Gift Ideas for College Grads for a Financial Headstart

June 3, 2008

What gift should you get for a college graduate?  Cash is always the easiest and probably the most coveted present for recent graduates.  The problem, as I remember it, is that cash is a hard thing to hold onto once you’re out of school and thrust int the job hunt or working world.

Here are a few ideas for graduation gifts that can help them save money or get a leg up on their future finances:

Financial Filing System
The deluge of bills, paystubs, receipts, and tax forms can turn into an ugly mess stuffed into a drawer in a graduate’s tiny new apartment.  A simple system such as the Homefile Financial Planning Organizer Kit should cover all their financial paperwork filing needs.

Free Entertainment
Going to a full time job all week every week can be a real drag after the flexible college lifestyle.  It can be tempting (and also expensive) to blow off a little steam at the end of the workday by meeting up with friends for dinner, drinks, or a movie.  A cheaper alternative for a graduate is bringing friends back to their place to eat and hang out. 

Help them out with a subscription to Blockbuster online video rentals and gift certificates to a cook it yourself pizza place like Papa Murphy’s.  Popping in a DVD and eating an oven cooked pizza on weeknights is much cheaper than heading out on the town after work.

Investment Matching Program
Offer to match all or a portion of money that they invest for the future.  My parents did this for me and I invested the maximum amount that they’d match.  They can invest whatever they can afford each month with automatic investments of small amount if they open a ShareBuilder Account. 

Another option is to open a Roth IRA that has no no minimum balance and no account fees. For example, open a TradeKing IRA, they waive minimums and fees if they sign up for online delivery of statements and confirms.

Emergency Fund
Most college grads already have some level of debt when they graduate, they don’t want to add anything else onto their credit cards if the car breaks down or some other emergency arises. Help them setup an emergency fund. Signup for an ING Direct savings account, then send them an invite from within your account.  Both the graduate and you get a signup bonus using this method and you can choose to send your bonus to the graduate as well.

Financial Education
Sign them up for a magazine subscription to Kiplingers or Smart Money magazine.  Sure, they can get it for free online but when they’re on the computer they’re probably catching up with college buddies. Give them them a copy for the coffee table, bus, or bathroom reading : )

Keep them Healthy
If you know where the graduate will be living, get them a gym membership nearby.  Staying healthy will save them countless dollars over the course of their life. Plus, the gym is a great place to socialize, maybe they’ll meet their future spouse there. Two people paying rent makes housing much more affordable : )

Buy Health Insurance
There’s sometimes a gap in health insurance coverage between graduation and finding a first job with benefits.  Especially if they’re avid atheletes with a higher risk of getting injured, make sure they have some type of short term health insurance.  A huge health care bill is the last thing a new graduate wants to worry about.

Financial Advice
Let the graduate know you’re always there if they have any questions on investing, taxes, bills, etc.  You’ve already traveled the financial maze and have many of the answers they’ll be looking for.  Setup an “unofficial meeting”, set some time aside where you just talk finances.  Let them voice their concerns, ask their questions, and tap into your knowlege. 

This post was my take on Gifts to Give Grads a Headstart.

Trustworthy Repair Help
Now that they’ll be living out on their own in the “real world”, chances are something will break and need fixing. Even though you won’t be around to fix it, you can help them find a trustworthy contractor who will do a good job and charge a fair price by getting them a subscription to Angies List.


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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7 Responses to Gift Ideas for College Grads for a Financial Headstart

  • Zelinda

    Investment Matching Program and Emergency Fund would be my choice, the first because encourages a long-term financial commitment that grow a the pace of your own efforts, and the second is like cash, always needed, but as financial tool not to be spent until necessity arises.

  • Luke @ Money & Fitnes Blog

    Good article but as you said, I think most people rely on cash and a card. I guess that would be the easiest thing. Did you have anyone you had to give a present to for graduating?


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