Cash Gift Etiquette for Graduations

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While giving graduation gifts like a laptop bag, dorm refrigerator or a sweatshirt with a college logo are certainly thoughtful and useful, many new grads would prefer to receive cash as a congratulatory gift. Graduates are just getting a foothold with independence and a little cash in their bank account can make stepping out on their own a bit easier.

Do I Have to Give a Gift?

Thousands of graduation announcements are sent out every spring and receivers are not required to send a gift to each graduate in their life. Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman suggests using your best judgment when determining to whom you will give graduation gifts. The closer you are to a graduate, such as your niece or grandson, the more you should consider giving a cash gift. You can make the call about giving gifts to your client’s child or your next-door neighbor’s godson.

Delivering the Gift

It is acceptable to deliver a graduation gift by hand, such as at a graduation party, or send it in the mail. A hand-written note of congratulation and encouragement are always appropriate, whether you are using a stock greeting card or designing your own. Taking the time to stop by the bank for some new bills is another nice touch.

How Much Should I Give?

When trying to determine how much to give as a graduation gift, always stay within your budget. Leah Ingram, etiquette expert from, encourages people to simply give what they are comfortable giving. While writing a check for $20 may feel appropriate for some, while others may feel the need to send a larger amount because they are high earners or have a close relationship with the graduate. The gift amount is a personal choice.

How Should Graduates Spend the Money?

While a graduate may be tempted to use his new small fortune in graduation cash to take a cruise or party all summer, it is more thoughtful to use the funds for more purposeful ventures. Paying for school, buying a new computer or even getting a couch for a first apartment are more appropriate uses for graduation money. Setting the money aside in an emergency fund for a rainy day, or paying off credit card debts are wise choices for graduates heading out on their own for the first time.


About the Author

Kimberly Dyke is a Spanish interpreter with a B.A. in language and international trade from Clemson University. She began writing professionally in 2010, specializing in education, parenting and culture. Currently residing in South Carolina, Dyke has received certificates in photography and medical interpretation.

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