Reader Question: How Much Cash Do YOU Gift?

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Check out this email from reader, Micki:

I have a high school Senior and all the graduation parties are just around the corner. I know there are some cute ideas for giving gift cards or cash as gifts, but I’m a bit overwhelmed trying to figure out what the appropriate amount would be to give my sons’ friends. Wondering if you or other readers have suggestions?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Want graduation gift ideas? Check out these posts!

* Laundry Kit with Free Printable Gift Tag
* Graduation Hat Jar
* End of School Year Tradition (Oh, The Places You’ll Go!)

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Comments 188

  1. Cindy

    I just made the graduation hat jar for my niece who graduated with her masters and it really turned out so cute. When my daughter graduated her 4th grade teacher gave her a check for $20.14 – the year she graduated. I thought that was the most clever $20 gift. U

  2. Sarah

    For my kids friends in high school we do gift card in the amount of the graduation year, $20.16. With 3 college kids, my own children said cash or gift cards are preferred since there are so many fees, extras, food, etc. to spend money on and always nice to have a little extra. For family or very close friends we do $50-100 depending on relationship.

  3. Kellib

    Thank you reader for this question!! I have been wondering too!
    My issue is my niece is a spender and I’d hate to give her cash to blow away on needless items. I really want it to go towards education. Wish colleges offered gift cards…

    • Susanne

      You could purchase a gift card for her college bookstore. She could use it for books (which are usually very pricey), other supplies/convenience items, snacks, etc.

    • Kristen

      While I rarely recommend purchasing books from there, the college bookstore may be an option (depending on the college and quality of bookstore). She could inmediately go buy snacks, a sweatshirt, etc., but most kids I knew waited until they either really needed something (school supply) and got it there, or until they really needed a break (and got snacks, etc.). Spending that particular gift card wasn’t something my friends did immediately (one friend I knew who had a bookstore gc actually saved it until graduation and got a nice frame for her diploma that had the scool name/logo). The laundry basket with necessities may also be a good option for a kid who spends less-than-responsibly.

    • F

      Maybe an amazon gift card? College bookstores are usually very pricey for books, and now amazon has the option to rent books for a lot cheaper if she chooses to buy from there.

    • SS

      I work at a college and you can definitely ‘gift’ them money into their student account. I’d recommend contacting the college directly for best options, but you could put money in the account and wrap the receipt, or write a joint check to the college and the student, like a scholarship.

  4. cindy

    Erika- are you still teaching? My children’s 4th grade teachers had them write a note to their future self – advice, list their friends, activities, favorite subjects, movies and music. My kids liked getting it when they graduated from high school. I LOVED it and it was a great conversation starter.

    • Erika

      Love that idea! I’ll have to start this idea now with my students

  5. ✨ Kate ✨

    We are youth pastors so we celebrate lots of Seniors graduating every year. It can get expensive. We always give according to the graduating year. So this year we’ll give $20.16. We always get comments about how cute it is.

  6. Andrea Trout

    I made three of these jars; one for my daughter, nephew, and close friends daughter and I put 5 ten dollar bills, 1 $25 gift card to Walmart (got all three free from credit card points), 1 $25 gift card to Amazon (got all three free from credit card points), and some chocolate coins I found on clearance at Rite Aid 🙂 I also took construction paper in the colors of each school they attend and shredded it in my paper shredder and put it inside. It came out really cute! Thank you for posting such a cute idea!!

  7. x

    Seeing that people today don’t acknowledge gifts, I send CHECKS because I will know they were received. For high school graduation, $50.

    • Dawn

      I totally agree with this. Sometimes you get a polite thank you, but often at weddings etc I have no clue if they got my money gift or bridal gift or not. I feel stupid asking!!! People, be polite and send a thank you! Teach your kids to do so!!! Such an entitled generation (not everyone of course, but too many gifts goven with no thank you’s)

  8. Dionne

    Wow! I am surprised by some of the amounts people give. I believe if you can do so, that is great. However, I don’t feel the comments that seem to put down others for giving less are necessary. My children…or even myself…would be very happy with $20, so not everyone would feel that is being cheap. I was always taught it is the thought that counts.

  9. Gisette

    I am loving the dorm supplies as gifts for grads. As a mom of an upcoming college student those types of items would much appreciated!! 🙂

  10. Jennifer

    I’m giving $25 for high school grads this year (family and church kids) – although I love using the year as a dollar amount. For those who think $20 or $25 is too low my reasoning is I think anyone would have a great day if they found a 20 dollar bill on the ground. Therefore they would also be happy to get $20 as a gift since it’s $20 more than they had before. Just my thoughts. : )

  11. Bethany

    This is off subject but, I’m wondering if anyone bought the iphone 5 deal from Daily Steals that was posted on here last week? I wasn’t familiar with the company. Wish I had done some research first. After time went by, I emailed to check on our order. They told me it was backordered. I had no clue and would not have purchased it if I had known. So I asked to cancel the order. Moments later, I received an email saying my phone had shipped out and included a tracking number. According to their policy, you can’t cancel an order once it has been shipped. However, the tracking number does not work. Seems very fishy to me. My son has been saving for months to buy a phone. I’m so disappointed. Has anyone else had problems with Daily Steals? Should I truly be concerned?

