Be Thoughtful: How Much to Give for Graduation Gift

how much to give for graduation gift

Graduating from high school and university are monumental occasions for every person. In a way, these events mark the end of an era and the beginning of a whole new chapter in life. Naturally, such moments also require fitting gifts.

If you’re wondering how much to give for a graduation gift, read on. Here’s everything you need to know about giving money on occasions like these.

Is It OK to Give Money For a Graduation Gift?


Many people believe that money isn’t an adequate gift for graduates. To them, money is considered too impersonal as a gift and it shows a lack of care. However, not many graduates would actually agree with this.

In fact, the majority of students, be it high school or college, prefer getting money as graduation presents. If you give them money, you allow them to spend it on what they truly want and need instead of something you think might be a good gift.

After all, it is difficult guessing what someone might prefer. This way, you give them the chance to decide what they want to do with the money, which is always a safe choice to make.

Furthermore, you can also give someone a gift card for a particular store you know they like. The gift card can be for books, clothes, toiletries, or anything else they may desire. Doing so shows that you know what they like, but you still want them to have complete freedom of choice.

Giving Money as a Graduation Gift: Cash or a Check?


Whether you will give your favorite graduate cash or a check depends on several factors.

Firstly, it depends on whether you will be giving them the present in person or sending it via mail. If you will be sending it in, it is both safer and more sensible to send a check. But if you will be attending the graduation ceremony or party in person, then it is completely acceptable to hand out cash as well.

Secondly, your decision also depends on the amount of money you want to give. Namely, checks are better for larger amounts (a few hundred dollars), while cash is preferable for less than that.

Finally, it is also wise to check whether the graduate has a bank account already. If they don’t, try suggesting that they should compare the latest checking account offers. Otherwise, cashing the check might require a bit more work, which you may want to avoid. So, be sure to think everything through before you decide.

How Much Money to Give for Graduation Gift


Now that you know that giving money to high school and college graduates is indeed a good idea, we can move on to discussing just how much you can give. This question also depends on a variety of factors.

Stay Within Your Budget

First and foremost, your gift needs to reflect your budget. So, sit down with your monthly balance, and see how much you can afford to part with at that particular moment.

While it is nice to give someone a thoughtful gift, it is still important that you don’t suffer the loss too much. After all, it is the thought that matters, not the amount.

In this case, it might be a good idea to start saving up in advance. You know when the graduation will take place, so try and leave a bit of money on the side a few weeks or months preceding it. That way, you won’t feel the loss too keenly, but you’ll still be able to give a generous gift.

Who Is the Graduate to You?

The appropriate amount of money also depends on how close you are to the graduate. Naturally, you won’t give the same amount to your child, a relative, or an acquaintance’s kid.

Generally speaking, the closer you are to the person graduating, the more money you should give. And when it comes to distant relatives or casual friends, less money is both acceptable and more appropriate.

Were You Invited to Attend the Graduation or Graduation Party?

If you haven’t been invited to attend a graduation ceremony or a subsequent party, you should consider whether sending a gift is truly necessary. It should depend on your budget and how close you are to the graduate. If you can afford to part with some money, your gift will surely be appreciated. If not, it probably won’t be missed.

Of course, this step does not apply if you live too far away and you wouldn’t have been able to attend regardless of the invitation. In addition, you should check whether there is any type of gathering or party to begin with. Many universities and schools are still keeping to strict pandemic rules and allow no guests at graduations.

What Type of Graduation Is It?

Finally, it is also important to think about whether your loved one is graduating from high school or university.

People typically give more money to high school graduates, as they are expected to move out soon and start living on their own. The money can serve them well when starting college, buying new furniture, paying rent, or purchasing any supplies they need.

On the other hand, many usually think that college graduates do not need as much money. After all, they all usually already have jobs and are providing for themselves on a regular basis.

While that is the case, you shouldn’t assume that someone doesn’t need money just because they work or are a bit older. Student debts and low minimum wage make everyone’s lives difficult.

So, it is best to treat these graduations the same. If you are able, give the same amount of money to both high school and college graduates. They will be thankful for it and remember your kindness for a long time to come.

The Final Verdict

Taking these four factors into consideration, here is a guide that can help you decide how much to give for a graduation present.

  • Between $10 and $30

This sum is appropriate for children of acquaintances and casual friends. These graduates might not even be expecting a gift from you, so any present you do give will be seen as thoughtful.

