Ask the Readers: What's the Best Gift to Give a College Graduate?

By Ashley Jacobs on 15 May 2012 (Updated 22 May 2012) 104 comments
Photo: Char

Editor's Note: Congratulations to David, Ellen B, and Renee for winning this week's contest!

Graduation season is upon us yet again. Over the course of the next month, many college students will get their degrees and start looking for jobs. The tradition of giving gifts to graduates means you will probably end up giving at least one or two gifts this graduation season. Most people tend to give practical gifts to new graduates, however there are others who prefer to give gifts that are a bit more fun.

What's the best gift to give a college graduate? Money? Assistance looking for a job? Financial planning advice? Some new furniture for their new apartment? Or is it better go with something fun as opposed to practical?

Tell us what you think the best gift to give a college graduate is and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

Win 1 of 3 $20 Amazon Gift Cards

We're doing three giveaways — one for random comments, one for random Facebook "Likes", and another one for random tweets.

Mandatory Entry: 

  • Post your answer in the comments below 

For extra entries (1 per action):

  • Go to our Facebook page, "Like" us, and leave a comment on this article telling us you did, or
  • Tweet your answer. You have to be a follower of our @wisebread account. Include both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" in your tweet so we'll see it and count it. Leave a link to your tweet (click the timestamp for the individual URL) in a separate comment.

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, May 21st at 11:59 pm Pacific. Winners will be announced after May 21st on the original post. Winners will also be contacted via email.
  • You can enter all three drawings — once by leaving a comment, once by liking our Facebook update, and once by tweeting.
  • This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered, or associated with Facebook.
  • You must be 18 and US resident to enter. Void where prohibited.

Good Luck!

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Guest's picture
Dale Chun

Common sense. No really. The world is a different place from school.

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Linda in Mass

I think the best gift is Dr Seuss's Oh, the Places You'll Go. It has great life lessons.

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Therese

I think money is always a welcome gift!

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Selene M.

Money is always #1.

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Selene M.

I like you on Facebook as Selene Montgomery

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Sarah

I have a daughter graduating this weekend and I'm low on funds. I'm hoping to get lots of inspiration on this thread!

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Christie

Cash. That's the best gift for any graduate really. Those frames and books themed for a grad or a specific year are, quite frankly, cheesy. You can always spend cash on immediate needs, save it for future expenses, or, in the case of a college grad, pay off some of those pesky student loans!

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rm

Even though it's impersonal, I think money is the way to go. The dorm rooms are so small, so they don't need a bunch of stuff cluttering the room. College students always need money for food and books.

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Catherine Robinson

I have "liked" Wise Bread on Facebook.

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Catherine Robinson

I think the best gift to give a college graduate is money.

Guest's picture

Honestly? I think buying the college graduate a big necessary purchase is a great graduation gift. My parents bought me a set of new tires for my car, because I was due for them!

Guest's picture

I like WB on FB!

Guest's picture

I tweeted! https://twitter.com/#!/junethomemaker/status/202389031114375168

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Paul

A book (often related to his or her major or career path) that will carry him or her onward, such as "Business as a Calling" or "Awaken the Giant Within" or something of that nature.

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Staycee

I like to give scratch off lottery tickets with a note about how no matter how much you plan, life is about chances. Something different and fun for the graduate amongst the sea of towels and cards with money!

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Guest

well I just graduated, and what I wanted? A beach vacation. so my family pooled enough together to get me a plane ticket.

we worked hard, now we want some time to decompress and play.

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Stacy L.

My favorite gift was a painting of a building on my college campus -- it's something I would never buy for myself. But the thing I needed most was personal finance advice... That would've saved me thousands that I wasted in those first few years in "the real world"!

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Brandon

One of the best gifts from a friend to another friend is to give him or her something he or she can use for a hobby. Since they graduated, they will have more time to do what they enjoy. My friend recently started getting into photography and since most photography equipment can be hundreds of dollars, I bought him a 5 hour photography lesson with a company in Venice Beach. This itself can be expensive however Groupon and Living Social has many similar deals which are affordable. If your friend is interested in music, get him or her a book that can help them learn. If your friend really loves a certain sport give them a new glove, volleyball, or hat that they can use when playing that sport. Try to make your gift personal and of course giving them a card will show how proud you are of him or her. Hope this helps!

Guest's picture
Guest

A book on personal finance.

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Anthony Nguyen

The best gift, I think, is cash money!!!

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Allyn

the ability to graduate debt-free!

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NJJ

When I graduated I wish I had money to help with the bills and gas gift cards to help with the job search especially since gas prices tend to skyrocket in the summer months in my area

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Maia

Best gift would be to contribute to a fund to pay off their student loans! As someone who is still paying mine off more than 15 years later, I know...

