By Sarab Karimi, Contributor
Spoiling a new graduate with a generous gift is never a bad idea, but if you're on a tight budget, you might need to explore some affordable alternatives. The average planned spending for one graduation gift is $53.73, according to the NRF's Graduation Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. It's not too late to come up with graduation gift ideas that will impress, inspire and support your grad this year and not spend nearly that much.
Here are 16 last-minute graduation gifts for 2016 graduates -- all for under $30.
1. Personal Finance Book: $12
Give your fresh grad a chance to learn about budgeting basics and debt prevention with a personal finance book that can guide them through the money management process and help them learn good financial habits. Some good examples of graduate-friendly reading material include "Rich Bitch: A Simple 12-Step Guide for Getting Your Financial Life Together ... Finally" by money expert Nicole Lapin or "Smart is the New Rich: Money Guide for Millennials" by CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans.
2. Phone Charger: $12
Busy grads will be getting even busier in the upcoming year. You can make sure their smartphone is always accessible and charged with a mobile charger. Buy a charger with a compact design and a powerful battery pack that will keep smart devices charged for hours on end. These chargers can be thrown into purses, briefcases and even backpacks or pockets for some pocket-friendly charging when it's needed most.
3. Cookbook: $15
Grads who will be living away from home for the first time or moving to an area where dining options are limited might enjoy some cooking tips. Pick out a hardcover cookbook for that vegetarian, paleo enthusiast or low-carb dieter, or stick with the classics like "Joy of Cooking" for a comprehensive guide on cooking fundamentals.
4. Portable Furniture: $15
From folding chairs to collapsible storage bins, the new grad will need some dorm room or new apartment furniture that doesn't take up a lot of space. Choose from a few basic items that will help them furnish their new space -- and save them space -- like a collapsible laundry basket or folding chair.
5. Travel Bag: $18
Grads who are already making travel plans to spend a year or more abroad, or will be looking at a long commute in the upcoming year, will appreciate having a bag or small piece of luggage by their side to transport their items. A sturdy bag with pockets is the perfect weekender and go-to travel bag for any college-bound student or young professional.
6. Herb Garden Kit: $20
Give the new grad a chance to grow his or her own herbs in their new home with an at-home herb garden kit. These miniature gardening sets include planters, soil, seeds and instructions to create a set of fresh herbs they can use to cook up their favorite meals.
7. Journal and Stationery: $20
Support your grad's new transition in life by gifting them a beautifully designed journal or notebook. In addition, you can include some stationery or note cards, so that they can keep in touch in a more personal way. From watercolor prints to distressed paper covers, pick out stationery with an inspiring message or image so grads can jot down their thoughts.
8. Alcohol: $20
Now, if your graduate just graduated high school, this isn't for them. However, any college graduate would appreciate a nice bottle of liquor or wine, or a six-pack of their favorite beer, to celebrate their accomplishment. You can get a decent bottle of whiskey or bourbon for under $30, or go the wine or beer route for under $20.
9. Portable Speaker: $20
Music enthusiasts will appreciate having the option of setting up their own sound system wherever they go with a wireless, Bluetooth speaker. Pick up a speaker with a unique design and remote so they can place it on their desk or tabletop in their new home, apartment or dorm.
10. Noise-Isolating Headphones: $25
Whether they're hitting the gym at sunrise, taking the train to work or needing to block out noisy dorm-mates, having a set of noise-isolating headphones can make the experience just a little better. Pick out a pair of ear buds or over-the-ear headphones with noise-isolating technology for under $30 for the new graduate.
11. Gas Card: $25
Some new graduates will be commuting to a new job and still be on a tight budget, so a gas card is sure to be well-received. Some cards can be reloaded so the cardholder can use it as a convenient way to monitor and manage their gas purchases.
12. Gourmet Food Basket: $25
A basket filled with sweet treats, nuts, snacks or even homemade items will keep a pantry full for at least a few days -- and help them save money on grocery shopping. Shop at World Market or even Trader Joe's for some tasty snacks and treats that you can arrange in a basket you picked up from a party store for a personalized graduation gift that will also keep you within your budget this season.
13. Gift Card: $25
If you're not sure what your grad will be thrilled with, a retail store, restaurant, Starbucks or Amazon gift card is sure to please. You can buy electronic versions to take care of a last-minute graduate via email or have the card sent to the recipients home with a congratulatory message attached.
14. Laundry Kit: $28
If the new graduate is going away to college or renting a home after college, they'll need some basic supplies to get laundry done. Get them a care package that includes a laundry basket, laundry bag, detergent, fabric softener and stain remover. You can create this yourself with individual items or buy an already-made kit on Amazon for under $30.
15. College Team Hoodie: $28
Let them show off some college pride with a team or school logo hoodie or shirt. Look for the Officially Licensed Collegiate Product stamp to pick up something high-quality and durable that they can make use of at the gym, on weekends and to cozy up in on a night in after a stressful day.
16. Cash: Your Choice
No matter if a high school graduate is heading off to college for the first time, or a college graduate is heading into the work world to start a new life, these gifts can help make that transition a little smoother. But most of all, you don't have to spend a fortune to say congratulations.
Keep Reading: 5 People Who Should Get Cash Gifts -- Like Recent Grads
Jamie Young contributed to the reporting for this article.
Disclaimer: All prices are based on the lowest price available online.
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