The best graduation gifts under $30 for 2020

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s high school and college graduations won’t look like any other in history. My heart goes out to every graduate who won’t get the traditional (and much deserved) celebration. Thankfully, just because there’s no commencement ceremony doesn’t mean there can’t be gifts.

But of course, budgets are tight right now. With that in mind, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite gifts for grads, all priced at $30 or less. Take a look, then let me know if you have any other ideas to add. (Share them in the comments!)

Read more: CNET’s complete guide to graduation gifts for 2020

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Small living spaces demand small appliances. The top-rated Dash Mini Maker (it made CNET’s list of the best waffle makers) is perfect, with a compact design and impossible-to-beat price: It’s normally $15, but currently on sale for just $10.

For college kids in particular, Cards Against Humanity is a staple, an offensive but hysterical group game similar to Apples to Apples. (Yes, it requires a group, though some have figured out ways to play it online.) I’ve played this over beers with buddies; can’t recall ever laughing quite so much. Just steer clear if you or the gift recipient is sensitive about… well, anything.


A smart bulb is hardly a necessity for the modern graduate, but it sure could be fun. Kasa’s dimmable bulb, equivalent to a standard 60-watt, allows for just about any color, and it supports voice control via Alexa and Google Assistant — no hub required.

Rick Broida/CNET

Dorm rooms and apartments are, unfortunately, prime targets for thieves. So why not give your grad the tools to keep an eye on things? The Wyze Cam security camera is a fantastic choice for smaller living spaces, as just one of them can probably provide all the necessary surveillance.

For $10 more, the Wyze Cam Pan (pictured) adds panning to the mix, meaning the camera can survey a much wider area.

Read the Wyze Cam review.


Forget the whimsical, obvious choice — Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go — and give a grad something of actual use: a book that teaches the basics of saving and investing money. Because, let’s face it, few high-school or college programs give kids the knowledge they need. Elements is a relatively slim 208 pages, so it’s not as intimidating as some money-advice books.

This article was published previously. 

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