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Life Goals

Top 10 Graduation Gift Ideas
By Deb Hastings

Graduation, whether high school or college, is a rite of passage, a transition into the next phase of the student’s life. Although a time of joy and great celebration (and relief?), there’s also some sadness as you see your child become a young adult, moving forward into their adult lives. So, how do you acknowledge such a transition in your own child’s life or that of a friend or relative? It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Here are some suggestions to consider:

“Oh, The Places You’ll Go”. The final book written by Dr. Seuss, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” has long been a staple in graduation gift giving. Like many of Dr. Seuss’s books, the timelessness of Oh, The Places You’ll Go ensures it will continue to be a meaningful graduation gift for years to come. Price: $12 - $17.

A Good Backpack. Loaded with books for class, clothes for weekends, or sporting gear for some fun, a good backpack is an indispensable element in any young adult’s life. Price: $40-70.

Digital Camera. In recent years, the price of digital cameras has dropped considerably. For less than $100, you can find a decent quality digital camera that makes an excellent graduation gift. Price: $80 - $100.

Unlimited Long Distance Calling. VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) has been around long enough to have gotten most of the bugs out. The bottom line is that is the most cost-effective telephone service available. For those unfamiliar, instead of telephone lines, your telephone operates via the Internet and is connected to your computer. There are plans you can get with your cable company, who can bundle it with your Internet access as well. There are also a couple of independent companies that offer affordable plans: Vonage and Magic Jack. One of the nicest things about VOIP is that if you set up your child’s account in your hometown, when you child goes off to college you will still dial that local number to reach him/her, and they’ll have unlimited long distance calling to call you and friends as well. This can drastically cut down on phone costs for students suffering from homesickness! Price: Varies.

USB Flash Drive. As a graduation gift, perhaps no other item will get as much mileage as a USB flash drive. Compatible with virtually any computer on the planet, a flash drive is a convenient way to transport pictures and music as well as research papers and class presentations. Price: $15 for 4G.

“The Lorax”. Yes, Dr. Seuss is back. Not as obvious as “Oh, The Places You’ll Go”, when you give “The Lorax” as a graduation gift, you will be reminding your grad that, as they go through life, there are wise decisions and unwise decisions—and each has an effect beyond the here and now. Price: $15.

Passport. Graduation opens a new world of opportunities. To be sure your child can go anywhere in the world at the drop of a hat, a passport makes a thoughtful and practical graduation gift. This is especially so now that a passport is required in order to go to Mexico and Canada. Price: $97.

Scrapbook. Sometimes, to get a better idea of where you’re going, it helps to look at where you have been. A scrapbook is a personal graduation gift you can make yourself. Let your grad know how special their life has been to you so far and how proud you are for their future. Price: $30-75 on average.

Advice. How many times have you said, “If I only knew then what I know now”? As a graduation gift, use this time to sit down with your graduate and share some of the life lessons you have learned. And do it in a way that recognizes your grad as a peer and a friend. A wise man learns from his mistakes. A wiser man learns from others’ mistakes. Make your grad wiser by sharing sound advice about life. Price: Free.

Cash. Yes, this is the easiest gift to give, and many say it’s the most practical. There are so many things that will need to be purchased if a student is going off to college.

My final comment is in regard to whom you will invite to your child’s graduation. Many send out invitations to a very large group of people, knowing full well that they likely will/can not attend; it can feel like a way to get gifts for the graduating student. Be sure you invite those who are truly close to the student and not just people you know from work, church, etc. There should be no resentment or guilt at graduation, just joy!

Note: My thanks to Geoffrey Hineman for a couple of ideas from one of his older articles on this topic.

Life goals. Money goals. In that order.

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