If you want to make the gift extra caring, it is a good idea to also include a nice card. You can buy one that already has an occasion-specific message or write something on your own.

  • Between $20 and $50

An amount of money between $20 and $50 is preferable for closer relatives and friends. If you have known them for years and you are in close contact, it is best to give a little more.

Such a sum strikes a great balance between being generous and not overwhelming your budget. Again, including a nice card is also a wise idea in this case.

  • Between $50 and $100

If your niece or nephew is graduating, you definitely need to give them a bit more than $50. The same goes for other close relatives you see or hear from often. In such cases, $100 is the safest choice.

While a card is still appropriate in this case as well, you can also add something more than just money. Options include chocolate, balloons, snacks, a cake, or anything else you can think of that the graduate would enjoy.

  • Between $100 and $500

Finally, you should only consider sums this high for your own children or possibly grandchildren. When they graduate, the biggest present should come from those closest to them.

It is important to give such a high sum because gifts are an important form of validation and care. The money will help the graduate start the new chapter in their life more easily, and it will show that you appreciate (and reward) all their hard work so far.

Choosing a Graduation Gift: Some Useful Tips to Follow

Useful Tips

Though not many are aware of it, there is an etiquette that you need to follow when it comes to giving graduation gifts. Luckily, the rules are pretty simple, and you can find them all below.

1. An Invitation Requires a Gift

If someone in your family or friend group is graduating and you are invited to the ceremony, you need to give them a gift. This rule stays the same whether you are able to attend the party or not.

In reality, students can’t invite too many people to watch their graduation. Seating is always limited, and usually, only parents and grandparents are welcome. In many cases, other relatives and friends can watch via an online link.

However, just because you can’t come doesn’t mean that you needn’t give a gift. If someone invites you, sending a check or giving them an envelope with cash is the least you can do.

2. A Card Is Usually Preferable

If you opt to give someone money as a graduation gift, you should include a card with good wishes as well. That way, the gift will not seem impersonal and careless.

It is best to buy a blank card and write on it yourself so that you can personalize it as much as possible. If you want to take things to the next level, you can even make the card all on your own. However, it is also acceptable to just purchase a card with a message already inside if it fits the situation.

3. A Graduation Announcement Does Not Warrant a GIft

Many people tend to send graduation announcements to relatives and friends. As their names suggest, these announcements let people know that a particular person is graduating soon.

Now, it is important to mention that these announcements do not equal invitations. As such, they do not require any gifts on your part. So, if you do receive an announcement, you do not have to give the graduate anything. That is especially the case if you are not close to them.

Still, if sending a small gift won’t drain your budget or inconvenience you too much, you can do it. The present will surely be appreciated, no matter how much you decide to give.

4. Do Not Discuss How Much You Gave With Others

Discussing how much you gave someone as a gift is considered to be poor manners, especially while talking to other party attendees. Aside from being inappropriate, talking numbers might also make others feel bad about their own gifts. After all, not everyone is able to give the same.

So, it is best to decide on your gift, give it to the graduate, and be done with it. They will be grateful for it, and no one will feel bad because of the amount of money they gave or, rather, couldn’t give.

5. Be Consistent

When you have more than one graduate that fits into the same category, try to give them the same amount of money. For example, if both your niece and nephew are graduating, you shouldn’t give one more than the other. The same goes for family, friends, cousins, and so on.

Picture this: your niece and nephew are comparing gifts after the party, and they notice you didn’t give them the same amount of money. They will both feel uncomfortable, as the gifts will imply that one’s work deserves more credit than the other’s. It goes without saying that you want to avoid that at all costs.

By being consistent, you erase any possibilities of someone feeling bad or resenting you because you gave them less than someone else. Keep everyone happy with equal money distribution, and no issues will arise.

6. It Is Good to Ask for Help

If someone you love is graduating and you are at a loss as to what to give them as a gift, it is okay to just ask them what they need. It is essential to inquire if giving them money is acceptable, as not everyone will be comfortable asking for it. So, make sure that the graduate knows it is an option they can choose.

However, if they tell you they want something else, it is best to get that instead. As long as it is reasonable and fits your budget, it shouldn’t be too bothersome to actually buy something with the money you intended to give.

Gretchen Walker
Gretchen is a homemaker by day and writer by night. She takes a keen interest in life as it unfolds around her and spends her free time observing people go about their everyday affairs.