If your graduate has a Smarty Pig account, that's a great way to help them out. Or set one up for them -- https://www.smartypig.com/

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Maia

And I have "liked" Wise Bread on FB. Thanks for all your great articles!

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Kristen

An opening deposit for a Roth IRA (assuming they'll have earned income that year)!

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Maia

And here's my tweet : )

https://twitter.com/#!/LLProject/status/202433775626489857

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Thrifty Writer

Money, gift cards (amazon cards are probably great for everything, but especially textbooks) or, as someone on another site suggested, a case of ramen (or a case of anything they like to eat that's easy to make/heat up - cans or boxes of soup. for instance). One of the best gifts I was given was a toaster oven. You might want to ask what the dorm regulations are concerning appliances before buying one, but if the student is a coffee drinker, get them a programmable coffee maker and travel mug. Will save them tons of money throughout college!

Guest's picture

Depends on how much money one wants to spend. An all expense paid flight and all-inclusive hotel stay for a week anywhere in the USA would be awesome or anywhere in the world if your bank account is up to it. On my economic level I'd opt for a significant piece of jewelry that will last a lifetime or a Bible, life's guide book.

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Amanda

A gas card - for either a summer road trip or to get cracking on job interviews, no matter how far away.

Guest's picture

I will go from experience... my dad gave me money of course, but he also got me a collectable silver dollar minted in the year I graduated, and he also got my brother the same thing for his graduation. Despite being odd, I really appreciate that gift. Also, my grandmother got me a solid wood musical jewelry box with a photo of me on the top and a message from her. I think those personal gifts were much more sweet than the money.

I think the best gifts are ones that are sentimental, and if you are not close to the person, then I think a book having to deal with one's major or success in the real world are nice. Although most people agree you can't learn how to succeed from a book, I think it can inspire and provide great ideas.

Guest's picture

Money to seed an IRA.

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Sara

When my little sister graduated several years ago, I gave her a "manual" I wrote specifically for her that covered the basic stuff that you don't know you need to know: Changing fuses, turning the main water line off, just simple life stuff that you would feel stupid asking. I also promised her she could ask me any dumb questions and I wouldn't laugh (this clause, however, expired one year after graduation), as well as put her on my AAA membership, since her car was (and is) a ticking time bomb.

Something I would do for graduates now is offer to network with and for them. That's probably one of the most useful and valuable gifts in this job market.

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Guest

I will be giving my daughter the same thing- a simple how-to-around-the-house book, a bonder full of family recipes, and Suze Ormans' "Young, Fabulous, and Broke." And I will give her a blank budget form (with suggested percentages for some big items) to help her start out on the right foot. If I can afford it, I will buy her an interview suit.

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TC

I think financial planning advice, such as a personal finance book geared toward their interest, gender and age, that they might actually read with a little money to start their emergency fund. My parents did this for my cousin. It took her a while to read the book, but she had the resource readily available when she was ready.

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Christina

The best gift for a new college grad is a payment towards their student loans! The payment will go entirely towards principal if you make it before 6 months after graduation.

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Ellen B

money is probably the best gift

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Ellen B

I like on facebook

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Ellen B

https://twitter.com/#!/elliebunny24/status/202451024055779330

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David

Something of good quality for their first kitchen because cooking at home can really save money and lead to good health: a Victorinox knife, a good sauce pan, Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything."

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Joy

The best gift is a a classic, conservative suit. Wear it to interviews, meetings, funerals, weddings, and other functions where appropriate.

Guest's picture

Best gift for a graduate is a MacBook! It would be the best investment!

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Liked you on FB!

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https://twitter.com/#!/missluckybreaks/status/202461036635361281

Guest's picture

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

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Alicia

Can the advice, because there are things that people just need to learn from experience - like how to be a successful adult. Instead, give cash!

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Melissa Anna

I recently gave my younger sister cash, with the instruction to "spend it all in one place." Whether she chose to put it in her IRA, buy a piece of furniture, put it toward a new car, or splurge on a nice pair of shoes, I wanted her to have something significant to show for it.

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Margaret

When graduating from high school I recommend the book "Where's Mom Now That I Need Her?" It has a lot of sensible and funny advice for those living away from home the first time.

For college graduates I recommend gift cards to either Walmart,Target or the like. These cards can be used to buy everything from the right button down shirt for an interview to the trash cans you need in your new apartment.

