The 10 Best Graduation Money Gift Ideas

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Graduation season from high school or college is a very special occasion and joyful time of celebrating achievements and hard work.

Unfortunately, there's a damper on all that celebration. Student loan debt has soared to $1.4 trillion in 2017, with the average per student more than $38,000. Rather than buy them more stuff they don't need as a graduation gift, a great idea is to give them a strong financial foundation on which to build the rest of their life.

As high school grads (or even college), it can be easy as young adults to live in the moment and not keep that money for a rainy day. It's no secret that we don't teach kids enough about finances in high school or college. Why not gift your recent grad a graduation gift that will last a lifetime?

If you're looking for last-minute graduation gift ideas or unique high school graduation gifts, look no further. These high school graduation money gift ideas will be unique and a great incentive to start post-graduation life off on the right foot.

How Much Money to Give for a Graduation Gift

Grandparents, parents, aunts & uncles, and family friends traditionally give cold hard cash as a graduation gift at the graduation party. How much money given as a graduation gift will vary based on how close you are to the new graduates and your budget. Another factor determining how much they're gifting is whether the person is graduating from high school or college.

The gift of money is very personal, and it's really up to you as to how much money you give your favorite college or high school graduates.

How To Give Money for a Graduation Gift

There are two components to building a great graduation money gift. Start with a cute idea for giving a cash gift, rather than handing them gift cards. My grandma used to create artistic cardboard creations and glue coins and tie dollar bills to it. One year I got a beautiful painting palette covered in coins. Looking back, it's one of the most memorable gifts she's given me, and I appreciate the her clever ways to turn a beautiful and creative idea into fun diy gifts.

I've seen ton of great creative ways to give money - from a money cake to a decorated mason jar to creating a fun money lei. It depends on the recipient as to how you present the money. Don't forget to be creative - you can make anything into a fun idea!

Now that you have a memorable and fun presentation for the cash, next you'll want to pair it with a fun and intriguing financial education piece. My favorite graduation money gifts aren't just to give cash, but financial education gifts along with them.These aren't just the best gifts for finance majors.These are a great way for any high school or college graduates to start their new lives on the best foot once that graduation cap gets tossed into the air.

The best graduation money gift ideas

Looking for the best graduation gift ideas? Look no further! These personal finance based gifts are perfect for the grad in your life. #graduation #graduationgift #personalfinance

Next Round's On Me: How-to Achieve Financial Freedom in Your 20s

Written by a personal finance blogger, Martin Dasko, this relatable book entails all of his tips and tricks to become financially successful at a young age. He purchased a rental property as a teenager, started a business and traveled the world. Not bad, eh? Full of great hacks to help someone starting out and to adjust their perspective on money.

The Total Money Makeover

I'd be remiss not to mention an old school favorite, right? If you're looking for a Dave Ramsey graduation gift, this book is it. The Total Money Makeover is a much loved guide to getting your finances on track. Dave Ramsey doesn't sugar coat things, and is known for his sharp edge. However, maybe that's why his devoted students are so successful. The book includes new expanded sidebars, all-new forms, and back-of-the-book resources to help make your money makeover a reality.

90 Day Budget Bootcamp

The 90 Day Budget Bootcamp workbook printed

This budget bootcamp is jam packed with weekly challenges and is great for learning how to budget. My husband and I started using it and in 8 months, paid off over $12,324 in debt! It also delves into how creating routine and order in your life can affect your finances. By being organized with these step by step instructions, you're able to tackle finances that much easier. This is one of my absolute favorite graduation money gift ideas. It's the perfect gift for anyone who's never budgeted OR needs a budget reset!

Financial Planner Organizer Budget Book

This financial planner and organizer in one the best unique gifts for college students. With a durable hard cover pockets to store paperwork, it will help them plan their day. It includes templates for meal planning, weekly planning, grocery shopping, monthly budgets and a cash envelope system. It covers everything! It's an all-in-one planner to cover every aspect of budgeting, meal planning, and debt repayment.

Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together
I've been on webinars with Erin Lowry and she's amazing - down to earth, realistic and non-judgemental about money. Her book is well written and and well researched, and presented in such a way that you feel like she's talking with you rather than at you. Her writing is funny and witty, and while not your typical personal finance advice, it's very easy to relate to. I'd say this is one of my favorite great graduation gifts for college students, to help them navigate life after college.

How to Graduate Debt Free

I think this is a perfect graduation gift for high school students - the gift of learning how to graduate without debt! Kristina Ellis is an impressive, knowledgeable young woman that's really worked hard to beat the odds. She received an unbelievable $500,000 in scholarships as an average student to graduate debt-free! In this book, she discusses creating your money mindset for college, developing a personalized plan, and how to overcome obstacles and get your degree debt-free. Even if your college student has already begun college, it's never too late to work on a game plan to be debt-free at graduation. Membership

Not sure which financial book to get them? Grab an audible membership instead! This audio membership provides three titles for each month of their gift membership (1 audiobook + 2 Audible Originals). They'll also receive 30% off additional audiobooks, and can listen anywhere and anytime with the free Audible app.

Adulting is Hard - Swear Word Coloring Book

Just to round this list out, I've added something that I think we could all use from day to day - a fun way to introduce a little tongue in cheek humor. Being an adult is tough, and sometimes you just need to color in some swear words, amiright? 30 pages of beautiful designs laced with cuss words, and obviously not for children or the faint of heart.

The Millenial Money Fix

I love this book because it's not blaming or judgmental - it's an honest look at the issues Millenials are facing, which vary greatly from any that previous generations have had to deal with. It discusses everything from budgets, job navigation, planning for marriage and kids, and retirement - everything they'll need to tackle in the real world. With humor and honesty, this practical advice is great for any Millenial working on achieving their dreams and makes a great gift for college grads.

The Millionaire Next Door

This book created an amazing financial mindshift for me, and I tell everyone about it when we’re talking finances. The authors interviewed people with a net worth of over one million. You’d expect it to be filled with the likes of the famous athletes, rock stars, and the Kardashins of the world, right? Nope.

The people with the highest net worth are those that didn’t go to college, but own a business; folks that make $90,000 a year – not millions; and people who buy used cars that average around $25,000, not brand new sports cars. These folks have a higher net worth, because they’re frugal and they live below their means.

This book is a fresh perspective on how anyone can become a millionaire, and is the perfect gift for recent graduates.

Text that reads welcome to Debt Free Forties

A forty-ish web designer/developer by day, a budget & financial fanatic by night. I’m a mom, wife, avid reader, and DIY enthusiast who’s tracking our journey to debt freedom. Read More

More Fun & Frugal Gift Guides

More Fun & Frugal Gift Guides


  1. Mindy Iannelli on October 6, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    I love this idea so much! It’s true that kids get so many, while thoughtful, gifts, they will benefit greatly from these gift suggestions in the future. Maybe I’d add a gift card for a couple of cups of coffee so they can go sit in a cafe and read the book! 🙂

    • Tana on October 7, 2017 at 12:59 am

      Mindy, I love the coffee gift card idea. What a perfect combo! Thanks!

  2. Joy @ The Cafe Scholar on October 7, 2017 at 4:39 am

    Another great one is Suze Orman – The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke! My parents sent it to me in college when I was drowning.

    • Tana on October 7, 2017 at 1:28 pm

      I’ve read several of her books but not that one. Thanks for sharing, she’s definitely a great resource for straight talk about finances at any age!

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