In the past couple of years we’ve done several graduation posts – on how to give money in a clever manner and on actual gifts that are less than $20. We’ve never really addressed the issue of how much money to give for graduation. Naturally, there are multiple factors to consider so we thought we’d break it down for you. Here’s our handy, quick guide on how much money you can plan on spending:

Middle School

Ok, we’re going to be truthful here. Normally, we wouldn’t even consider middle school graduation a thing. However, since it does mark a turning point in a child’s education, we’ve added it to the list. The bottom of the list that is.

  • For parents and/or grandparents anything in the $20 range is wholly appropriate. For an easy, personalized gift your middle schooler will love for life, try one of these photo books from Mixbook.  Fill it with fond memories from their middle school years AND stay under $20.
  • For friends and other family members, a lovely card or handwritten note is definitely sufficient.

High School

High school graduation is absolutely an accomplishment and should be celebrated. After all, most kids will end high school after 13 years of schooling – that’s a lot of desk time!  Great gifts for high school graduates include anything collegiate (to start them off right), motivational, or money. But how much money depends on your relationship to the graduate. Remember an announcement does mean a gift is required. For those living in close-knit neighborhoods or communities, graduation gifts could get out of hand quickly.

  • For parents and/or grandparents there seems to be no hard or fast rule here. Each family can determine what they feel is an appropriate college gift. For some it will be a car, for others it will be a vacation, and for some there may not be too much beyond a nice gathering.
  • For close family members, a gift in the $50 range is typical. Here are some suggestions for around that range.
  • For family friends or acquaintances – $20-$50 is appropriate depending on how close the relationship to the graduate truly is.
  • Neighbors, church families, etc – What about the people you’ve seen grow up but don’t have a close connection to? Well, that’s where a nice card and a more unusual $10 gift could work. Again, there’s no real expectation of a gift in these relationships so any gesture is appreciated.


Certainly college graduation is where more expectations seem to appear. It’s less likely that announcements are sent to neighbors and distant friends, but more likely that larger gifts are given from a smaller pool of people.

  • Parents – despite that you may have actually paid for the schooling itself, there is almost undoubtedly an unspoken rule that you also give a gift. Again, cars and trips are front runners for college graduates. Otherwise, money or new cell phones would run a close second.
  • Grandparents don’t have the same expectation as parents but generally money or its equivalent is often given and usually in the $500 range.
  • Family and friends – Anything around $50-100 is typical here. For some, it can be good to go in collectively with others and get a large gift card such as VISA or Amazon.

The truth is there are no hard or fast rules about gifts and graduation. Each household has to plan according to their budget and what works best for them. Even a mere congratulations is appreciated by any graduate!