Graduation Gift Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts

April 10, 2013    |    By +
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Graduation Gifts


Graduation season is here! Frightened of graduation invitations flooding your mailbox? Don’t fret, if you get organized, graduation season is a breeze! I compiled a handy list of Dos and Don’ts for graduation gift gifting that is sure to keep you on track. While it’s important to give the people you love a thoughtful gift that they’ll appreciate, remember shopping for it should be FUN!



Create a budget!

Compile all of your announcements and decide how much you would like to spend in total. Allot a budget per person based on closeness. For instance, family members should receive gifts worth around $50-$100, while people less close to you should receive gifts around $25.

Give money!

People dislike giving money, but it’s especially useful for recent graduates. It’s also the most given graduation gift by far. Don’t  feel awkward whipping out that checkbook!

Do give flowers! However, they should be given at the ceremony.  Proper gifts should be given at a party or after the fact.

Ask for help!

If you aren’t sure of what to get a graduate, feel free to ask their parents or even the grad themselves! Because graduation is a gift giving opportunity highly based on stocking up with necessities for the next phase in life, never be afraid to ask for help.

Send a card. If you are unable to attend or aren’t close with the graduate but have been invited to a ceremony or party, when in doubt, send a card. It’s polite and thoughtful.


Forget a gift!

If you are invited to a graduation ceremony or party, it is customary to bring something (no matter how small). If you can’t make it but still want to give a gift, up to a month after the date is acceptable. Early gift giving is also okay!

Feel like you need to spend $X.

Give a gift at an amount you feel comfortable at. Just make sure it’s something the graduate really wants.

Buy room décor!

Unless you are very close with the recipient and really understand their sense of style, stick with dorm room essentials like coffee makers or mini-fridges (just check with the parents to make sure you aren’t doubling up)!

Give a monetary gift below $25!

If you have a small budget, stick to traditional grad gifts.

Want specifics? Check out my list of cool and useful graduation gifts.

Need more advice? See our previous posts about Graduation:

How much to spend on Graduation Gifts?

To give or not give (a Graduation Gift)? That is the question.

Best graduation gift shopping strategies.

How to shop for Graduation Gifts.

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Meet the Gurus

Kathryn D.W.
Kathryn Drury Wagner is the senior manager of content at She was formerly the executive editor at Honolulu Magazine, and is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Shopping on Oahu. Her career has included staff positions at Country Living Gardener and Power & Motoryacht. Her latest book is "Hawaii's Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!"

Gwen P.
Gwen is the Editorial Curator at In addition to writing blogs, she creates gift guides, curates the site, and produces content for our social media channels. As a freelance writer, she created blogs on fashion, art, travel, health and lifestyle. A talented jewelry designer, she's also a yogi and a hospital volunteer with her therapy dog, Lilo, a Pomeranian.