How Much Money For High School Graduation Gift? (Explained)

How Much Money For High School Graduation Gift? (Explained)

Appropriate cash gift for graduation

Graduating students smiling and laughing with diplomas

In a few short months, students will don their caps and gowns and accept their high school diplomas.

It is one of the biggest moments in a young adult’s life and is often accompanied by a celebration with graduation gifts.

As many high school graduates enter the workforce or college, ready to spread their wings of independence, one of the best gifts you can give is money.

The amount of money for a high school graduation gift ranges from $20 to $300.

This is quite a big range, and it can be difficult to figure out how much to give that special young person in your life.

The truth is it depends on your relationship with the graduate and how much you feel comfortable giving.

Keep reading to see how to decide how much money to give, in addition to some other ideas for presents if you want to give something more personal.

How Much Money For High School Graduation Gift?

Happy student with parents after graduation ceremony outdoors

A gift of $25 is perfectly fine, and $50 would be very generous, but that would probably be the upper limit.

Parents bear most of the responsibility for giving monetary graduation gifts.

Parents should plan to give their son or daughter $100 to $200 or more.

If the graduating senior is someone you know, but not that well, there’s no pressure to give them a lot of money.

You don’t want to give too much because it could make the family feel uncomfortable.

How To Decide What To Give The Graduate

grad girl is smiling

There are several factors to consider when deciding how much money to give a high school graduate.

This is a great achievement for anyone, but there are some merits that you might choose to honor additionally.

Some of these variables include the student’s GPA, career or college prospects, class rank, awards, or scholarships.

These are all only suggestions.

You, as the gift giver, can use these guidelines, but also be mindful that it is your relationship with the graduate and your financial ability that should truly determine the gift you give to that special high schooler in your life.

How Should The Money Be Given?

Pink piggy bank on dollars

The money should be given as cash or check so that it can come with a personalized card.

There are also some creative ways to give cash as a gift.

It can be made into paper money flowers, fashioned into a lei, stowed in balloons, crafted into a money tree, taped to a monthly calendar, stored in a piggy bank, tucked into a photo album, rolled into a layer cake, or placed into school supplies.

Another way to give money is in the form of stocks or government bonds.

This is a way to ensure that the recipient gets money, but won’t spend it immediately, and will hopefully make money on what is given to them.

This could be an investment in their future.

It could be really exciting for them to receive stock, especially if they’re interested in finance or receiving shares in a brand that they like.

The National Retail Federation estimates that 52.8% of people give money as a high school graduation gift.

Though cash might be the most popular gift, it is certainly not the only gift.

Keep reading to see some other gift ideas for your favorite graduating senior.

1. Gift Certificates

Top view of gift voucher and gift box

Gift cards are more personal than cash yet give the recipient freedom to spend the money the way they want.

Some popular gift cards for high school graduates are to Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond because they can buy a lot of things there for their future dorm rooms or apartments if they’re moving out or going to college.

Otherwise, Apple gift cards are great, too, for students hoping to upgrade their computers or phones as they embark on their next chapter in life.

If you don’t know what gift card to get for the graduate, flexible gift cards from companies like Visa or American Express work as well.

Alternatively, you can give them gift cards that will allow them to have a good time at the places they enjoy, such as their favorite clothing stores or restaurants.

This is a great way for the graduating students to celebrate their achievements instead of feeling pressured to invest those rewards into their futures.

2. Symbolic Gifts

two older class rings and diploma

Some graduation presents are not meant to be spent or used but to convey a certain sentimentality that is unique to embarking on a new stage in life.

One of the most popular examples is Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.

A classic childhood book, it reminds graduating students of their childhood and the message that there is a whole world of opportunity out there for them to go and explore.

Another gift is a keepsake or piece of jewelry that has the student’s graduation year on it.

There are T-shirts, keychains, stuffed animals, figurines, paperweights, and bookends that can be customized for the occasion and will commemorate this milestone in a special way.

If the student has not already ordered one, you can purchase a class ring.

A lot of the class rings are customizable with a stone that matches the school colors.

They have the student’s graduation year on them, too.

