Top 11 Practical College Graduation Gift Ideas ~ Give a Grad Something They Can Really Use NOW

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College Grad Gift IdeasOnce the euphoria of being done with class has subsided, new grads must face what adults have been warning them about for twenty-plus years: the real world.

Poised on the cusp of opportunity, young professionals may be considered "the lucky ones" by the older crowd, but grappling with unemployment and severe debt is no walk in the park. Ease the transition from carefree college life to responsible adulthood with these 11 practical gifts for college grads.

1. Cash

Life after graduation is exciting but it's also laden with ugly financial responsibilities like credit card and student loan debt. In fact, total borrowing for student loans in a single year eclipsed $100 billion for the first time ever in 2010. Despite the perceived lack of effort associated with gifting cash, new grads are likely your most enthusiastic recipients.

2. Gift Cards

Though cash is very useful, who's to say the new grad will spend it wisely when temptations abound? Reduce distractions by creating a gift registry at and have family and friends purchase cards to restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations and department stores to help your graduate with everyday expenses.

3. Resume Service

Most colleges have career centers with advisors available to assist students with their career search and resume development, but that "free" service is gone upon graduation. If your new grad is still struggling with effectively conveying his accomplishments on paper, consider gifting him with a professional resume service.

4. Financial Planning Session

One of the best gifts you can offer a recent grad is the opportunity to begin her new life on the right financial foot. By purchasing one or more professional financial planning sessions, you're offering the opportunity to learn the most effective approach for establishing a budget, paying off debt and saving for retirement.

5. Personal Finance Books

If a professional financial planner is out of the question budget-wise, opt for the DIY approach to personal finance: buy a book. You may think that's a bad gift for someone who's just retired their textbooks forever, but personal finance advice is invaluable to a generation laden with debt. Plus, these recommended titles are offered by a dude who sports a mohawk and refers to budgets as "sexy." Ultimately, you can't find a cooler money mentor.

6. Foreign Language Lessons

The job market may be looking up for 2012 grads, but ultimately it never hurts to add to your skill set. Knowing a second language is not only impressive, it wards off dementia and opens up job opportunities throughout the globe. Rosetta Stone is an affordable alternative to formal instruction and offers the added advantage of mobility.

7. Magazine or Newspaper Subscriptions

In addition to enhancing skills sets, being in the know about the latest happenings helps job seekers stay informed and relevant. A subscription -- either digital or hard copy -- to The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal ensures a well-rounded education on current events. Alternatively, offering a trade magazine within the graduate's area of study or interest is another good option.

8. Roth IRA

Most twenty-somethings are caught up with immediate concerns -- where to work, where to live, and how to afford it all -- so opening a Roth IRA helps jump-start saving for the future. Account holders can make tax-free withdrawals once they hit retirement age, and better yet, they can withdraw contributions tax and penalty-free. It's important to know the basics of Roth IRAs, however, in order to effectively manage the account.

9. Job Interview Clothing

After living on graphic tees and torn jeans, it's likely the new grad in your life could use some "grown-up clothes" for job interviews. If the preferred style of the recipient and the required wardrobe of the industry are unknown to you, offer a gift card. Otherwise, schedule a suit fitting or organize a shopping spree and help the budding professional select the proper attire.

10. Smartphone

As the nomenclature suggests, a smartphone is a savvy way for new grads to stay on top of communications from potential employers, navigate their way through unfamiliar streets and keep in touch with Mom and Dad. Additionally, the abundance of apps for everything from cheap dinner recipes to budget-management tools makes young lives a little easier.

11. Moving Truck

Anyone who's moved down the street or across the country knows the costs involved are anything but cheap. If the area in which the happy graduate went to school is not where she intends to stay, consider helping her with moving costs by contributing to a truck rental (if needed). Otherwise, offer your labor in exchange for lunch and help her lug boxes for an afternoon.

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Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. 

I'm a former 7th grade Science teacher turned stay-at-home mom that lives in Houston, Texas. I am married to my college sweetheart and have a beautiful daughter named Riley, who definitely keeps me on my toes! I am also involved in starting a small business which would both manufacture and sell an invention that I've patented, called Toothpaste 2 Go. I love interacting with my readers and hope to learn as much about you as you learn about me!

Melissa @ Mommy Living the Life of Riley!
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