While giving graduation gifts like a laptop bag, dorm refrigerator or a sweatshirt with a college logo are certainly thoughtful and useful, many new grads would prefer to receive cash as a congratulatory gift. Graduates are just getting a foothold with independence and a little cash in their bank account can make stepping out on their own a bit easier.

Do I Have to Give a Gift?

Thousands of graduation announcements are sent out every spring and receivers are not required to send a gift to each graduate in their life. Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman suggests using your best judgment when determining to whom you will give graduation gifts. The closer you are to a graduate, such as your niece or grandson, the more you should consider giving a cash gift. You can make the call about giving gifts to your client’s child or your next-door neighbor’s godson.

Delivering the Gift

It is acceptable to deliver a graduation gift by hand, such as at a graduation party, or send it in the mail. A hand-written note of congratulation and encouragement are always appropriate, whether you are using a stock greeting card or designing your own. Taking the time to stop by the bank for some new bills is another nice touch.

How Much Should I Give?

When trying to determine how much to give as a graduation gift, always stay within your budget. Leah Ingram, etiquette expert from GiftsandEtiquette.com, encourages people to simply give what they are comfortable giving. While writing a check for $20 may feel appropriate for some, while others may feel the need to send a larger amount because they are high earners or have a close relationship with the graduate. The gift amount is a personal choice.

How Should Graduates Spend the Money?

While a graduate may be tempted to use his new small fortune in graduation cash to take a cruise or party all summer, it is more thoughtful to use the funds for more purposeful ventures. Paying for school, buying a new computer or even getting a couch for a first apartment are more appropriate uses for graduation money. Setting the money aside in an emergency fund for a rainy day, or paying off credit card debts are wise choices for graduates heading out on their own for the first time.