Cue “Pomp and Circumstance” — or Vitamin C’s “Graduation (Friends Forever)” — because the season of caps, gowns, and diplomas is here. We know it can be difficult to give a gift that encapsulates all the hard work your graduate has put in over the years, so let us do the heavy lifting. As the Strategist’s deals editor, it’s my job to hunt down the best deals in the internet’s sales bins, and I’ve found some thoughtful presents to gift this spring — with price tags that won’t cut into any college funds. Scroll on to see the best deals that won’t go over budget.
They’re probably exhausted after finishing their thesis, so treat them to the gift of an on-call masseuse — in the form of this Strategist-beloved electric back-massager pillow, which is the cheapest we’ve seen it in months.
Here’s a real upgrade from dining-hall coffee: a Nespresso machine.
Their new apartment isn’t likely to have much counter space, but this Ninja air fryer can do the work of several appliances, including roasting, reheating, and dehydrating.
A smoothie is the breakfast of choice for basically every early 20-something I know, and though it’s a bit of a splurge, the Vitamix 5200 will last them a lifetime. This blender makes smoothies with the optimal thick-and-creamy texture (even have a decade of use), according to the First Mess’s Laura Wright.
If they plan to go on a big trip immediately after graduation, this ultralight Paravel carry-on will come in handy — and it will last them for years to come, even though it’s 25 percent off.
And here’s a sturdy duffel bag to accompany them on weekend travel home (and beyond).
Make sure their phone never runs out of juice during long hours in class or the office with this magnetic battery pack from Strategist-favorite Anker. Plus, the built-in foldable kickstand means they can watch videos while charging.
This Bluetooth speaker is one of the best gifts around, no matter the recipient. This one is waterproof, so it can be used in the shower or floated in a pool.
To tune out their commute, get them these half-off noise-canceling earbuds, which are a newer model of the pair that Strategist contributor Maggie Slepian prefers to AirPods. “Because they fit better, the Anker earbuds do a better job of blocking out ambient sounds,” Slepian says. “The tight fit results in cleaner and crisper audio, too.”
But if you’d like to play it safe with the tried-and-true, the original AirPods are at an all-time low price of $99.
With college behind them, recent graduates will have some extra time to plan for the future with this sleek daily planner.
Buying my first “real” handbag once I graduated college definitely felt like a milestone. Save them the splurge by getting them this pebbled leather Coach bag, which comes in black, white, or baby blue and features the brand’s signature turnlock clasp.
In addition to being able to stash six credit cards plus their phone, this wallet has a plastic window inside to flash their newly legal ID card to bouncers.
Multiple college students have told us an essential-oil diffuser is on their wish list. This also happens to be the one Ellen Pompeo can’t live without. “It just makes the room feel fresh and not germy,” she says. “That moisture and nice scent in the air gives it a vibe.”
For toting to graduation parties, get them this pocket-size Polaroid Go that takes “magical” photographs that are about the size of a business card. It’s similar to the popular Fujifilm Instax Mini, but it’s less bulky, and the viewfinder is larger, brighter, and lets in more light.
If their fashion knowledge begins and ends at the campus bookstore, buy them this before they set foot in their internship. Arranged alphabetically, this immense coffee-table book from Phaidon spotlights designers, brands, photographers, retailers, and more — from Giorgio Armani and Paul Smith to Kim Jones and Virgil Abloh — who changed the course of men’s fashion over the last 200 years.
This job-hunter’s manual is a perennial classic grad gift. It contains networking advice and interview etiquette as well as a self-assessment to help readers identify key passions that can guide them in their career search.
Here’s a fun discussion-based card game if they’re in the mood to get self-reflective.
This votive set from Boy Smells contains the brand’s entire Hypernature collection in petite versions of the standard 8.5-ounce candles. We think the metallic tumblers will dress up any grad’s new living space.
These threader earrings will add a touch of sophistication to their outfit, whether their first job is fully remote or in person.
If their job is more hands on and they can’t wear danglies, try these teeny heart-shaped earrings from Kate Spade.
Set up their kitchen with cookware they’ll use forever with this 11-piece set from GreenPan that includes the brand’s Valencia Pro, which is our pick for the best nonstick ceramic skillet.
More heirloom-quality cookware to consider: a Le Creuset Dutch oven. It’s on sale at both Nordstrom and Sur La Table, but Sur La Table has a few more color options to consider.
A watch is a classic graduation gift, and this one looks far more expensive than it is. Plus it’s fully solar-powered so it will never need a new battery.
And here’s one that’s a bit less glam.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.