How Much Cash Do You Give for a Graduation Gift?

by Van Thompson, Demand Media
    Cash is among the most popular gifts for recent graduates.

    Cash is among the most popular gifts for recent graduates.

    Graduations aren't just major life achievements; for some graduates, they're also a gift-receiving bonanza. The Global Association for Marketing at Retail reports that graduation gifts will tally $4.7 billion for 2012. No graduate would turn down cash, because it can help them start their lives as adults and even have some fun. There's no hard and fast rule for how much to give, but considering a few different factors can help you decide on an amount.

    Personal Finances

    The most significant factor in choosing how much to give should be your own finances. If you're strapped for cash, aim for a smaller, token amount. If, however, you have plenty of money, it's important to note that a very small gift -- such as one under 25 dollars -- might be viewed as miserly, particularly if you buy expensive things for yourself. If you have many graduates to give gifts to, ensure that you incorporate the cost of all of their gifts into your budget. The perennial expert on etiquette, Miss Manners, points out that there is no chart for deciding how much to give, but writers to her column frequently report witnessing resentment in response to small gifts.

    Graduate's Accomplishment

    Gifts for graduating college are generally larger than gifts for high school graduates, so bear in mind how momentous the occasion is when choosing your gift. If the graduate has achieved something extraordinary, such as being valedictorian or receiving a scholarship to college, you might want to consider giving more if you can afford it. Miss Manners advocates giving more to students who have accomplished something special in her book "Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior."

    Relationship to Graduate

    Your relationship to the graduate should be a major determining factor in the amount to give. Close friends and family members generally give more, while distant acquaintances tend to give small tokens. A survey by Hallmark Consumer Research reported on by the website "TargetWoman," for example, found that 67 percent of people believed that gifts in excess of 50 dollars are appropriate for close family and friends, while 88 percent believed that 25 dollars or less is appropriate for distant relatives and acquaintances.

    Graduate's Finances

    While not mandatory, it can be helpful to consider the graduate's financial situation and give accordingly. A graduate from a wealthy family probably doesn't need a lot of money to see her goals come to fruition, so consider giving more to graduates with less money and privilege if you're interested in giving a gift that is truly beneficial. The cost of college and graduate school is steadily increasing, and by giving a generous financial gift to a less-privileged graduate, you might help make her start at life easier.

    About the Author

    Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.

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