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10 Graduation Gifts That Cost $50 or Less

You don't have to spend a lot to give high school and college graduates gifts they can really use.

It's graduation season. If you have friends and family with children who are graduating from high school or college, you might be wondering what to give them to recognize their achievement. Cash is always an easy -- and greatly appreciated -- gift. But if you're looking for something a little more interesting or personal, here are five ideas for high school grads and five ideas for college grads -- all under $50.

For high school grads

Coffee maker. A coffee maker will come in handy for the all-nighters in college. This gift also is great for college grads so that they can make coffee at home rather than spending several dollars a day buying it at a coffee shop on the way to work. You can find good coffee makers for $35 or less.

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Laundry bag and a roll of quarters. Now that Mom won't be doing laundry for them (unless they go to college close enough to home), grads will need something to haul their dirty clothes to the laundromat. You can find laundry bags for $10 or less. Throw in a $10 roll of quarters to help them pay for a couple of loads.

Monogrammed towels. Towels are a useful and inexpensive gift ($25 or less) for grads heading off to college. By adding a monogram, you'll help ensure that dorm roommates don't end up swiping those towels. Many online retailers, such as Pottery Barn and Lands' End, offer monogramming for about $6 or $7. Or you can find affordable towels at discount retailers such as Target, and then take them to a local store that does monogramming.

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School paraphernalia. To help grads show their school spirit when they go to college, visit the campus bookstore's Web site to purchase a shirt, hat or other gear. You should be able to find many items for $20 or less.

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Water filter pitcher and water bottle. Help grads avoid wasting money on bottled water by buying them a pitcher with a water filter, which cost $25 or less, and a reusable water bottle for about $10 or less.

For college grads

Financial advice. Help college grads start on the right path toward a solid financial future with books that offer the basics of investing and personal finance. For easy-to-read primers, see 4 Great Financial Books for Recent Grads. Or get them a subscription to Kiplinger's Personal Finance for just $12.

Gas gift card. For grads who move to cities where there isn't a good public transportation system, a gas gift card can help them offset the cost of driving to work. Or they can use the card to help fill the tank of a moving truck. Most gas station chains offer their own cards.

Grocery gift card. Encourage grads to cook at home with a gift card to a grocery store. Hopefully, they'll be less tempted to dine out if they can stock their refrigerator for free. You can find discount grocery gift cards at Cardpool.

Kitchen supplies. Grads who have been living off their campus meal plan will need some items to start cooking for themselves once they're on their own. For $50, you can set them up with some basic pots and pans, an inexpensive set of dishes and utensils or bakeware.

Tools. A few basic tools, such as a hammer, wrench, tape measure and screwdrivers, will come in handy as grads assemble furniture or hang pictures in a new apartment. For example, the Stanley 65-Piece General Homeowner's Tool Set costs $39 on Amazon.com.

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