This article may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more information.

Graduating from high school is a major milestone in any young person’s life. It marks the end of their childhood and the beginning of adulthood, with all its responsibilities and opportunities. 

As such, it deserves to be celebrated with friends and family! But how much should you give for a high school graduation?

This article will provide an overview of what is considered an appropriate amount to give as a graduation gift, as well as some creative ideas when it comes to actually delivering the money.

a graduate holding a cash gift as a high school graduation gift

How much to give for high school graduation

When it comes to giving money for graduation, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The amount of money you give should depend on your relationship with the graduate, as well as your own financial situation. Generally speaking, a safe bet would be around $50 or $200 dollars if the graduate is someone close to you.

Having a specific budget for gift-giving can help you to decide how much to give. For example, if you allocate $2000 every year to gifts and there are six people graduating from high school, you could give each graduate $333.

The recipient’s financial needs also play a role in determining how much to give. A struggling family may appreciate any amount of money, while a well-off household might not need anything more than $50 or $100.

When in doubt, consult with the graduate’s parents or guardians and ask them what they think would be appropriate for their child.

Is $500 a good high school graduation gift?

Giving $500 is an exceptionally generous gift and will definitely be appreciated by the graduate. $500 is a significant sum of money that can help cover some expenses such as tuition fees or textbooks. It also creates a helpful fund for the new graduate for summer recreation before they head away to college or enter the workforce.

You don’t have to give the $500 to the graduate all at once; you could divide it into smaller amounts and spread the gifts out over time. 

a graduate holding a dollar bill as a high school graduation gift

For example, you might give $200 on graduation day, $150 after they pass their college entrance exam, and the final $150 when they decide where to go to college.

You could also gift this amount of money in another form. For example, if the $500 was placed in a bond, it would grow over time and make a larger amount available when the graduate needs it most.

How to give cash as a high school graduation gift 

Giving cash can be a creative and even sentimental way to show your appreciation on graduation day. Here are some ways you can give cash as a high school graduation gift:

1. Gift card

Give the graduate a prepaid debit or credit card with the money already loaded onto it. 

This gives them instant access to their funds and allows them to make purchases online or at brick-and-mortar stores. Gift cards often have fun and colorful designs, too.

Related: Gift Card Exchange Kiosks: How to Get Quick Cash (Today!)

2. Hundred dollar bills

We don’t often see hundred-dollar bills, especially when we are teenagers. So it could be fun to give the graduate a hundred-dollar bill as a graduation gift. 

It’s also very symbolic, representing freedom and independence.

3. A stack of cash

On the other hand, it’s always fun to be able to hold a stack of cash! Gift the money in singles or five-dollar bills to help fluff up the stack and make it look more impressive. Wrap the stack of money with a rubber band or a ribbon for a bit of celebratory class.

4. Money jar

A fun way to give cash is to put it in a decorated jar or box with a note attached. This can be personalized for the recipient and makes for an attractive display piece that will remind them of their special day.

It’s also a good idea if you’re trying to encourage the graduate to save money since they can add more bills to the jar each time they receive some money as a gift.

money jar as high school graduation gift

5. Coded message

If you’re feeling creative, you can even make up your own coded message that the recipient needs to solve in order to unlock the cash. 

This could be presented as a treasure hunt or just a riddle, depending on what kind of challenge you want to give the graduate.

6. Money-holding card

These days, there are plenty of cards, tins, and holders that are specifically meant to hold money. These can be great graduation gifts since they are both practical and decorative.

7. Send the money through an app

One of the fastest and easiest ways to give cash is to send it through one of the best money apps. Popular apps such as Venmo, Zelle, or Cash App make it easy to transfer money in seconds. 

The recipient just needs to enter their bank account information and they can access the funds instantly.

8. Open a bank account

One exciting and practical way to give money as a graduation gift is to open up a bank account for the graduate. 

This will give them further financial freedom and allow for more long-term savings.

Related: Is a Savings Account an Asset (and What Type)?

Is it OK to write a check for a graduation gift?

Yes, it is perfectly okay to write a check for a graduation gift. However, as checks are increasingly becoming less popular, you may want to consider other options such as gift cards or prepaid debit cards, which are more common and accessible. 

If you do write a check, make sure it’s made out to the graduate and not to their parents or guardians.

Cashing a check without having a bank account is possible, but it may involve additional fees. It can be done by using various services such as check-cashing locations, prepaid debit cards, and money orders.

So if the new graduate doesn’t have an account, you may want to help them open an account to avoid the hassle and set them up for long-term success.

You may also be interested in: What is a Certified Check – and How Do I Get One?

What is the customary cash graduation gift for?

The typical graduation gift amount in cash should be anywhere from $10 to $200 depending on your budget and your relationship with the graduate. It’s customary for family members of an older generation to give larger amounts of cash, while friends may stick to the lower end of the spectrum.

This amount is customary because you want to give the graduate enough money to be able to make a purchase or two, but not too much where it becomes overwhelming or uncomfortable for the student’s family. 

Many parents don’t want their children having access to large sums of money until they have demonstrated financial responsibility.

It’s also customary to give a small gift alongside your cash gift. Although this is certainly not necessary, it adds a personal touch to the gift and can make it even more meaningful for the graduate.

