12 Graduation Gift Ideas That Are Super Affordable

by Jessica Learish

Graduating into "real life" is a stressful time of uncertainty and upheaval, and moving into a first non-dorm apartment is inevitably a confusing series of late-night trips to the store to get the cheapest possible version of seemingly obvious but nonetheless forgotten items. So, if you know and love someone that's about to take a walk across a stage into a new phase of life, here are some cheap graduation gift ideas to express your solidarity as a fellow youngish adult with a couple extra minutes of experience.

When I graduated from college back in the dark ages, smack dab in the middle of the recession, I was so stressed out about the future — where in the world I would end up, whether my boyfriend and I would be able to live in the same city, if and when I would find a job, and finding a place where I could live with my dog — that I could barely enjoy the occasion. Family members traveled in from out of town to congratulate me on the achievement of finishing college, and I was on Planet Panic the entire time. So, basically, these graduating people could use some presents.

Graduation presents don't even have to be remotely expensive, but they should be thoughtful and along the lines of things that you'd find yourself without in your first grownup home. Here are some awesome ideas for cheap and meaningful graduation gifts.

1. A Slow Cooker

Set it and forget it slow cooker meals are the easiest and most awesome way to make sure you're not eating taco truck burritos or dollar slice pizza for dinner every night. Dump some chicken and sauce in the Crock-Pot before work, and return home to a perfectly mouthwatering, ready-to-eat meal. A slow cooker is the perfect gift for someone busy with a new full work schedule and limited funds.

Black + Decker Slow Cooker, Amazon, $29

2. Cookbooks

Cookbooks are a ridiculously welcome addition to a new home (especially a new home with a new chef), and this cookbook from America's Test Kitchen can completely change your life. I do not say that lightly. This cookbook is seriously informative, reading more like an old-school text book than a foodie blog.

The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook, Amazon, $17.97

3. A subscription to The New Yorker

A substantive magazine subscription can provide much needed bathroom magazine rack material, and The New Yorker is such an adult option with its wonderfully topical short stories.

'The New Yorker' print subcription, ' The New Yorker ,' $59.99/year

4. Every kind of tape

Load your new graduate up with painter's tape, packing tape, masking tape, duct tape, and electrical tape. Tape is so useful. I have a drawer full of different kinds of tape that I use all the time. It took me a long time to amass such a ridiculous tape collection, but I can temporarily solve almost any problem with the contents of the tape drawer. Plumbing problem, lint-covered jacket, a headache? Tape can probably fix it.

18 Roll Duct Tape Variety Pack, Amazon, $34.49

5. An actual toolkit

If tape can't fix it, your beloved graduate might need actual tools. I have this toolkit, and it's served me well through years of fixing leaky shower heads, assembling furniture, and hanging photos. I did still have to borrow a hacksaw from my boyfriend's dad that one time though...

What?! We were disposing of our used Christmas tree.

Apollo Precision Toolkit in Pink, Amazon, $19.60

6. A cute apron

Your graduate's new apartment will probably not have a dishwasher. Hand-washing lots of dishes can straight up ruin your clothes. Also, pasta sauce is a thing. Save your grad a lot of ruined shirts by bestowing a cute apron upon her in a completely feminist kind of way.

Women's Striped Apron, StitchedByBeverly/Etsy, $49

7. A getaway bag for impromptu road trips

Having a beach bag or getaway duffle for spontaneous escapes from reality can be such a comfort for any busy person, especially those of us who live in cities that can induce the dreaded urban claustrophobia. Remind your favorite grad to work hard and play hard with this travel bag perfectly sized for a quick getaway to somewhere a little more zen.

The Getaway Duffle, Bando, $54

8. Brand new nonstick frying pans

Your new grad will be adjusting from the free-spirited student life to waking up early for yet another workday, and pretty much nothing is more depressing than trying to responsibly scramble some eggs before work only to have half of your breakfast burn onto the frying pan like Beyoncé burned Becky.

Calphalon Contemporary Frying Pan Duo, Williams-Sonoma, $49.95

9. A bag of quarters

Because laundry probably won't come free. I would still love it if someone gave me a bag of laundry quarters, and I graduated from college six years ago.

10. Pet daycare

For those days when the humans need a break from the pups and the pups need some well-deserved doggy playtime — if your grad has a dog, a gift card to a local doggy daycare can be a treat for humans and canines alike.

11. An oil change

Because your graduate's new liberal arts degree will not have properly stressed the importance of actually getting your oil changed on time, help out by chipping in for the first round of self-funded car maintenance. It will save everyone money on more expensive repairs in the long run.

12. An Amazon gift card

If all else fails, you can always give your grad an Amazon gift card, because Amazon has everything these days, and everything is a pretty good place to start.

Images: Pixabay (5); Amazon (4); The New Yorker; StitchedByBeverly/Etsy; Bando; Williams-Sonoma