Graduation is stressful, even if you're not the one actually graduating. On top of finals, job hunting, and end-of-year shenanigans with friends, you've been spending hours trying to find the perfect graduation gift for your friend who's about to become a real live adult. Understandably, you want to find a gift that's personal and will be cherished by your friend for a long time, but when you're on a tight budget, every cool gift seems to come with a bummer price tag. To help you out, I've scoured the internet to find 15 cheap graduation gifts that are all $20 or less, because being on a budget shouldn't prevent you from treating your friend to a much deserved congratulatory gift. 

1. Not Your Usual Journal

Everyone has at least one journal loving friend. If your friend prefers to stay in rather than going out, an "Experience Passport" is the perfect gift. It's full of activities, projects, and challenges; you'll encounter prompts like "Go on a nature hike of five or more miles. Make notes about or sketches of what you saw," and "Learn to play one complete song on a musical instrument. Were you inspired to learn more? Why or why not?" It combines a good amount of introspection while still calling for adventure, which is much needed when transitioning to full adulthood. 

2. A Self-Bragging Kind of Mug

Mugs are the perfect gifts because they can hold your colorful pens, be used as decoration, or can just be used for drinking coffee. If your friend enjoys any of these things (and funny mugs), buy her an "All Smart and Stuff" mug. Because you know... she's all graduated now.

3. Jewelry

Cheap jewelry, that is. Remember the friendship bracelet you two exchanged in junior high? It's time for a college upgrade! This cute "The Tassel was Worth the Hassle" charm bracelet is the perfect memento to celebrate four fabulous year. If you guys are more into lucky charms, you probably have heard to always pick up a penny when you see one. What about a Graduation Penny necklace? There's nothing cuter than Lincoln wearing a graduation hat. 

4. A Book, Because Adulting Is Hard

It doesn't hurt to read a book that teaches you how to make adulting easier. With funny bits of advice like "stop enjoying things ironically," and "treat mean people like jellyfish," Kelly Williams Brown gives useful tips in Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps. Since adulting is hard enough, buy one for yourself as well. 

5. Cookies

chocolate, cookie, sweet, cake, goody, pastry
Spoon Csu

This is the perfect cheap graduation gift for that hard-to-please friend. Bake some homemade cookies and use this graduation cap cookie cutter to make it a bit more graduation-worthy. If your friend is more traditional, bake a chocolate chip, oatmeal, and peanut butter cookie. If she's an adventurous eater, try something a little different, like a Munn Cookie (a crispy lemon poppyseed cookie). Is your friend vegan? Bake a vegan chocolate crinkle cookie. 

6. Recipes


The is the perfect graduation gift for your friend whose phone is greasy from looking at the recipe while making dinner. She deserves something with more character to organize all the yummy dishes she made while in college. Buy her a cute recipe box and ask friends and family to write down some worthy-to-keep recipes. 

7. Oh, the Places You'll Go!

If all of these cheap graduation gifts aren't good enough, make something super meaningful. Get a copy of Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You'll Go! and ask your friends to leave a message on the pages. It's not every day that you can say “You're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So... get on your way!” 

8. Harry Potter Wand Makeup Brushes

It's probably just that your friend's Hogwarts letter got lost in the mail. To make it up for her, gift her makeup brushes that look like wands for her big day. She can get ready for the ceremony while casting Wing-GAR-dium Levi-O-sa. 

9. Personalized Bottle of Wine

beer, wine, milk
Courtney Lewis

Uncork a bottle of wine with your friend to celebrate no more finals. There are lots of great tasting cheap wines on the market for you to choose from that are under $20. Use wine bottle markers to personalize the bottle before gifting it.

10. Something Relaxing

If your friend is feeling overwhelmed by this graduation thing, treat her to a Lush Brightside bath bomb. This Lush bubble bar is not your normal bath bomb. Instead of filling your bathtub and throwing a bath bomb there, with this one you need to show it some love. While filling the tub with warm water, slowly crumble the bar into pieces. It will dissolve into the water and reveal bright colors and a refreshing citrus aroma. It's like bathing in Fanta but in a cool and soothing way. 

11. Beer Plant

Forget brewing, grow your own beer! This cheap graduation gift is a kit to grow your own hops (beer) plant. Hops are the buds that fuel the brews, and are perennial, easy to grow, and have a wide variety of uses. 

12. Good Coffee

This is your opportunity to erase all the bad coffee your friend had during college and enjoy a Heart Roasters' quality coffee. The Portland-based roastery placed first in "The Top 10 Coffee Roasters in the Nation, as Voted by Super-Serious Coffee Nerds" in 2013. You can also buy good coffee from Ruby, like this from El Salvador Talnamica that has a sweet profile and chocolate depth, or you can finally buy a true Kona Coffee

13. T-Shirt

T-shirts aren't boring, especially if they match your friend's personality. To the friend who keeps quoting The GodfatherThe Graduate tee makes the perfect reference. Do you have that bestie with more than one major? Get this Dangerously Overeducated warning t-shirt. Or you can keep it simple with a classic Class of 2018 t-shirt.  

14. USB Hub

This four port mini portable USB hub with a two foot-long cable will let your friend use her laptop with her mouse, phone, camera, flash drive, and all the devices she needs to work without getting annoyed at not having enough USB ports. The next time you need to charge your phone, don't forget that your friend has a charging station. This gift is perfect for budding professionals. 

15. Joy of Cooking Cookbook 

The book Julia Child called “a fundamental resource for any American cook,” Joy of Cooking is an American classic.  A self-published book by a Midwestern widow called Irma Rombauer released in the first years of the Great Depression, this cookbook helped introduce leftovers, pickle vinegar, and inexpensive food into everyday cooking. Joy of Cooking also shows how to make an eggless cake and how to substitute meat. Timeless! 

#SpoonTip: You can find this cookbook for less than $20 on Amazon if you buy a used copy. 

Grilled cheeses, popcorn, peanut butter, and ice cream made good meals during all these years but it's time to upgrade. Throw a party, eat some nice food, and raise your glasses; graduation can be bittersweet, but it's just the beginning of new adventures. The best part is that you could share all of these moments with your friends. Hats off to this year's college grads!