What to Do: How Much Money to Give for High School Graduation Gift

Do you have a family member, or do you know someone who will soon be graduating high school? It’s a big step and something worth celebrating.

Likely, the graduate will go on to college or the workforce very soon. This may have you thinking about gifts.

What should you get for the graduate? Or maybe you’re wondering how much money to give for a high school graduation gift. Find answers here!

This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you purchase an item through these links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Please read the full disclosure policy for more info.

hundreds of dollars rolled with a high school graduation cap on top

How Much Cash to Give as a High School Graduation Gift?

Most graduates are going to want cash. It’s a safe bet, and they will definitely be able to use it.

This is especially true if they are currently looking for a job or will be full-time students with little income for a while.

But how do you know what an appropriate amount is? Consider these tips.

1. An amount that fits in your budget.

Before anything, it’s essential to know what you can afford. While it is nice to give a present, you shouldn’t do so at the expense of your own finances.

Decide what amount you can give and stick to your budget and savings goals. Do this before you write a check.

2. Consider how close the relationship is.

Is this person someone you know very well? Is it a relative? Or is this more of an acquaintance or a casual family friend?

Typically, the closer you are to the graduate, the more money is appropriate to give. For acquaintances or casual friends, less money is necessary.

3. Were you invited to the graduation?

If you’re invited to watch this person graduate, it’s polite to bring some sort of present. But if you aren’t, it may not be necessary at all. Refer to #2 and also your budget before giving money.

4. Between $10-$300.

If you need an exact amount, the appropriate number is somewhere between these two. However, that’s a big range of numbers. So you’ll need to consider other factors before deciding.

What is an Appropriate High School Graduation Money Gift?

How much money you give depends on how well you know the graduate, whether you are related, or whether this is just a friend and not a relative.

There are several things to think about, but you can usually use these guidelines to help you decide on an amount. See this quick list for help:

1. For friends and acquaintances – $10-$20.

A gift may not even be expected for casual friends and acquaintances you don’t know very well.

But if you want to do something nice and give some cash, a small amount between $10-$20 is totally appropriate. You should also include a nice card if possible.

2. For children of family friends- $20-$50.

These are people you are a bit closer to who you’ve likely known for years. Children of family friends warrant a bit more graduation money, somewhere between $20-$50.

3. For relatives- $50-$100.

This could be a sibling, or maybe a niece or nephew. Since you are related, more money is appropriate. You can give a relative somewhere between $50-$100. 

4. For children (from parents)- $100-$300.

If your own child is graduating from high school, then the highest amount for a cash gift should come from you, the parent, or possibly grandparents.

This could be anywhere between $100-$300. It will help them as they start a new chapter in their lives, and it’s a way of letting the graduate know you care.

How Much Should You Give to a Cousin for High School Graduation?

A cousin is a bit more distant of a relative. All situations are different, so consider how well you know this family member.

Did you grow up together and see them all the time, or have you only met once or twice? Think about this, giving more money for a cousin you are closer to than one you are not.

Also, consider your budget and only give what you can afford. Typically, an amount of $15-$25 is acceptable for distant relatives.

You might give more or less based on finances and how well you know the graduate. 

How Much Money Should I Give My Nephew for His High School Graduation?

Consider the family relationship and your budget. A niece or nephew is a closer relative, so more money is appropriate.

Usually, between $50 and $100 is a good amount. Remember to always stay within what you can afford, though, and know that there are many ways to celebrate the graduate, like a thoughtful card, even if money is tight.

What is a Generous High School Graduation Gift?

Perhaps you have money set aside for a graduate, and you want to give a generous gift that will really help them as they head off to school or join the workforce. But what is considered an average amount versus a generous amount?

This depends on the location of the graduate. For example, Texas is cheaper than California. Money will go further in Texas.

Give more money for areas with a higher cost of living. You can determine this by where the graduate went to high school, where they are moving to, or their college.

A generous gift also depends on the relationship. The closer you are to the graduate, the more money you can give.

For example, if the graduate is an acquaintance, $50 would be very generous. But if the graduate is your child, then $400 would be considered generous.

Should You Give Cash or Check for High School Graduation Gifts?

Cash is beneficial in a lot of ways for graduations. Some graduates may not yet have their own bank account, though hopefully, they will open one soon!

In this case, give cash instead of a check. But checks are more appropriate for large sums or when sent through the mail. 

Here are a couple of rules to consider: First, don’t ever send cash in the mail. It isn’t safe, and someone could easily steal the money you meant for the graduate.

