How Much Money to Give for a Graduation Gift in 2023

Don't stress about figuring out the perfect gift amount for a new graduate. You've got this.

Updated April 12, 2023
Students celebrating on graduation day

The end of spring and the beginning of summer brings graduations at many levels, and giving a cash gift is a super nice gesture that will help someone make the transition to the next part of their life. However, it can be a little challenging to know how much to give as a graduation gift and which factors to consider when you're writing that check (or sending that Venmo).

Whether the student in your life is finishing middle school, high school, or college, money is a common gift for graduates for a reason. They can use it for anything from books to travel to transportation. How much you should give depends on the age of the student and your relationship to them. Don't stress, though. If you keep a few tips in mind, you'll be all set.

Helpful 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. If you're super close, you may want to give more. If they are the child of a coworker or not someone you know really well, you may not choose to give quite as much.

Like most rules about giving presents, there's no specific amount that etiquette dictates is appropriate for a graduation gift. However, there are some guidelines to help you make the choice.

Type of Graduation Typical Gift Amount
Middle school $10 to $30
High school $30 to $200 or more
College $30 to $500 or more

How Much Should You Give for Middle School Gifts?

A middle school graduation isn't an event that tends to get as much hype as a high school or college graduation. Anyone who has made it through middle school knows that it's a rite of passage, though, and it's totally worth celebrating.

Family Smiling at middle school graduation

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 for parents and grandparents to give a gift to acknowledge the accomplishment.

  • Great! suggests giving movie passes, spa vouchers, gift certificates, or spirit wear to middle school grads, rather than cash.
  • If you are giving cash, about $10-30 is appropriate.

How Much Money Do You Give a High School Graduate?

Graduating from high school is a momentous occasion. To show teens what a big deal this is, people tend to give a lot more for this type of graduation. The National Retail Federation pointed out that about 33% of people plan to give money or another graduation gift.

Girl kissing sister on cheek at graduation
Fast Fact

According to the National Retail Federation, the average amount people spent on a graduation gift in 2022 was about $115.

The amount varies based on age bracket, but parents are typically the highest spenders. The average high school graduation money gift is between $30 and $200 dollars. The amounts can range depending on your relationship, but these are some ranges to keep in mind:

  • Friends and siblings - If you're giving a graduation gift to a sibling or friend, there's no set amount. Still, something in the range of $30 to $75 is usually appropriate, depending on how close you are.
  • Children of acquaintances or coworkers - It's a nice gesture to give a gift to the son or daughter of your neighbor, coworker, or other acquaintance. You can spend whatever feels right, but generally, $30 to $50 is appropriate if you don't have a personal relationship with the graduate.
  • Nieces and nephews - There's no set rule for how much to give your nephew or niece for high school graduation, but it's generally more than you would give a friend. Something in the range of $100 to $200 is a good choice.
  • Children - A typical graduation gift from parents can range from $100 to much more. If parents are helping with college costs or other expenses, they may give less.
  • Grandchildren - An appropriate college graduation gift from grandparents can range from $50 to $200 or more, depending on how close the student is to the grandparents and the financial situation of everyone in the family.

How Much Money Do You Give for a College Graduation Gift?

Graduating from a college is a big deal, which makes many people wonder if a larger monetary gift is required. Giving a cash gift for graduation can help defray some of the costs of getting that degree, allowing a student to pay down some loans or begin their career with a nest egg. Bright Hub states that many people give between $100 and $500 as a college graduation gift, but this can depend a lot on the relationship.

Young woman dressed in a graduation hat surrounded by her friends and family

Typically, for a two- to four-year degree, these are some guidelines to consider:

  • Children - Anywhere from $50 to $500 or more is appropriate for a parent, depending on how much financial help they have offered throughout the college years.
  • Close relatives like grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and siblings - If you're a close family member of the graduate, expect to give around $50 to $200.
  • Close friend - If a good friend is graduating, a $50 to $100 gift is a good choice.
  • Acquaintance or co-worker - Spend less for someone you don't know quite as well. A good range is $30 to $75.
Quick Tip

The amount you give for advanced degrees like Master's or PhD's can go up by about $100 for each degree.

Tips for Giving a Graduation Gift of Money

While these are general guidelines for what to give, the giving is truly based on your own discretion. Don't stress about making sure your gift falls within the average range. Instead, it's about what works for you.

Give What You Can Afford

When you consider giving a gift of money, you'll want to take into account your personal finances and how much you can afford. If you are on a fixed income, you might give less. On the other hand, if you have disposable income, you might choose to give more.

Think About Special Circumstances

The situation of the graduate also needs to come into play. Did the person graduate with honors at any of the different levels? This might be rewarded with a higher than average monetary gift.

Consider the Graduate's Financial Situation

The average cost of college has gone up by 134% in the past 20 years, and many graduates are dealing with increased tuition costs on top of inflation and other factors. When you're considering how much to give for graduation, think about the circumstances of the graduate. Will they have student loans? How much will their family be helping? Do they have other financial pressures? Base your gift on their level of need.

Give the Cash Gift at the Appropriate Time

When you give the monetary gifts, you want to be sure that you do it right. You don't just want to hand a graduate a wad of cash while in their cap and gown. Unless you are getting creative, putting it in a card with a personalized message is best. Additionally, it's discouraged to give anything at the ceremony itself. This is because the graduate might lose it in the shuffle. Wait to give it to them at the open house if they have one or put it in the mail. If that isn't possible, wait until you can talk to them privately and hand them a card.

Creative Ways to Give 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.
  • Blow up balloons with money inside.
  • Make a money tree gift.
  • Give away a calendar with money taped to each month.
  • Give away a piggy bank with twenty-dollar bills stuffed inside.
  • 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.

Cash Gifts Are Perfect for Graduation

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. The graduating student will really appreciate the gesture, no matter how much you give them.

How Much Money to Give for a Graduation Gift in 2023