A couple of years ago I did an online show about gift giving at graduation. The host asked me for suggestions on gift giving. Specifically she wanted to know how much “money” or cash one should give. I know that she felt my response was rather “modest” –I’m a reasonable and modest person—so today my suggestions are pretty much the same.

In great part what you give will depend on your budget. If the recipient gives the giver the impression that a gift is too small, especially monetary gifts, then the recipient may miss out on receiving any gifts.

So here’s an example, the rich and famous may be able to give $10,000 to their own child and $5000 to all of the children’s friends. If you “got it like that”, go for it.   Most of us, however, are not rich, and not famous.  We are challenged with balancing the day-today-living and taking care of our daily needs with how much, what and to whom we give.

But still, we want to recognize and acknowledge the graduates accomplishments.  Acknowledgment and recognition serve as incentives for success; they serve to motivate and inspire the recipient to achieve even greater success.

So what’s a person who is on a budget and wants to give to do?  Here are my guidelines.

  • Preschool-3rd grade, $1 to $5 and a nice card. Consider making a homemade card. If you are creative and crafty you can make a homemade card for any of the honorees.

If you are crafty and a good writer, you can add another dimension to the card by personalizing the message with a short story, a memory, or words of inspiration, encouragement  and wisdom. This works well with any age group.  Who knows?  Your well-thought message may be just the thing needed when that person is faced with many of life’s challenges that are sure to come their way.  In fact, if you received such a message that has helped you to get through some trying times, please share them with me.

Back to my gift-giving guide.

  • 3rd-6th Grade $5 to $10
  • 6-9th Grade $10-$15
  • Senior High $20-$50
  • Undergraduate Degree $25 $200
  • Graduate Degree $50 and up

This being said, you should feel comfortable and confident in giving what you can afford.  I have heard many people say that all they could afford to give was $5 or $10, so that did not give anything.

If you have 10 people to give you $10 that’s $100. One hundred dollars still has value, especially to young people who are just starting out. They can buy things for their dorm room or first apartment, go out to a movie, use it for transportation when looking for a job–there are so many ways to use $100. But if those 10 people feel like the $10 gift will not be appreciated, and therefore do not give anything, then the graduate gets nothing,  -0- dollars.  Do the math.

So that is Ms. J’s take on graduation gift giving. This concept can be applied across the board such as baby showers, birthday parties, wedding gifts and more.

There are so many ways that you can give a gift, especially when you are on a budget. Here are some other gift ideas that cost no money, but do cost an investment of time, energy and effort… Priceless.

  1. Offer to give that person a ride to an appointment if they don’t have a car.

  2. If the celebration event is being hosted by the family and there are no caterers and service people, offer to help prepare the food, serve, and clean up. Help is always needed on the cleanup end of things.

  3. Purchase small gift items from the dollar store. Thank you cards will be needed. Buy five packs of thank you cards. If you only have five dollars in your budget, then purchase 4 of thank you cards and use of the dollar for the bag. You are then good to go.

  4. Provide service to the graduate.

    1. If the graduate has children, offer to babysit.
    2. Offer to help them write their thank you cards.
    3. Help the graduate get ready for their career–resume writing, completing applications, etc.
    4. Be creative.
  5. Spend quality time with the graduate; to go a movie on $5 Tuesday; purchase a Groupon or Living Social deal and go out to lunch or dinner…there are endless options.

Again, I feel that I must reiterate, if you have a lucrative budget, bless the graduate as generously as you want. If not, do not take on the stress and worry about how much to give. Give from your heart, and give within your means.

A word to the graduates, be grateful. After all, Manners Are Memorable.  People remember what you say, what you do and how you behave.  If you appear ungrateful, you may be cutting yourself off from some of the greatest gifts life has to offer…love and friendship.

A word to parents, especially parents of young children.  Help them to accept gifts graciously and respectfully.  Even the smallest of gifts should be accepted with an attitude of gratitude.

That’s good gift giving etiquette.

Etiquette Tip:

There are so many ways that you can give a gift, especially when you are on a budget.