If you are far away and are mailing money, be sure it is in check form. That way, you cut down on the risks of someone else taking it.

Another thing to think about: Any cash you give should be hand-delivered. Give it to the graduate yourself.

Or, if you are unable to be there, be sure to give it to someone you trust to give to the graduate on your behalf. 

So, to recap, give cash if you are attending the event in person or are unsure about the bank account situation of the graduate. Give a check if you are sending it through the mail or if the amount is relatively large and you are worried about losing the money.

What is the Etiquette for High School Graduation Gifts?

So are there rules for graduation gifts? What is the proper etiquette and manners when giving a present to a high school graduate?

Find out what the most important aspects of etiquette are here.

If you receive an invitation to the graduation ceremony, you should send a gift.

Typically, not everyone gets to go to a graduation. Seating is limited, so being invited is quite an honor.

If you are invited to the ceremony, you should send a gift, regardless of whether or not you can attend the event. It’s a polite gesture and lets the graduate and family know you support them.

It is also appropriate to send a nice card with the money, to tell the graduate you are proud of them.

A graduation announcement does not require a gift, but a gift will likely be accepted.

If you receive a graduation announcement, this is not the same as an invitation. It’s simply a card or letter stating that the person is graduating.

In this case, a gift is not required. You don’t need to feel obligated to send anything, as many people receive graduation announcements.

However, it will definitely be appreciated, and you can send a monetary present if you want. Or a card with a personal note is also a nice gesture, even if you don’t give any money. 

You should never discuss how much you gave as a graduation gift with others.

This is very important, especially if they know the graduate, too! While it can be tempting to compare notes about how much you gave and others gave, don’t do it.

It’s considered poor manners, and it could make someone feel bad if they didn’t give as much as you, especially if they are closer to the graduate. Instead, quietly give whatever gift you decide on, and let that be the end of it.

Suppose the amount you gave was very generous, and the graduate mentions it to someone else, who brings it up to you. For this situation, direct attention back to the graduate as quickly as possible.

For example, someone says, “Wow! I can’t believe you gave (amount) for so and so’s graduation!” You could say in response, “Well, can you believe how hard he worked this last year? We are so proud of him.”

Then quickly change the subject. That way, it doesn’t become awkward.

Other Factors to Consider

You might need to think about a few other things before giving a graduation gift. While gifts are nice, you should never consider giving a present to someone if you have trouble paying your bills or do not have any extra cash to give.

How many people are graduating that year and your budget

This is something that many people may not consider and then wish they had later. May and June are typical graduation months for high school and college.

You might start giving away cash presents to the first graduate without realizing you know three others graduating that month, too. 

So before you give any money away, make a list of everyone graduating this year. Then think about how well you know each person and how many of them there are.

If there are only two graduates you know well, you might decide to give money to them, and just send a nice card to acquaintances, for example. Know your budget and know what amount you want to spend on each person before writing checks.

Are you invited to a graduation party?

This may determine whether or not you give a present. Typically, if you attend a graduation party, you should bring some type of present.

It’s polite, but it doesn’t have to be a lot. It could be a card and $10 or a book. You could even bring a present from something you had at home already if it’s in good condition, like a coffee mug or a candle. 

You should also check the invite and see if anything is mentioned about presents. When in doubt, you may also ask the host what they expect. But remember that even if they say no gift is necessary, others may bring something. 

When giving high school graduation gifts, there are some factors to consider, but it also depends on your personal circumstances.  

There’s a lot to consider when you give a high school graduation present. And many things determine how much money to give, or if you should give any cash at all.

But above all, remember to think about your own budget. Let that be your guide instead of what other people may be giving. 

Each person needs to decide how much to give based on personal circumstances, etiquette, and how well they know the graduate. The thing that really matters is to support the graduate in this new stage of life, whether with money, a nice card, or your presence as they graduate.

Related Articles:

Want somewhere to track your money across all accounts?  Grab this free financial dashboard to track your savings, retirement, net worth, and more!

Steffa Mantilla round headshot
Steffa Mantilla

Certified Financial Education Instructor

Steffa is a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI) and the founder behind Money Tamer. Her 12-year background in operant conditioning and positive behavioral change training is used to help people find effective motivators to change their harmful money behaviors. Steffa explains the reasons “why” behind people’s financial behaviors and how to successfully change them. After paying off over $80,000 in debt through budgeting, she now teaches families how to get their own finances in order. You can learn more about her here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.