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Raina

I've been working full-time while going to school, so my graduation is different from "most kids", I guess, in that I don't need help looking for a job, don't need money, don't need advice, etc. My parents told my siblings and I that our graduation gift is an international vacation with them. And honestly, that's the best gift I could imagine anyway. I love traveling, and after all that studying, it's especially nice to be able to kick back and relax on vacation.

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Raina

I like WiseBread on Facebook

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Kim

Money, definitely! Or a class ring maybe? :)

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Nick Neveu

Honestly, the best gift for a college graduate is not something they can get when they graduate. It is actually something that family can help them earn during their college years. CREDIT! I am not talking about just help getting a little credit card, but if a parent or family member is, buying or planning to buy a vehicle put it in their name...not yours. We all know that credit is critical to starting life after college, how else is someone to buy something when you have no cash. Trust me... I am an expert.

Nick N.
nneveu@dmautoleasing.com

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Ryan

Definitely money. That's what I asked for when I graduated; all the money I received I put towards my student loans.

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Ryan

Here's my tweet:

https://twitter.com/#!/hardyryanj/status/202512549508427776

Donna Freedman's picture

I like you on Facebook.

Donna Freedman's picture

I like personal finance books as gifts to new grads. If the grad's situation is semi-dire (e.g., rooming with five other dudes and waiting tables) make it something like "10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget." No, that's not sucking up -- the book shows ways to live inventively and joyously on little to no cash.
If the grad is semi-situated, then make it a book about growing your cash and taking charge of your life.

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Chloe

Cash!!! Graduates probably need to update their wardrobe for work, obtain reliable transportation, get housing, etc. Then there are those loans to repay.

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Lynda

A Roth IRA.

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DeeDee

Cash is the best, I don't know too many that will graduate without student loans.

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Guest

The best gift to give a college graduate is some financial help to alleviate his or her tuition debt. The second best gift would, in today's market, be a good job with good pay and benefits, plus a retirement plan.

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cwaltz

Money. The average college grad has to retire over $20,000 worth of debt. While money isn't original or particularly personal it is practical and pretty much lets the recipient decide where to apply it(after all that edumacating decision making should be a breeze right?)

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mere

cash cash cash! or gift cards to useful places like the grocery store, gas, target, or amazon.

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mere

like you guys on FB! :)

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Sara N

A book on personal finance along with some cash!

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yourpfpro

A job! FB/tweeted!

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Tracey

Advice on what they can expect. But not being pushy. Maybe a book on things like 401ks, health insurance, renter's insurance, savings, student loans, etc.

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Liz

I'm 28 and graduated college at 22. The best graduation gift I received was probably the one I was the least excited about at the time- 2 books from my dad's business partner. Thomas Merton's Book of Hours and Kiplinger's Money Smart Women. They are incredibly different, one focusing on spirituality and one's relationship with God, the other a great primer for how to become a financially secure, independent and intelligent woman. While my 22 year old self found them a little boring (compared to cash and gift cards I wanted to blow right away), I have found myself referenced both books over and over as I've grown and worked to establish new goals (personal, financial and spiritual).

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David W

I think money is always welcome, or get them something they can use in the workforce (perhaps a nice watch or suit, for men at least).

Guest's picture

A book: The Traveler's Gift by Andy Andrews. Great lessons on what it takes to have true success in life.

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Ashley

Would love to win this contest!

Seeing as I'm a college grad myself (I just graduated with my AA, and I'm moving away from home for the first time this summer to get my BA) the best gift someone could give me right now would be either money or furniture for my new apartment. Furniture would be great because I would never buy it for myself, since I'm going to be on an extremely restrictive budget for the next few years.

Money would also be wonderful for obvious reasons. I'm 18 and have conquered two years of college already, and I would like to think that I have a realistic idea of what my budget is going to look like for the next two to four years: dollar store groceries, thrift store clothing, and bills, bills, bills.

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kristina

Money

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Jennifer

I agree that cash is always good and that a personal finance book would serve the grad for the rest of their life, but what about doing something to allow them to celebrate their achievement. Help them make their graduation memorable and do something unexpected!

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Christie

I liked and posted on Facebook too! :)

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Ricky

Give their resume to anyone you know who might be interested. I got my first "real" job out of college largely because my sister knew someone who was hiring.

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Tracy M.

Unless you know the person very well and can choose a meaningful gift, money is always the best bet.

Guest's picture

A GIFT EVERYONE CAN GIVE RICH OR POOR!
The Gift of Love during your graduates Transition.

You can give your college graduate substantive assistance and a real warm fuzzy feeling that you care by helping them transition into the real world. Here is a step by step way to do it.

