Finding the Perfect Gift for Your Grad

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It's almost the end of May (can you believe it!), and for many people that means graduation. Whether it's high school or college (or maybe even preschool), if someone in your family is graduating, then I'm sure you have already begun the search for the perfect graduation gift. Finding a gift that is "just right" can be a little daunting, especially if you want to stay within a budget and want to find a gift that your grad will actually appreciate.

The High School Grad

Shopping for the high school grad has the potential to be stress free, especially if he or she plans on attending college. College care packages make great gifts, and they often range in value, making it easy for you to find the care package that fits within your budget. It's also relatively simple to put together your own care package. Just think of items that your new college freshmen might find useful when he or she is away from home for the first time: laundry supplies (bag, detergent, dryer sheets, maybe even a month's worth of quarters), snacks, a first aid kit, coffee, tea, candy, a shower tote. If you're stuck for ideas or want to purchase an already made care package, check out findgift.com for some great college survival kits.

For the more sentimental high school grad, going away to college might be an intense emotional experience. Putting together a photo album or scrapbook reflecting on past memories might be the perfect go to gift when your grad is feeling a bit homesick. It's also a great way to show that you put some thought into your gift, and didn't just grab the first thing that caught your eye in the store.

We also don't want to forget about the high school grads who are entering the work force or who are maybe taking some time off to travel. Many recent grads who start working right away will probably also be moving into their first apartments. House warming gifts will help your recent grad make the transition from high school to the "real world." And don't worry, there's no need to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on the latest appliances or electronics. Plenty of essential low-cost gifts are out there just waiting for you to find them. Cookbooks are not only a practical gift idea, but they will also be much appreciated by a young adult who finds him or herself cooking full meals for the first time. And if you don't want to buy a brand new cookbook, consider compiling all your family's favorite recipes and make a homemade one.

If your grad decided to take to the open road after getting his or her diploma, travel gear is a great direction to go in. A hiking backpack, a tent, a sturdy pair of shoes - these are all practical things that any world wide traveler is going to want to have on hand.

The College Grad

Some people might feel that there is a lot more pressure when it comes to finding the perfect gift for college grads. After all, they did just spend four years in an institution of higher learning, and are either continuing on their educational journey or turning down a new life path (i.e. entering the professional world, traveling, or simply soul searching).

Like high school grads who are moving into their first apartments, college grads moving into their first post-college apartment would greatly appreciate a wide range of house-warming gifts. The decor of the "college apartment" changes dramatically as your grad enters into the "professional world." Many grads are now ready for some higher quality appliances, furniture, and decorations. But don't just assume your grad is making that transition. There are still a great many post-grads who enjoy their established style and don't see graduating as an excuse to change decor. So, if purchasing a gift for your grad's apartment, consider your grad's likes and dislikes, and choose a piece that he or she would probably buy on his or her own if given the opportunity.

Family heirlooms are another gift idea for your college grad. Graduating college is a major step in life, and many grads would be thankful to mark that transition with an item that is connected to a piece of family history. Before I graduated, my grandmother gave me her engagement ring, an item that I cherish dearly. Think about what you have been holding onto for a long time that means something to your family; I bet that same piece would also  mean a lot to your recent grad.

Like some high school grads, many college grads make the decision to embark on journeys  across the world. Whether they are taking part in the Peace Corps, working for Americorps, backpacking across Europe, or driving across the U.S., travel gear serves as a very practical gift. It might even be worth it to talk to the person you are buying a gift for what items are needed the most.

And remember, don't ever rule money out as a viable gift option. The majority of grads will be tight on cash as they leave  their college days behind, especially if they don't have that perfect job lined up yet. A check for whatever you can afford to give might be just what your grad needs to help her or him transition into life after college.

Check out some of these websites for even more great graduate gift ideas: NotMadeOfMoney.com has a list of useful ideas, from family heirlooms all the way to household tool boxes. ThingsRemembered.com offers some unique personalized graduation gift ideas. And for the chocolate lover, M & Ms will create personalized candies for your grad.

Just remember, the graduate you are shopping for will most likely be grateful for any gifts coming his or her way. So, think about what your grad likes, needs, or will appreciate, and you will be on the path to finding that "perfect" gift.

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