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How Much Money To Give For a High School Graduation Gift

Graduation is a major milestone. Just like weddings, retirements, and the birth of a child, it’s customary to give a gift.

Because high school graduates are typically either moving on to college or out on their own, cash or gift cards are popular gifts to help them move on to the next stage in their life.

If you have a child, a friend, a sibling, a neighbor, or a relative who is about to graduate, you may be wondering what is the ideal amount to give for a high school graduation gift. Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your gift.

Should You Give Cash to High School Graduates?

People have different views on giving cash gifts to high school graduates. Those who support the idea, believe that it is best to give a child what they will value (as opposed to what you may value, like items or books).

And because new graduates are starting a new phase in their life that will have multiple expenses, cash is often a much-appreciated gift.

For others who frown at the idea of giving cash for graduation, usually they believe that cash gifts may send the wrong message, especially for someone so young. They may prefer to give the graduate a gift that feels more meaningful.

There is no right or wrong answer. This decision is yours to make when giving your graduation gift.

How Much Is a Worthy Cash Gift for New Graduates?

If you have decided to give a new graduate a cash gift, what is the ideal amount to give for high school graduation gift?

To be honest, there is no straightforward answer to this question. While we don’t want to downplay a momentous occasion like graduating from high school, the responsibility lies with you to decide how much is appropriate.

That said, the average amount of cash gift for graduation ranges from $20-$100. Some individuals will give over $100 if they’re close to the graduate and have the financial means.

To help you decide how much to give, let’s look at some factors that can influence the ideal gift amount.

4 Things to Consider When Giving Cash as a Graduation Gift

You can evaluate an ideal gift amount based on how much you can afford and what you think the money will be used for. Here are some things you can factor into your decision.

1. What are the graduate’s needs?

What do you think the child will use the money for? Have they talked about something they would like to buy after graduating high school?

Would they like to go for a vacation? Will the money be spent on partying with friends and shopping? Or will they add it to their college savings fund?

If you think the money will be spent on shopping and partying, the $20-$100 range is fine. For vacation trips with friends and family, you may choose to increase the amount if you can afford it, to give them a memorable experience.

And if you know all the money will be put towards higher education, you may choose to gift them a larger amount.

Education is important for a graduate’s future, but it isn’t cheap! They can supplement their graduation gift money and student loans with these ways to make college money without a job.

2. How did they perform in school?

If you’re a parent or other relative of the graduate, you may choose to give cash based on their academic performance.

Let’s say they graduated with honors; you will agree that such a feat took a lot of discipline, focus and dedication. In such a scenario, you may decide to spoil them a little by offering them a substantial reward.

On the other hand, if you know the student didn’t invest a lot of effort into their studies, you might decide they haven’t earned a large gift.

3. Do they have a good support system?

While many new graduates will have family and friends who are supporting them during this special time, there will be some students who do not.

Does the graduate has a large and loving family of parents, siblings and extended relatives? If they do, they will likely be getting lots of cash and other gifts from family. You might choose to give a smaller amount if you’re a family friend or extended relative.

However, if the student comes from a broken home and they do not have the blessing of family around them, or they don’t have a functional social network, it would help to give them more than the average. They will likely be getting very little or nothing from elsewhere.

4. What fits into your budget?

Above all, let your income and budget be the main deciding factor when deciding how much to give as graduation gifts.

If you are on a fixed income, you may have little wiggle room to increase your offering, but with more disposable income, you have a lot more freedom.

How to Spice Up Your Graduation Gift

When giving cash gifts to a high school graduate, you can be creative about it! Let there be an element of surprise and mystery about your gift.

So how do you spice up your gift? Here are some fun tips for a memorable graduation gift.

Dollar balloons

One way to impress your new graduate is to blow up balloons stuffed with cash.

Place the cash inside the balloons and drop them all on their heads unexpectedly while loved ones gather around and cheer them on, or wrap the balloons up in a large gift box. After that, invite them to pierce each balloon to remove the cash.

Money tree

You can make a money tree with bills hanging all around it. To fill it in, use different denominations of currency, including smaller bills.

Cash stuffed photo album

Another way to surprise the graduate is to present them with a photo album with cash inside the pages!

If you want to add more nostalgia to the mix, fill the album up with childhood pictures so as they flip through it, they’ll find fun pictures and cash gifts as well.

Other creative cash gift ideas

Here are a few more ideas to deliver your graduation cash gift with a twist:

How Much Money to Give for a High School Graduation Gift?

$20-$100+ is a good starting point for a high school graduation gift.

From there, a few factors can influence your gift decision. Keep in mind the student’s academic performance, their family support, and your own budget as well.

Overall, the proper amount to give as a graduation gift is whatever you can afford. You can also make your cash gift a little extra special with a creative presentation. This makes your gift more memorable and sentimental.

Do you have suggestions on the ideal amount to give for graduation gifts? Leave a comment below!

Are you a recent high school graduate? Here are some ways college students can save money.

Kim Ritter is a frugal living expert, blogger and mom of two from small-town Iowa. What began as an effort to help her family save a few dollars a month has now transformed into a full-time passion to help other parents money. Visit her online at and follow her on Twitter at @2kidsandacoupon for more ways your family can have fun on a budget. She’s a regular guest on the TV show ‘Hello Iowa’ on WHO 13, a leading television station in Des Moines, Iowa, where she appears as a money-saving expert.

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