    • F

      I never ordered from there, and have no idea if they’re good or bad, but I just wanted to mention that sometimes the tracking number will show no information at first because the item hasn’t really been shipped or dropped off to the post office yet, the tracking # might just have been bought to use for the particular shipment / or for the shipment label. In a day or two the information should show up though. For example, I recently ordered something from the body shop, and the tracking number for my order originally said no information to show, but later after the package was actually shipped, the info started to show up.

    • Swathi

      Hi Bethany me too ordered iPhone 5 from daily steals same worried like you am saving money from long time to buy one though. Same story I didn’t try anything my husband told me to wait for 2 more days I don’t even have tracking number when if checked now too. My husband asked where you saw the deal. “On hip2save” oh! No worries you will get it, Collin see how everybody is relying on you so sometimes for such sites post cons if possible.

    • jenni

      I ordered from them previously and had trouble. I ended up going through my credit card company to get my money back. I received my product, but it didn’t work on arrival, and couldn’t get them to do return or exchange.

  12. Stephanie

    I did a Vera Bradley ID wallet and lanyard for my neighbor. Thought it was cute and practical for college.

  13. Kim

    We always give $50 to anyone we get an announcement from that maybe our son knows or that we don’t know very well ourselves. All friends with their kids, family friends, good friends to my boys etc…. all get $100. Family between $200-$300. One of my sons played basketball, so when he graduated he had all his friends, basketball team etc…. that was a tough year!
    With that said- One of the best things my son got for a gift was someone got the actual school graduation card & put it in a little shadowbox maybe 8×8 or something with the school letters around it & the year & made a little diploma with rolled paper. It was so meaningful & looks so nice & is a keepsake! That would be a very nice & reasonable gift to give!

  14. Dawn

    $20.16. If you have more to offer that’s great, but we don’t so $20 seems good.

    • Debi

      Sounds good to me. Thanks Dawn! I was wondering this exact question. Might frame an inspirational verse as well. I married a guy from a big city and I notice a huge difference in giving/spending amounts for everything from his family compared to mine. I grew up very rural.

  15. Dawn

    As a former elementary teacher (1st grade), I never ever expected or wanted anything. If parents did, it was a bonus and very kind! I never treated any child differently. I almost preferred parents did NOT gift anything because I felt like they didn’t need to do this!

    • Sheila

      I give my kids teachers gift bags with our favorite local farmers market items. Like a bottle of aged balsamic vinegar, a jar of local honey, and our favorite hand made soap. We tend to be at the farmers market a lot this time of year.

    • Marie

      Exactly! Ppl thinking we treat children diff just Bc they bring a gift card is ignorance. I got a Target one today and it didn’t change my views AT ALL

  16. Kitty

    The best graduation gift I got was rolls of quarters for laundry! I think the laundry basket of supplies would’ve been a great idea since I didn’t know how to get good deals back then 🙂

  17. Suzanne H

    I have a follow up question on this. What if you get a graduation announcement from someone you barely know. Are you obligated to send $? I generally give $50-$100 to my friend’s kids and $250+ for family. We bought my nephew a laptop b/c he had a great need and we could afford to do so that year. This year I received an announcement from someone’s daughter whom I met once years ago. Granted, I know her dad (but we are not friends/have never socialized) but this seems a little off to me. Also, got a graduation announcement from the daughter of a friend that moved away over 10 years ago and hasn’t kept in touch. I’m not trying to be ugly but I thought both of these seemed to be a bit far fetched. Is it just me? I didn’t send graduation announcements to every person I’ve ever met when my son graduated last year. Seem like a shake down for money but I’d like other opinions.

    • Elizabeth

      I always took graduation announcements and just that…letting you know of the event. I never feel obligated to give anything, though I will at times for certain people. I never got anything from anyone for graduation, and I don’t think it should be expected that people give anything. You’ve got to learn to support yourself.

    • Brittany

      I would take it as them letting you know what’s going on in their lives. Take a look at it, say that’s neat… Haven’t heard from them in ten years… And go about your merry way 😊

    • Emily

      My son graduates from High School this weekend. While we mainly sent invitations to family, friends from church, a few neighbors and close friends, I also included a couple of old friends (literally two) we were close to that moved away and we communicate with occasionally. I thought they would like to the announcement and see his senior pictures. I would be mortified if people thought I was shaking them down for money. I honestly would appreciate someone to congratulating my son, regardless of the gift. It’s a happy occasion and I sent announcements to people to share the good news.

    • Suzanne H

      Thanks for the feedback – I agree with you all. I will be happy for them and move on.

