Getting money as a gift is awesome. It gives you the freedom to buy what you really want. You can pay down debt, put some into savings, or take yourself on a nice little post-graduation trip. However, asking for money can be super awkward.

If you’re getting ready to graduate and you could really benefit from some cold, hard cash, here’s some guidance on how to ask for money without coming across as tacky or greedy.

The benefits of money as a graduation gift

If there’s one thing that most college graduates need, it’s money. You’ve probably just spent an inordinate amount of cash on your education and now are facing the depressing notion of paying back a mountain of student loans.

If you just had your high school graduation then you have college expenses to pay for. Graduation money won’t pay your tuition bills, but it will help you buy some needed items and maybe start an emergency fund for unexpected expenses during the next phase of your life.

Money is an excellent graduation present because there is no limit to what can be done with it. As a recent grad, you might be moving to a new city, which means moving expenses. You might be struggling to pay your bills while you look for a decent job — especially in the current market. Or, you might be looking for start-up money to fund your new small business.

The bottom line, recent grads are the perfect recipients for a financial gift. 

Guidelines for monetary graduation gifts

In 2019 cash was the most popular gift for graduates (both high school and college), according to Fortune. The magazine reported that 53% of gift-givers were giving money.

If you’re planning to join the ranks and fork over some dough as a special gift to a recent grad, good on you. But, you might be stuck wondering how much to give? Unfortunately, there is no clear answer.

How much you give will depend on several factors, including how much you can afford, how well you know the graduate, and how much this graduate really needs a monetary gift. Generally, the better you know this person, the more you will give. But ultimately, you should only give what you feel comfortable with. The receiver will likely be grateful for your contribution, no matter what the amount.

If you’re thinking that you don’t want to give money because it seems impersonal … nah. Most college graduates will be thrilled to receive cash.

If you’re concerned about giving cash to the graduate in question because you think they make questionable financial decisions, you can always opt for something like a gift card. This gives you a bit more control over how they can spend it and might help direct them toward a more financially savvy choice. You can choose to give something like a gift card for groceries, a food delivery service, or gas.

Tips for asking for money as a graduation gift

So, now for the awkward part. How do you go about asking for money? What are the rules of etiquette when asking for a monetary graduation gift?

There’s a lot of different opinions when it comes to whether or not you should ask for money. Some think it’s tacky and a tad greedy, others think it’s fine. If you decide that you want to ask for money as a graduation gift, here are some tips on how to go about it.

Watch your wording

If you’re throwing a graduation party and sending out invitations, you can consider adding a note on the invite about gifts, something like:

“While your presence at my graduation party is the only gift I need, I’m entering into the real world with a ton of student debt so a monetary gift would be greatly appreciated.”

Honestly, cash is the easiest gift to give. Many of your guests might feel relieved if they can get away with stuffing a few bills or a check into a card.

Have your parents do your dirty work

Another approach you can take is to have your parents share the word. If your relatives call to inquire about what you want for graduation, mom and dad can steer them in the right direction. Have them relay the message that you have a ton of expenses and a financial contribution would be a big help.

Your parents can also send out a graduation announcement whether it’s your high school or college graduation. This lets people know that you have graduated and that may trigger some people to send gifts.

Show your appreciation 

If you receive a monetary gift (or any gift) make sure you follow up with thank-you notes. Acknowledge the gifters’ generosity and show them how truly grateful you are.

Clever ways to ask for monetary gifts for graduation

Make a money cake 

I might be aging myself here but, do you remember money cakes? When I was a kid we would go to birthday parties and sometimes the parents would wrap quarters or other coins in saran wrap and bake them into the cake. It was awesome, as long as you didn’t accidentally chomp down on a penny…ouch!

While your college grad probably won’t be thrilled if they have to sift through a cake for a handful of quarters, there are ways to refine the idea of the money cake. With some rolled-up dollar bills and some tape, you can literally fashion a tiered cake made of bills. The only problem, it won’t taste very good.

Create a money wreath 

If you’re crafty and you want to find a fun way to give your special graduate some money then you could also try putting together a money wreath. Get creative with dollar bills and arrange them in the shape of a festive, graduation wreath.

Dollar bill origami 

If you have a large bill on hand, dazzle your graduate with some origami. Turn a few twenties into a turtle and a tree. It’s fun for you and they will be thrilled by your generosity and skill!

Gift some play-dough 

Kids love play-dough. Adults love to find cash inside of a play-dough container. Give your graduate a surprise and stuff a play-dough container full of the “dough” that adults love to play with.

Is it okay to ask for money for graduation?

Is it okay to ask for money for graduation? The answer is really up to you. If you feel comfortable putting it out there, then go for it, but make sure you do it with tact and always show your deep appreciation.

College grads and young adults generally need money more than stuff. It’s basically the perfect gift and makes shopping for graduation season a lot easier.

If you are someone who is debating whether or not it’s okay to give a recent graduate money, the answer is yes. There are very few college graduates who will see a cash gift as being too impersonal. And, if you want them to know that you’ve put a lot of thought into the gift, you can always try out one of the clever ways we’ve suggested to give money! I mean really, who wouldn’t love a cake made of money?

–By Jessica Martel


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