Gift giving etiquette for graduations and more

A couple of years ago, I was on an online show and the host asked me for suggestions on gift giving. Specifically, she wanted to know how much one should give for graduation gifts. I know that she felt my response was understated; however, today I offer the same advice. Here’s my take.

In great part, what you give will depend on your budget, but mostly it should come from the heart. Don’t feel sheepish about giving what you can afford. Ten dollars may seem small, but if 10 other budget-minded people give the graduate $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 or use it for transportation when looking for a job, etc.

The rich and famous may be able to give $10,000 to their child and $1,000  to all of their kids’ friends. If you are rolling in the dough, and you can be that generous, good for you!

But, most of us are not rich and not famous and we often find ourselves challenged by the economics of day-to-day living. Still, we want to recognize and acknowledge the graduate’s accomplishments.

Here are my graduation gift guidelines:

Preschool – 3rd grade: $1-$5 dollars and an encouraging card

3rd – 6th grade:$5-$10

6th – 9th grade: $10-$15

Senior high: $20-$50

Undergraduate degree: $25-$200

Graduate students: $50 and up

Gift-giving on a budget

Although this column is addressing graduation gifts, this concept can be applied across the board to 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 little or no money, but may cost a bit of time, energy and effort.

  • Provide a service to the graduate. Offer to give that person a ride to an appointment if they don’t have a car.
  • If the event is being hosted by the family and there are no caterers and service people, offer to help prepare the food, serve the food and/or clean up. Help is always needed with the cleanup.
  • Offer to help them with their thank you cards.
  • If the graduate has children, offer to babysit.
  • If you have a skill, gift or talent, offer to help them with preparing for the workplace — resume writing, completing applications, coaching, etc.

A parting word to the graduates: be grateful. If the giver is made to think that their gift is too small — especially monetary gifts — you may miss out on that gift altogether.Accept even the smallest of gifts with an attitude of gratitude. After all, manners are memorable.