If handing over cash feels cold, pick a graduation gift that's useful and budget-friendly. While grads might prefer restaurant gift cards, these items will make setting up a dorm room or first apartment easier.
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It's May, which means I'm scanning Amazon PRIME for all the graduation gifts I should've bought weeks ago. Sure, I could give cash (and I know it would be welcome!), but I'd rather give a gift that will be useful and might be something they don't even realize they need. Budget-friendly graduation gifts aren't hard to find if you know where to start.

Mini Fridge

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Whether you're rocking the dorm life and have no kitchen in sight or are sharing an apartment with several roommates and want a place to stash your snacks near your desk, the mini fridge is pretty much an essential to post-grad life. Can you get cheaper fridges? Sure, but this one packs in a lot of features (ice cube tray, easy-to-clean glass shelves, dry erase front) that I can't help but put it on my list. Buying household items can be stuffy; this fridge keeps it fun. 


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You could buy the cheapest starter set the big box store has to offer, but then you'll curse yourself each time you toddle toward the dorm showers as your towel grows thinner and thinner with every wash (you are washing them, right? If not, see the gray color. And gross.). Invest in a set of good towels and your 15 minutes of me time (because the shower is literally the one place you can't study unless you laminate your notes) will feel like a spa getaway. Or at least a home shower and not a gym one. Also, I know you don't want them monogrammed, but if they have your name on them, you're so much less likely to lose them.


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Some things you can afford to skimp on (think buying more cheap sponges once yours get gross instead of trying to clean them over and over), but the Swiffer is pretty much a lock. Floors, especially college floors, get oh-so gross. Save yourself from sticky feet (which in turn make for sticky gross sheets) by keeping this guy handy for spills. PSA: You don't have to wait for something to spill to mop the floor. If the pad turns black, you should be sweeping slightly more often. Aim for once a month, minimum. This is one product that's worth to buy name brand. Cheaper brands have handles that can break or come with difficult-to-use floor pads, so you end up buying them more than once, costing you more in the long run. Spend less than $20 and come away happy.

Swiffer, $19


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Make sure your dorm is ok with a microwave in your room, then buy one that's sturdy and isn't overloaded with features. This top-rated microwave from Kenmore has popcorn, pizza, and dinner plate settings, covering the three main food groups of most college students. At just over $100, it's a nice gift for grads, and one that will make them think of you every time they reheat their coffee... again.

Microwave, $120

Sheets Set

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Know a graduate that texts more emojis than words? Call their bluff and order these fun sheets featuring my favorite emoji, pizza. Transition is tough, people, let's enjoy a little levity, shall we?