3. Handmade Gifts

Happy mother and daughter sitting on sofa

Some of the most special gifts are those made by hand.

For example, photo albums of memories in high school can be especially valuable, especially when it comes from friends who may be parting ways for college.

Another idea is to include coupons for experiences together in the fall when the time comes to reunite after spending the first semester apart.

You can also create a playlist for the graduate, curated uniquely for that person and this occasion, which is sure to make them feel special.

Now more than ever, it is easier and cheaper to make playlists.

All you need to do is go on Spotify, add songs to a playlist, and share that URL via text message.

Another idea is a creative craft.

A poem, painting, or song can show people how much they mean to you while giving you an outlet to express yourself in a nonverbal way.

They will be able to take this gift with them to their next step in life and will likely treasure it forever.

4. Useful Gifts

Close-up view of empty colorful cups and plates on tabletop

When someone graduates high school, chances are that they are moving to a new stage in life.

That might be moving into a new apartment and beginning a career or settling into a dorm room to begin college.

Either way, there’s going to be some shopping involved to buy some things necessary for independent living.

Some examples could be utensils, a coffee maker, mugs, or glasses.

Other Tips Regarding Graduation Gifts

Proud Male Student With Parents

There is also etiquette involved in giving gifts for high school graduation.

Here are some tips for how to graciously reward the graduating senior in your life.

1. Don’t Give Too Much

Giving too much money or too many presents can make the recipient and the recipient’s family feel uncomfortable.

They might feel like they owe you something in return or that you pity them for their financial or other situation.

It is totally fine to be generous but give within a reasonable range.

It might be helpful to think about how much you would expect that person to give to you if the roles were reversed.

How much would make you feel uncomfortable to receive from them?

Use that as a guide in determining how to quantify your gift.

This can be a bit more challenging with a monetary gift that has a dollar amount.

It could be controversial to give a friend more money than she might receive from parents or grandparents. It could make family members feel inadequate and offended.

In this sense, it could be less complicated to give a non-cash gift, so the recipient is not aware of the exact amount of money spent on it.

2. It’s Okay To Give A Low Amount Or Nothing At All

You should only give what you are able to give.

Everyone has different financial situations, and yours might not allow you the disposable income to give a generous graduation gift.

That is totally okay.

Most people understand that you want to give what you can.

Only give what you are willing and able to give.

It is more important to be there for the person physically and emotionally—celebrating the achievement of graduating high school—than quantifying their success with a gift.

3. Don’t Discuss Your Gift In Public

This is true especially for giving monetary gifts.

It can be considered rude to discuss how much money you gave to a person as a gift since talking about money is considered taboo anyway.

Also, the other people listening in to the conversation may feel uncomfortable after comparing how much they gave to how much you gave.

The truth is that this is only between you and the recipient and doesn’t need to be discussed in public.

4. If You Have Any Concerns, Consult The Parents

If you’re worried about getting a gift that might conflict with the parents’ gift, it could be a good idea to consult the parents before making the purchase.

This way, you can give your gift with a clear conscience, knowing that you aren’t stepping on anyone’s toes.

5. It Can Lighten The Financial Burden To Split The Gift

By splitting a more expensive gift with someone else, it can ease any financial strain that a graduation gift may put on you.

You can invest in a nice restaurant gift card, some décor for a new apartment, or a nice piece of jewelry.

This will allow you to give the person something nice and sentimental, while not breaking the bank.

If you have a good idea of what to get the person, someone else will likely be willing to split the gift with you.

Chances are others are in the same boat of not knowing what to buy or how much to give, so splitting a gift with someone can relieve a lot of financial anxiety and gift-related stress.


High school graduation is a time of excitement for the graduating senior and surrounding family and friends.

Giving a gift should not have to be stressful.

There is no rule on how much to give someone.

It is totally up to you to decide how much you feel comfortable giving.

Also, it is okay to give gifts that are not money either—such as gift cards, symbolic presents, handmade items, or homewares.

Another alternative is to split a gift with a friend, so you don’t bear all the financial burden.

Best of all, there will always be another opportunity to give a different gift in the future.