130) or Amazon Dot ($50) will play music, answer random questions, report sports scores or the weather, wake you up in the morning and much more.
9. Security Deposit
It’s hard enough for youngsters just starting out to scrape together enough to cover first and last month’s rent, let alone a security deposit or a broker’s fee. Covering one of those nuts helps a new grad get on their feet until that first paycheck has been cashed.
Yes, 20-somethings wear watches. The hot brands right now are Shinola, MVMT, Nixon, Michael Kors, Daniel Wellington or perennial favorite Timex. Men’s dress Timexes start at $95.
Like watches and cash, jewelry is the classic grad gift. Graduation is a great occasion to hand down a family heirloom. If you’re looking for something new, Monica Vinader’s bracelets work well for the office or weekends, and come in silver, gold and the popular rose gold. We loved that these bracelets and the pendants are suitable for engraving a personal message or the date of graduation.” $150 at Nordstrom.
12. Alumni Membership
Many colleges charge a fee for their alumni association. But it’s typically a good investment, since alumni groups can help new grads find jobs, and create social connections if they move to a new city. The University of Michigan, for example, charges new grads $25 a year, or $900 for a lifetime membership.
13. LinkedIn Premium
If your new grad hasn’t landed a job yet, a premium membership to LinkedIn can help them search for connections and fellow alumni who might be able to give them leads. $30 a month.
14. Roth IRA
It’s never too early to start saving for retirement. Every $100 you put in an IRA today should be worth about $1,400 by the time the new grad is in their 60s.
For a comprehensive “Adulting” encyclopedia, consider “Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps." ($9.19 at Amazon ) An outgrowth of Kelly Williams Brown's popular blog, this New York Times bestseller is what an older and very funny sister would tell you about growing up and taking on the trappings of real life.
16. The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter—And How to Make the Most of Them Now
Psychologist Meg Jay has lots of insight about how 20-somethings can turn their early adulthood into a foundation for a fulfilling life. (Sells for $7.19 at Amazon.)
Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon professor, gave a last lecture after learning he had terminal cancer. That moving, inspirational talk entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” became the bestselling book the "Last Lecture." Here are the words he wanted to share with his own kids that you can share with yours. ($5.52 for a new paperback at Amazon.)
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