What Is an Appropriate Monetary Graduation Gift?

Eliza Martinez
Money flowers make a nice gift presentation.

The end of spring and the beginning of summer brings graduations at many levels. Whether the student in your life is finishing middle school, high school or college, money is a common gift for graduates. However, how much you should give is debatable.

Guidelines for Monetary Graduation Gifts

If you're wondering about how much to give for a graduation gift, you should consider first what you can afford and then your relationship to the graduate. According to Miss Manners, there is no specific amount that etiquette dictates is appropriate for a graduation gift. You should give only what you want to spend. However, there are some guidelines from experts that can help you make the decision about how much money to give.

Middle School

A middle school graduation isn't an event that tends to get as much hype as a high school or college graduation. However, some students are beginning to send out announcements letting friends and family know that they are heading to the next phase in their education. In that case, it makes sense to send a gift to acknowledge the accomplishment.

Practical Etiquette suggests giving school supplies to be used in high school and forgoing the monetary gift at this stage. However, if you are close to the student and really want to give a monetary gift, Education.com suggests opening a savings account for the student. That way, he can place money in the bank for use during high school (for supplies, sports equipment or lunches off campus with friends).

High School

Graduating from high school is a momentous occasion. Consequently, people tend to give a lot more for this type of graduation. Millionaire's Corner reports that 57 percent of people surveyed are comfortable with less than $100. Most surveyed felt like it was important to give a gift to a family member or a close friend, but not an acquaintance or extended family member.

The experts at MakeCollegeCount.com suggest varying amounts depending on your relationship with the graduate. For siblings of the graduate $15 to $30 is appropriate, while grandparents, aunts and uncles should give between $20 and $50. More distant relatives and family friends can give as little as $15 all the way up to $50.


Graduating from a college is a big deal, which makes many people wonder if a larger monetary gift is required. Millionaire's Corner's survey shows that many people give between $100 and $500 as a college graduation gift for a relative or close friend.

Bottom Line on How Much to Give

Clearly, there is plenty of debate and discrepancy regarding how much to give a graduate. While you can get a basic idea by looking at the averages, the bottom line among the etiquette experts is not to give more than you feel comfortable giving.

That being said, U.S. News and World Report suggests creating a scale based on the level of school the graduate is finishing and your relationship with the graduate. For example, you might want to give $10 for acquaintances, $20 for a friend or $50 for a close friend or family. When you get graduation announcements in the mail, decide which category the person graduation belongs in (ie friend, family, or acquaintance) and give accordingly.

Creative Cash Gifts

If you're considering giving an appropriate cash amount as a gift, try these creative ideas for display:

  • Make paper money flowers out of the cash.
  • Make a lei out of one-dollar bills.
  • Take some empty soda cans or bottles and tape money around them.
  • Tie a ribbon with the school colors around the money.
  • Give the graduate a jar of beans with the money stuffed inside.
  • Blow up balloons with money inside.
  • Make a money tree gift.
  • Give away a calendar with money taped to each month.
  • Put the money in a shoebox with colored paper inside.
  • Give away a piggy bank with twenty dollar bills stuffed inside.
  • Put the cash in a card with details on how it should be spent.
  • Get cash in coin denominations and wrap it in a box.
  • Tuck cash into a photo album filled with pictures leading up to the graduation.
  • Roll dollar bills and arrange them to create a layered cake, secured with ribbon.
  • Tuck money into school supplies, such as a pencil holder or notebook.
  • Tape the money together to form a banner you can hang at the graduation party.
  • Give the graduate a jar of coins you've been collecting.

Cash Gifts Are Excellent

Monetary graduation gifts are an excellent idea with a lot of creative potential. Do something unique with your cash gift and make the presentation something to remember. Your graduating senior will really appreciate the gesture, no matter how much you give him.

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What Is an Appropriate Monetary Graduation Gift?