Start off by giving them a "High Five!" or a nice pat on the back, shake their hand, and give them a hug. Connect with some physical energy and then follow it up with some positive talk. All you need to do is say something encouraging. We all could use a little more encouragement in this world. Try shaping your heartfelt praise around some of these examples: "Good job I know it took discipline, commitment, and work to accomplish this goal of graduating. Well done." or something as simple as "I'm really proud of you."

After that you can invest some time in them. Realize that your college graduate might be ready for a much needed break or he/she might be rearing to jump right in to their next goal. What ever their goal is spend some time with them and engage yourself with their new current objective. This can be done by just applying some thoughtfulness to where they are headed next. If you still don't know ask what they ask every SUPER BOWL CHAMPION except modify it for graduation, "So now that you've graduated college where do you want to go next?" Hopefully it is not, "I'm going to Disney World."

Now that you have given some of your precious time it's time for a hunt for a way to give a token that says I've been thinking of you and care. Here is what you need to know if you look for the perfect gift you'll find the perfect gift. This object should be something tangible that they can hold, see, or feel. But you may be wondering how can I find it and what should it be? Well remember you need to look for something that speaks to the recipient in one or all of the following ways: This token should be something to remember you by and something that gives them hope for the future. It should be something that says I love you, I'm thinking about you, and your going to make it. Try not to look for it in places where you have to spend money, but when it comes to the search everywhere is a possibility for this special gift. Think of it as a treasure hunt or an exploration.

Finally after you have done all that realize that the goal of everyone is to spend there days doing something they love. So ask your graduate what their career goal is and then help them. Here are some simple ways you can help: Point them in the right direction. Help them with their resume creation or distribution. Introduce them to people or your network. Help them get an interview or hire them.

Now some of you might find this guide a little overwhelming so just pick one that you connect with the most and give what you can. Remember it's the thought that counts. Happy GIVING!

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Brandon from Houston

A good set of tools! My parents gave me a thorough set of tools – beyond a basic screwdriver/hammer set up – and it has been profoundly useful. I strongly suggest a small organizer kit including nails, wall hangers, drywall screws, and other small accessories. The gift recipient will become the go-to person when other students need something fixed or to hang their dorm room posters.

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Rebecca B. A. R.

The book Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez and Monique Tilford, and $20 to put towards their student loans!

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Guest

Luggage! My mom bought me a large and medium sized set of rolling suitcases that I still have and use 10 years later. It is the kind of thing you don't realize is expensive when you are 22 but will appreciate for a lifetime!

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Guest

I think the best gift for a college graduate is a course by a financial planner about budgeting. www.iwillteachyoutosave.com

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mamawolfe

A suitcase. Now the world is at your feet, and you need to go out and use your skills to help make it a better place!

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TG Kranz

~For ladies I think a Pearl necklace would be nice. I rec'd a set when I graduated and still wear them to ceremonies, weddings, funerals ect. They are timeless.
~If that is too expensive, a monogrammed Blanket/throw for the dorm room and beyond.
~The book The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach would be good. I wish I had read that book when I was starting out!

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Nicholas

Coming straight from College, money (or even gift cards for regularly used stores) is always needed.

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Nicholas

I have WB liked on FB.

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Francesca

As someone who was very recently a college graduate, I think the best gift to give is a car - even a little, 17-year-old, four-cylinder, little puttering box of a car. That car lasted me for three years, getting me to and from my first job and then through another year of school, too. It finally died, but now I'm finally at a stage where I can consider buying another used car in slightly better condition. Thanks for the help, Mom & Dad. :)

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Lynda

finance books. or cash money!

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Lynda

tweeted https://twitter.com/#!/oshkoshbgosh123/status/203301751821045760

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Lynda

i like wisebread on fb

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Alissa A

I think money is always helpful. captainliss40(at)gmail(dot)com

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Amanda

A gas card - for a summer road trip or else to get started on job interviews.

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Patrick

Facing a potential for lingering student loan debt, an underwhelming job market and mounting bills as they start their lives outside of mom and dad's house, cash would likely be most appreciated.

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Guest

Cash! Or a gift card for groceries or gas -- we want to spend out money on wants, but someone has to look out for our needs!

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Gabriella G.

Books that have inspired/ motivated you in your life.

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KelR1

Cash

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KelR1

Like you on FB.

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KelR1

Tweeted reply:

https://twitter.com/#!/KelRo1/status/203694945209548801

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Paul

"The Tortoise and the Hare" (Reminder that Success often comes slowly)

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Theresa

Definitely money!

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Carmen

Money is always the easiest, but unless you know they'll use it wisely, it may not be the best choice. However, for those going off to college, more money is always needed.

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Carmen

I like your page on Facebook