Some great side-gifts to include with your cash graduation gift include:

  • Books
  • Journals
  • Balloons
  • A cake or dessert
  • Headphones
  • Jewelry
  • Dorm essentials

These additional gifts can add a special meaning to your cash gift and make the graduate even more excited and grateful for the present.

a woman holding a high school graduation gift

What do parents give for high school graduation?

A typical graduation gift from parents for a high school graduate would be some combination of cash, gift cards, and/or educational items. In particular, many households consider a contribution to college, a gap year, or a study abroad program as a graduation gift. 

Parents are responsible for helping their children prepare for adulthood, so a graduation gift that can help in this regard is always appreciated.

As an alternative to cash (that’s also super generous!), parents may give their children a laptop or some other type of technology to help prepare them for the future.

However, not all families have this budget and instead opt for more practical gifts such as a prepaid debit card, a checkbook, or cash. 

You may also be interested in: Greenlight Review: Your Kids’ Ultimate Debit Card

Gift cards to stores and restaurants can also be useful in helping the graduate purchase items they need for college or simply enjoy their newfound freedom after high school graduation.

Throwing a graduation party is another common way for parents to show their appreciation and excitement for their child’s graduation.

No matter what kind of graduation gift you decide to give, the most important thing is that it conveys your love and support for the graduate. Showing them how proud you are of them and giving them something that will help set them up for success in the future is the ultimate gift for any high school graduate.

How much should I give a cousin for high school graduation?

The amount you give a cousin for high school graduation depends on your relationship with them and your budget. If you are in the same age range as your cousin, you won’t be expected to make a huge contribution. Something small is always appreciated, like $10 gift cards or a small gift of similar value.

If you’re older, have more funds, and have a close relationship with your cousin, you may choose to celebrate their graduation with a slightly more generous gift. 

Think of a piece of jewelry, an experience (concert tickets, dinner out), or more money in the form of cash or a check. If you decide to give cash as a graduation gift, keep it around $50 for your cousin and add on a small side gift if you can.

Homemade gifts or favors are also great ideas when it comes to giving your cousin a graduation gift. Consider making something that is meaningful and thoughtful, such as a scrapbook or photo album.

a graduation cap, diploma, and high school graduation gift

How much should I give my nephew/niece for high school graduation?

The amount you give your nephew or niece for high school graduation can vary based on your budget and relationship with them. On average, a cash amount or gift equivalent of $500 to $100 is typical for high school graduations. 

You could also give a combination of cash and a more meaningful gift, such as jewelry or an experience.

Aunts and uncles don’t often get a lot of time with their nieces and nephews, so planning an outing with them or taking them out for dinner is a great way to show your appreciation and love. 

Similarly, if you have the funds, contributing to college tuition or a study abroad program can be an incredibly meaningful gift.

How much should I give my grandson or granddaughter for high school graduation?

The amount you give your grandson or granddaughter for high school graduation should generally range from between $50 to $200. Since grandparents are often retired and have savings, they may be in a position to offer more generous gifts than other relatives.

However, it is important to remember that grandparents don’t need to give the most expensive or lavish gift; a meaningful gesture can be worth more than any material item. 

Consider giving something like an heirloom or piece of jewelry, contributing to college tuition or study abroad programs, or taking the graduate out for dinner at a nice restaurant.

a teen holding a high school graduation gift

Should I give cash for a middle school graduation?

It is not typically necessary to give cash for a middle school graduation, as it is more appropriate to mark this milestone with a small token. Consider giving a book that the student may find useful and inspiring, or a gift card to their favorite store or restaurant.

If you do choose to offer cash, keep it at $25 max and add on a small gift if you can.

You may also consider throwing a small party or sleepover that isn’t too financially demanding while allowing your new middle-school graduate to have some fun and blow off steam with their friends. 

At this age, social bonding is incredibly important and will help them transition into the next stage of their life.

Ultimately, when deciding what to give for a middle school graduation gift, keep it lighthearted and fun. It’s an exciting milestone that should be celebrated in an age-appropriate way.

Related: 17 Creative Ways to Give Money to a Teenager

What if I don’t have cash for a high school graduation?

If you don’t have the means to give cash at a high school graduation, there are still plenty of thoughtful and meaningful ways to show your gratitude. Helping them to plan a celebration, find a summer job, or prepare for school are all important and useful gestures.

Make a digital, handmade, or printed-out coupon offering your graduate advice, help with college applications or assistance with a summer job search. 

You could also offer up your skills as an expert in certain areas to assist them in brainstorming their post-graduation interests or career paths.

Skills, opportunities, and guidance are some of the most helpful gifts you can give to a high school graduate, and they don’t come with a price tag.


Related posts


author picture

About the author

Anna is the founder of LogicalDollar and a personal finance expert, having been featured in Forbes, HuffPost, Reader’s Digest, Bankrate, MSN Money, Yahoo! Finance, CreditCards.com and many more. With more than 10 years of experience in the financial and legal industries, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in these fields, as well as her own journey in turning $60,000 in debt into a thriving investment portfolio, she’s committed to helping others get on the path to financial freedom. Find out more.