    • Michelle

      My honest opinion is that if you know the person graduating and could splurge for a card, it would be nice. Not a GIFT card, just a regular, “congrats on your graduation” card. It’s kind of the same idea as a thank you card, you know someone received your invitation and was grateful you sent it and kept them updated. When I graduated, I sent out a TON of invitations, but never with the intent of receiving a gift. I was equally happy with the people who took the time to find a card and write a note of congratulations or best of luck with your future. It was kind of an acknowledgement that they still card after all those years, even if we hadn’t kept in touch. But maybe that’s just me. 🙂

  18. Si

    Off topic. My sister and her fiancé are finally getting married. They have been living together for 4 years, and honestly do NOT need or want any money or gifts. They will NOT have a registry. Her and I are tying to figure out the best way to word that on the invitations. is putting “no gifts/or money” on the invitations sound rude or tacky? She doesn’t want people to feel obligated to bring a gift/money, but is putting it on the invitations a “no no”? Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!

    • Sandy

      Why not put on the invitations in lieu of any gifts, please make a donation to the charity of their liking.

      • Si

        What a great idea Sandy! Thanks!!

    • Dionne

      I have always seen “Your presence is our present”

    • Suzanne H

      You state “the gift of your presence is the only gift requested” on the invitation. The other thing they could do is spread the word (probably through you) that they are honeymooning (assuming they are) at X place and would be thrilled by any donations/gift cards/etc. towards their honeymoon. The best gift we received was a surprise gift card towards our honeymoon when we arrived at the hotel. Friends had called ahead and arranged for a credit to be applied to our bill. It wasn’t an extreme amount of money but the gesture was so thoughtful!

  19. riss

    My friend from college invited us on her son’s graduation party. Nothing fancy, it was in their house. I gave $100, coz they put it in the invite that since he’s going away to college (Stanford), cash or gift card is preferred.😨

  20. Carrie

    If we’re going to a graduation party we definately do at least $50. Assume $10 for the two of us in food thats being catered for the graduation party + $30 present.

  21. Kathy

    Amazon gift cards for grads and teachers!

  22. Karen

    I have put together before a laundry basket, with detergent, roll of quarters, snacks, envelopes, stamps, gas & food gift cards, towels, etc. Anything that they could use while away. With something like this you can spend as much as you think. I also have to agree with what someone said earlier. Kids need to send thanks yous. From the time my kids were able to write I used those pre- written thank yous where they just had to write the item & sign. Then as they grew older they wrote them on their own. After Birthdays & Xmas I would make them write 1 or 2 each night until they were finished. I always told them these people don’t have to give you anything. I was so proud of my son when he got married he wrote out the thanks yous for our side of the family!! There is nothing that annoys me more than my nieces not thanking me at all, even verbally after Xmas & Birthdays. Its like they think they are entitled

  23. Marie

    I think teacher birthdays and end of year gifts are sweet. I said this above, but my 5th graders become my family. We spend a whole year together, growing and sharing really personal stuff. So when my room mom and kids secretly plan me a party or give me a tree at Christmas with gift cards as the ornaments, I’m touched, and I usually ball my eyes out… Because we’re family and you take care of family. I expect nothing, but it touches a part of my heart when they do it. So whether it’s a treat, my favorite pens (this excites me more than most things), a sweet note that makes me cry my eyes out, or a gift card, it’s nice knowing that I’m not just their teacher, but that they care the same way I do. And if your kid doesn’t feel that way about their teacher, well that’s quite unfortunate.

    Rant off. Sorry the negative Nancy’s in the comments really Hit a nerve.

    • Suzanne H

      I am so glad that our school is so great to the teachers. They really do it up for teacher’s appreciation week and we have a Sweets & Treats day every other month. Parent volunteers come in to read to the kids so the teachers all get to go to the break room where the parents have supplied tea, coffee, soda, bagels, muffins, sweets, etc. We also stock the teacher’s break room with enough coffee, creamer, tea, candy bars, healthy bars, etc. to try to last until the next S&T day! Teacher’s deserve it for all of their hard work. I simply could not deal with 20-30 kids for 6 hours a day!

  24. Kiana

    Great question to prompt discussion, Colin! I really appreciate seeing all the input. It’s a good way to calibrate.

  25. Urvi

    Helping pay school tuition: contact the bursar / student accounts office. Most scholarship providers send a check made out to “xxx university & Joe student”. This way he has no option but to apply it to the term bill.
    Don’t see why aunt/grandma/friend can’t go the same.

    Also another idea. Offer to help with scholarship searches. It’s time consuming and tedious. But so rewarding!

  26. Sarah H

    Amazon gift cards are great. Can be used for texts or stuff for the dorm or even for some grocery items. Be careful with Barnes & Noble e-cards — some of them can’t be used at B&N campus stores (and the card reader at my son”s campus store was always broken at the beginning of the term…. Hmmmmm).

  27. Raquel

    Our sons have attended public schools in both MA and MN. Both states have specific and clear policies for gift giving to teachers and school officials. It provides parents and students an opportunity to give “Thanks” and show gratitude on the same level with all parents and students (gift value under $50)

  28. rita

    How much would you give for a baptism as the godparent?

    • Suzanne H

      I would give a savings bond or something similar the child can save. Whatever you can afford is appropriate obviously but I would guess, in general, $50-$100 depending upon your circumstances and where you live (some places are so expensive that $50 is like nothing).

  29. Susan

    I feel like people should be grateful for any gift they receive, large or small, even if it’s just the time someone takes to come to a graduation or party. Celebrate, enjoy, be happy, and most of all be thankful for loved ones who support you!

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