Gift giving is some people’s love language; they always know just what to give.  Their gifts always hit the right note. Not me.

Gift giving is not my strong suit. I labor over choosing the “right” present for someone, not because I’m trying to impress them, nor out of obligation, but because I feel like my gift to you is a reflection of my relationship with you. It matters to me to give a gift that meaningfully expresses that. (This is why I deplore gifting money.)

Because we always know someone graduating from high school, here are some specific gift ideas for the teens in your life celebrating this milestone.

(FYI: I’m intentionally leaving off electronics here because of their lofty price tags.)

1. Signature jewelry

Not restricted to monogrammed jewelry, these are nice pieces they’ll wear in college and beyond. A few examples:

• Pearl studs. A classic!  If they don’t have a pair of freshwater pearl earrings, this is the perfect time to gift them with the real deal.  She’ll think of you every time she wears them.

• Watch. Given the majority of (or every?) graduates have a phone, watches aren’t the necessity they used to be, but they’ve made a comeback (here’s some thoughts about why they’re still useful). Also get it engraved.

• A hand-me-down. Pass along a piece of jewelry significant to you, and share the story of the piece, which is just as crucial as the jewelry itself.  My mother-in-law just gave my daughter the sterling cross given to her by her high school boyfriend for graduation; which happens to also be my daughter’s grandfather! Charm bracelets, special rings… most any meaningful piece will be loved if it comes with a story.

• Hand-stamped pieces. I’ve frequently given Lisa Leonard necklaces, bracelets, and key rings; she always has great new designs.

2. Reusable bottles

Everyone carries water bottles. You can go as simple as a Nalgene bottle, to a S’well or Kleen Kanteen as a mid-range, to a Yeti bottle with double insulation.

3. Memory journals

My daughter has repeatedly told me this

One Line a Day: A Five-Year Memory Book

is probably her favorite gift from me ever.  She’s not a writer, so the one line a day format is perfect!  She’s completed her first book and is well into the first year of a second.

4. Organizers and household supplies

Think bathroom, laundry or school supplies: give a tote, basket or hamper and related consumable items to fill it. Several recent grads have raved about a

hanging jewelry organizer

as well.

5. Terry wrap

More than just a towel or robe, a terry wrap is great especially for dorm life with shared showers.

6. Cool poster in a frame for his or her dorm

Think sports, hobbies, campus landmarks from their new college, or favorite movies. Society6 has a great variety of unique art, All Posters has tons of classic movies, and these are a fun alternative to plastic poster frames.

7. Binoculars


pair of binoculars

is great for upcoming sporting events and concerts. It’s a gift they’ll never think of, but will glad to have them when an event rolls around.

8. Travel / dopp kit

My husband actually has the one he got as a gift forever ago, and my teen boys recently asked for one. Get a classic leather kit monogrammed, or go for canvas.

9. Good earbuds

Because earbuds have a shelf life — and your home is like ours, they easily disappear — a new set of better earbuds paired with an iTunes gift card will make most anybody happy.

10. Towels

A bath sheet is especially useful, and Turkish towels are really trendy right now (and can double as a blanket).

11. Jumper cables

Seems weird as a gift, but jumper cables are genuinely useful. Include instructions on how to use them; an added bonus is to show them. They won’t fully appreciate this until there’s a need, and then they’ll praise your name.

12. ID Case or wallet

Students often have a school card loaded with campus dollars, and at minimum, students are required to have an ID that allows them entry to campus events and activities. ID cases and wallets are great, but there’s also phone case-wallet combos that serve dual-duty.

13. A tool kit

Get them a basic tool kit that includes a hammer, screwdriver, pliers, a measuring tape, and more (comes in pink, too!).

14. Event tickets

Know of a major concert coming to the town they’re moving to post-high school? Is there an event you know they’d love to attend but would never bother splurging on? Buy their tickets for them.

15. “Off to college” survival kit

This could include:

  • Charging station — include a master dock and a few extra charging cords.
  • Snack attack supplies — a basket filled with their favorite candies, snacks, and gift cards to their favorite restaurants.
  • Cafeteria survival supplies — a hot plate for cooking Ramen noodles (of course), a simple pot, their favorite cereal and snacks, and a hand-compiled recipe book of simple things they can make with limited kitchen resources.

Want even more ideas? Once I started, I couldn’t stop, so if you haven’t quite found what you’re looking for, head to my blog to track my ever-growing list.

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