If you’ve noticed that the only food group in your diet lately has been Free Pasta Salads, don’t worry. It’s not a covert conspiracy between macaroni salesmen and Midwestern moms to take over the world. Alright, it is, but it’s also graduation party season. And in your mayonnaise dressing haze, you may have forgot that in exchange for the free food, you need to bring a gift for the recent graduate (if you’ve crashed the party and are having trouble picking the grad out of a crowd, look for the one giving off the ‘frightened and aimless’ vibe, usually characterized by nervous laughter and a constant darting of the eyes).
Although you are probably broke and your biggest gift to them is a human representation of life choices they should avoid, you should still put some thought into a present for them. As always, I’m here to bail your ass out. Here are some ideas:
For High School Graduates:
The top three gifts grads want (based on an extensive 30-second Google search) are laptops, a plane ticket for a European trip, and cash. But if we could afford that, we wouldn’t be hitting up open houses for Ramen noodle salad, so these options are obviously out of the question. When I think of the summer I graduated high school, I remember being giddy about what was going to come next (as a Creative Writing major, that was obviously fame and fortune) and a little melancholy about ending the era where my biggest worries were about boys, bonfires, and who would pick me up for my break at Bill Knapps Restaurant. A good way to capture this mix of emotions is by making your grad a Remember When Journal.
Grab an old hardcover book. Keep it small because whether they’re going to college or staying at home, they probably don’t have a ton of space. It’s also best if the title of the book is appropriate for a graduate like an old AP style guide or something titled Never Take an Open Drink. On the inside pages of the book, glue pockets with mementos of good times the grad had inside: notes you may have passed, detention slips, locks of hair secretly cut from a dreamy shaggy-headed 17- year-old boy, that kind of thing. You can also add pictures and paste handwritten “Remember When” stories like “remember that time you kept farting every time you did a sit-up in 6th grade gym class?” in. This way, if the grad is feeling lonely or a little scared about their new place in life, they can look back on the book and remember how many good memories they’ve shared and how awesome you are for making it for them. ReadyMade.com makes a great travel journal version of this craft (pictured above). You should click here for directions.
- If you’re not feeling up for making an artsy journal, you could take a cue from my fab friend Heidi and make a We Miss You Book. When I moved to Chicago and was so pitiful and jobless that homeless people felt sorry for me and gave me advice (seriously), Heidi showed up with a photo album filled with pictures of all my friends from back home. In each picture every friend was wearing a shirt that said, “We Miss Annie”. It was a simple but very thoughtful gift and it truly lifted my spirits. You can copy Heidi (I don’t think she’d mind):
- Buy a big t-shirt (in a size that will fit everyone you know)
- Iron on the words “I/We Miss _____”
-Take it around town and make all the people that love your giftee put the shirt on and have a picture taken of them in it.
- Develop the photos and deliver them to the grad in some sort of photo album.
- Await numerous and generous displays of gratitude.
- If the graduate is planning on travelling, make them a Thriftfulness Travel Survival Kit
- DIY Fake ID?
- Resolve to send them some piece of mail every month for a year…and actually do it. College kids or people in new places with no money love care packages, letters, or coupons sent through snail mail. Anything that is not a bill or a jury duty notice counts as exciting mail.
- Try making music mixes like “Bands that Won’t Annoy your New Roommate” and later in the semester “Bands That WILL Annoy your Roommate”
- Parents of graduates may want to give the gift of not spoiling their child. These kids annoy the poor kids in the college classroom by complaining about you not buying them the right color car for their birthday while we’re trying to learn and/or sleep and the real problem is that then they grow up and become annoying co-workers or library patrons…who still live with you. A pair of Big Kid Pants with empty pockets may be preferable.
- The Remembering Journal from above but make sure to add their first political science paper for laughs and a chapter of blank pages for the nights you partied too hard to recall in the morning.
- A homemade resume kit. Some nice paper, a style guide and, if you can afford it, a gift card to a copy center.
- A chair and a paper bag to breath into for the day they get their first student loan bill.
- A homemade change purse (CraftStylish has a tutorial) for them to save their pennies or keep their laundry/parking meter quarters in. Add a phrase to it if you want, like “Will Go to Grad School for Food” or “You Guys Told Me There Would Be Jobs”. I bought a change purse once that said “This Economy Sucks”. The zipper broke almost instantly. I guess the economy’s not the only thing that sucks, hmmmm?
- A thrifted business card holder
- Really nice little stuff that a college grad can’t afford like good smelling laundry detergent, name-brand cereal, salon shampoo, magazine subscriptions, etc. When folks are just starting out and living paycheck to paycheck, it’s the little luxuries they have to cut out so even though it’s only $4 or $10, these gifts are a big perker-upper.