Smart SpendingSmart Spending

The best grad gift is money -- and lots of it

A new survey finds that consumers consider $165 an appropriate gift for a high school graduate. How about a college grad?

By Stacy Johnson May 16, 2014 12:33PM

This post comes from Krystal Steinmetz at partner site Money Talks News

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyStumped on what to give the 2014 graduate after they collect their hard-earned diploma?

A new survey from Retail Me Not found that half of consumers think money is the best way to congratulate a new graduate.

Young woman holding Money © Glowimages/Getty ImagesBut how much money is adequate? That depends on the graduate’s level of schooling.

According to the survey:

  • High school grad. Most people think $165 is a good gift.
  • College graduates. Earn a college degree and you could collect a bigger monetary gift. On average, consumers consider $464 an appropriate gift amount for a college grad.
  • Graduate school grads. You could potentially receive the biggest gift if you graduate from grad school. Most people think $772 is an adequate gift for a grad school graduate.

Am I really cheap, or do those monetary gifts seem steep? I didn't expect, nor did I receive, anything close to those amounts when I graduated from high school or college. Sure, that was a decade ago (OK, a decade plus a few more years), but I can't imagine giving that kind of money as a grad gift.

Retail Me Not said one in five people graduate from college with some debt. The average debt is $22,988. But about 23 percent of people owe $30,000 or more. So money seems to be a practical, and much-needed, gift for a new graduate.

The survey also indicates that graduates wish they would have received more advice about the realities of adult life, including: saving money, avoiding spending beyond their means, being wary of credit cards, finding a job quickly and investing. After all, they're facing a brutal job market.

How much would you spend on a graduation gift? Share your thoughts below. 

More from Money Talks News

May 16, 2014 3:13PM
I'm the 11th of 12 children...strangely...we all got a suit case...
May 16, 2014 2:00PM
Here is a pen, go fill out a job application. 

May 16, 2014 2:26PM
Wow, we get invited to a lot of graduation open houses every year.  If we gave that much to everyone of the kids we would be totally broke.  Our rule of thumb has always been neices and nephews $100, cousins and cousin's kids $50 and very close friends' kids $50 everyone else $30 - $40.00.  I think we had 6 parties last year and we've received only 1 invite so far this year. Hoping it will be a light year!
May 16, 2014 3:20PM

I think the survey respondents were soon-to-be graduates.

May 16, 2014 3:20PM
For my son who graduates HS next week. I let him pick 2 friends and I paid for their train ticket to Fort Worth (We live in Oklahoma City).  The cost was: ($28 each RT), six flags tickets ($30 each on sale), and one night at a hotel ($150). Plus I plan on giving each child $50 spending money because drinks are expensive at Six Flags. So for around $550 he will have something to remember before he and his friends part ways. He is super excited so I think that I did well. I imagine those 3 musketeers will do a lot more memory making than I care to think about.  My second option would have been to make a photo album. I've seen this before but its unique. You put a $5 bill in each picture slot. When you give them the gift, they think its just a photo album but when they open it, it is real pretty with money all on each page. What's great about 5 dollar bills is its the perfect amount for lunch or supplies when broke.
May 16, 2014 2:47PM
Nope--I didn't get anywhere near that in any of the levels, and I haven't been out of school 10 years, so yes, I also think these are really steep.
May 16, 2014 2:12PM
My college graduation gifts were a typewriter (and this was in the 1980s), a skillet, and a can of Fiddle-Faddle (which I've never liked).  
May 16, 2014 4:28PM
I had 3 boys grad from high school in the last 5 years. Lots of $5, $10, and $20s, and a few higher amounts from Aunts and Uncles. They were excited with any of it and wrote "Thank Yous" for all of it - even the $5s. We were happy to have people who care and acknowledged the graduation.
May 16, 2014 3:58PM
Wow! those numbers seem very steep to me.  I didn't get anything when I finished grad school four years ago, I felt lucky just to get family to come to my graduation. For college graduation I also got nothing (ok a few cards) but my parents did throw me a picnic after graduation for all my family who attended.  High school was the only time I got something and most of it was actually really good.  I got several sets of towels in my college's colors, a small cooler (just the right size for a six-pack), one person gave me a huge container of laundry detergent and several rolls of quarters, didn't get any cash and I appreciated the gifts way more than I would have appreciated cash.
For my son's HS graduation this June, we are doing a "group" party with several of his friends - and asking that all friends honor the "parent pact" of NO GIFTS.  The thought of everyone circulating the same $50 from kid to kid among friends was crazy.  Family, now that is a different subject. 
May 16, 2014 4:19PM

My grandson graduates High School in a couple of weeks.  I bought him a new laptop.  He will need one for college.

May 16, 2014 5:07PM
Why the weird numbers? Did they pull that out of someone's ... My son actually got a graduation gift of 50 bucks and that was a nice surprise since we don't expect things from anyone. Just coming to celebrate it with us is wonderful enough. Back when I graduated we just went out to dinner.
May 16, 2014 5:25PM

I just graduated college with my BSN and I have not received any form of gifts from my family. Not even a card. For high school graduation my parents had a gathering for me at our house. I received a small amount of money, but the thing I will remember for the rest of my life was my graduation party with my family and friends. Memories are priceless.

I do not agree with the Retail Me Not survey at all! Graduates should not gauge their success on the money or gifts they receive, but on the accomplishments they have achieved from all their hard work.    

May 16, 2014 3:39PM
I think $165 is a good gift too.  I would be willing to give my contact information - if you are willing to send the money.  :)  More than I got for graduating HS or college (all three times).  
May 16, 2014 4:20PM
The respondents are, clearly, the same people, who believe you tip every person you have ever come in contact with.
Why give teens a "reward" for graduating from high school? Why is it considered such an accomplishment? It should NOT be considered an accomplishment. It is what they are SUPPOSED to do. Graduating from college is an accomplishment. But graduating high school should be treated like their household chores - it is their part of the family "contract", just like their parents provide a roof over their heads and put food on the table. $165???? Are you kidding???????
May 16, 2014 9:38PM
This is all based on what you feel good about and can afford as well as how you love the person. You are not obligated for any amount but it is nice if it doesn't make you come up short on family funds.
May 16, 2014 6:23PM
When I read the caption I jokingly thought to myself "A big pile of money." 
The fall of America will slowly errrrradicate all Founding Fathers created traditions gearing folks to no more xmas.......valentines day.....thxgiving.....folks gonna be downloading apps to send well wishes Cards lol lol
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.