The graduation announcements arriving in mailboxes this time of year cleverly disguise with formal calligraphy and party invitations their true purpose: gift requests. As they pile up, so does the stress of finding a gift for your former neighbor's grandson or even your own child. We've compiled a few easy suggestions suitable for the tech-savvy, Web-focused and, in some cases, hard-to-figure-out graduates of 2011.
If your wallet can afford it, smart phones, iPads, iPods and electronic readers like Kindles and Nooks all make great gifts for the college student. For more budget-friendly items, look for useful gifts that won't clutter a dorm room, like alarm clocks or digital picture frames.
Cold, hard cash .
Money still offers the most versatility for the grad and the least amount of stress for the giver. To dress it up, tuck the bills into a clutch purse (think Vera Bradley) for girls or a wallet for boys.
School-specific gift cards .
Beyond the standard iTunes and Target gift cards, tailor cards to the graduate's new school. Look up restaurants in that area or buy a gift card to the university bookstore so a freshman can save money on books or buy some spirit wear. Make it even more personal by placing the gift card inside the front flap of a guide book to the city if the graduate is going away for college.
, Spirit wear
Even those blankets bearing college logos aren't a bad idea — college students love just about anything that represents school pride. Shop the university bookstore online for T-shirts, flip-flops, beach towels, singing can openers or anything else that might have the school's name or logo. But, please, no drink koozies, which may be the one spirited item that college students don't love and typically won't use in public.
Some popular websites offer deals on atypical gift ideas that stretch a dollar, perfect for college students and recession-strapped gift givers.
For $5 a month, Maghound.com lets graduates choose three magazines (from a list including Cosmopolitan, Time and Wired) for delivery to their dorm rooms. At Groupon.com, $10 can translate to a $20 gift card for a restaurant or gas. And for the socially conscious giver, buy a gift card from Kiva.org, which connects online lenders with people or charities in need. The gift card will allow graduates to loan the money to a cause of their choice. When the loan is repaid, they can put the money toward another cause or keep it for themselves.
Biz Carson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2441.