JOPLIN, Mo. —
Some people strive to find specific, individualized gifts for the graduates in their lives -- gifts that come from the heart and have a personal touch.
Givers who like to find the perfectly tailored gift have challenges ahead of them, however. The truth of the matter is that money really is one of the best gifts.
"Understand that teens need money, and don't be ashamed to give it," wrote Denise Witmer for About.com. "(Graduation) is seen as the start of their adult lives. But because they have been in school, teens don't often have much money."
They'll need that cash for a number of possibilities, including college expenses, moving expenses, study materials or trade-specific tools.
Those who want to get creative, however, can apply some thought to the presentation of the cash, however.
Specific gift cards
A cash present can be customized with a little investigation into the graduate's chosen study program or college.
- Study up on the graduate's profession and find relevant stores or supply sources. For instance, an arts major would get some mileage out of a gift card to Michael's or Hobby Lobby.
- Gift cards to retail stores such as Target or Walmart can also come in handy. Stores with big names tend to have locations near most colleges.
- If you know a graduate is out-of-town bound for college, find out where and invest in gift cards to restaurants unique to that area. That will ensure your gift gets them exploring their new surroundings.
Start saving now
A financial present can also come with a message or a mission of saving. Investment and financial advice-related gifts can go a long way for a teen just starting out in adulthood.
And while savings bonds and boosts to 529 accounts are common options, Lane Clevenger, financial advisor and owner of Clevenger Financial, said a book that talks about the importance of saving money and spending less than earned is a wonderful idea.
His choice: "The Millionaire Next Door," by Thomas Stanley and William Danko. Though it doesn't offer specific, detailed advice, it paints a big picture of what the country's wealthy people do in order to get, and stay, wealthy.
"It's just a wonderful book about what it means to save money," Clevenger said. "It shows what wealth looks like. It would hopefully reeducate teens that 'MTV Cribs' isn't the best definition of wealth."
Other gift ideas
For those who refuse to send cash or gift cards as a gift, here are some ideas to consider:
A basic tool kit: These come in handy for a number of basic tasks that a typical dorm student may encounter. Make sure it has a good screwdriver set with interchangeable bits. And if you can't find a good basic tool kit, a power screwdriver is an invaluable tool.
Electronic upgrades: High-schoolers already have some pretty impressive technology, from smartphones to laptops. Find out what they have, then look for some upgrades -- maybe a hands-free Bluetooth device for their phone or a carrying case for a laptop.
Digital cameras go a long way, as well. But if a graduate already has a DSLR camera (with the capability for changing lenses), a new lens could be a great, luxury gift. Warning: Some of the better lenses cost more than $500.
Shower packs: Some graduates may be moving into dorms featuring somewhat spartan accommodations -- namely, a communal shower facility. Guys would appreciate a small tote or doc kit that has room for shampoo, soap and shaving gear. Givers can go bigger for girls: Throw all kinds of shower supplies in that tote, but be careful to avoid products that require a bath.
Small appliances: A microwave, mini-fridge, slow cooker or electric grill can each go a long way.