Think practical when buying a gift for the grad on your list

By Alyson Ward

McClatchy Newspapers

High school and college graduations are coming up. And if you know a grad, you’re probably looking for a gift idea.

We’ve rounded up some possibilities keeping just one requirement in mind: usefulness.

Be kind to the grad in your life, who may soon be headed for a dorm room or tiny apartment. Choose a gift that can be worn, used or used up. After all, fresh graduates have a lifetime to collect knickknacks. For now, they have limited space.


  • Adulthood requires good stationery. But you don’t have to get something stodgy and plain. Find something colorful and high-quality—and if you prefer, order something personalized. Throw in a book of stamps, too.

We like the keepsake stationery box from Papyrus because it keeps everything you need in one place: 20 cards, envelopes and a pen. $29.95 at Papyrus,

  • There’s something about a nice pen that says "grown-up." At school or on a first job, it’s far more impressive-looking than a chewed-on Bic ballpoint. Bright-patterned pens have a youthful style. $12.95 each at Papyrus.
  • Education offers tools for success. But grads need "actual" tools, too. The Leatherman Skeletool, a sleek little stainless-steel multitool, offers a solution to almost every problem. It’s a pair of pliers. A wire cutter. A bit driver. A bottle opener. A knife. And it weighs just 5 ounces. $72. See for retail locations.
  • Encourage school spirit: Load her up on college gear, whether she’s headed for a university or leaving it behind.
  • We all know the road ahead might be bumpy. This isn’t a "fun" gift, but it could be a lifesaver. An emergency roadside kit, stored in a soft zipper case, holds 102 items that might come in handy if there’s an emergency on the road, including jumper cables, blanket, flashlight and batteries, duct tape, gloves, screwdriver and first-aid supplies. Keep it in the trunk of the car. $29.99 at Target.
  • Luggage is a traditional gift for grads. But here’s a better version of the plain old suitcase. The Eagle Creek Tarmac Plus One meets airline regulations as a carry-on. It’s also lightweight. But if you don’t want to lug the whole suitcase everywhere, get this: the front section zips off and becomes a roomy day pack. $275. See for retail locations.
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