As the graduation announcements have been filling up my mailbox I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the summer I left college and moved to Chicago all by myself. I rented a tiny studio apartment, and with a map and a lot of internal pep talks, I learned to conquer the city and live alone- no small feat after living with 4 roommates for the past three years. I’ll never forget my first night in my new apartment when I realized, with a sinking feeling, that I didn’t own silverware. For the past few years another college roommate had owned our communal silverware and didn’t occur to me that it wasn’t mine to take. That first container of pad thai was eaten with a credit card and a disposable shoe horn, and the next day I found Bed Bath & Beyond and bought myself some silverware.
Lets face it, moving away from dorms and roommates, and into the real world, can be daunting, but for everyone who is buying gifts or advising a recent graduate, here is the list of things those fresh young adults really, really need:
Dishes: They don’t need to be fancy or expensive, but everyone living on their own needs a set of dishes and silverware with which to eat off of. Bonus points for a set of glasses that were not collected from pint night at the local bar. Ikea always has affordable table and flatware options and you’d be surprised at the boxed set deals you can find during homeware sales at your local department store. Send the new college graduate a few white serving bowls and platters and he’ll thank you every time he can actually host poker night in his new apartment.
Bedding: The time has finally come to move past the extra-long twin and to invest in a real bed. Mattress shopping is an art form, there is always room for negotiation in prices (and you can always bargain for free delivery) and there are always good deals at stores like Costco. If you are looking for a gift for a new graduate, consider buying them a nice set of sheets in a neutral color – they’ll thank you every night they don’t have to sleep on a set of mismatched hand-me-downs.
Home Is Where the Art Is: New graduates are focused on finding a job and learning a new town, and often times funds are limited. This is the perfect time to send a graduation gift that they can hang on their blank walls. Etsy and eBay have so many cool options- maybe a lithograph of their college football stadium, a vintage map of their new town, or a black and white photo of something sentimental. Frame it and mail it to their new apartment- they will think of you every time they look at their cool new conversation piece.
Money Money Money: Gift cards might seem cliché but when they are well thought out they can be a lifeline during that first lean year or two. Gift cards to a local grocery chain, nearby coffeehouse or even a gas station are always appreciated, even if you feel like you took the easy road. If you are feeling a little more adventurous, consider buying them a one year Zipcar membership (great for grads in a big city with no car), a pre-loaded public transit pass, or a Groupon gift card.
Things With Plugs: Most people invest in their good appliances when they can put them on a wedding registry, which means that you spend years with a coffeemaker that doesn’t have a timer or a toaster that always seems to burn your bagel. There are universally appreciated appliances that any new graduate would be happy to have. Single cup coffee makers, a high end alarm clock, quality toaster ovens, hand mixers (so they can make Mom’s famous cookie recipe) or a dust buster are things no one really wants to spend money on, but are incredibly thoughtful for someone who is just starting their first home.
Basics: There are basic things that every home needs that you always forget about until you move into that first apartment and realize that you don’t own anything to cook with beyond a George foreman grill and a warped frying pan. Graduates need the basics, so sending them a basic set of pots and pans, a set of nested mixing bowls, or a set of matched towels (or a gift card to a place where they can pick their own) is thoughtful and useful. Other basic items they might not think of but can always use? A great first aid kit, a sewing kit, a set of matching wine glasses and a corkscrew, a starter toolbox (wrenches, hammers, screwdrivers and pliers are a great place to start), or a good iron and ironing board. Feeling like you want to give them something a little more generous? How about AppleTV and a one year Netflix streaming subscription so they don’t have to pony up for cable on that entry level salary.
An Evening Out: Many recent grads are moving to new towns, so doing a little research on the local museums, sports teams or restaurant with all the buzz and giving them tickets or a gift card can be a great way to help them acclimate to a new place while enjoying a night on the town. My family members that gave me a gift card to a famous Chicago pizzeria were favorites of mine when I got to see what the fuss was about without dipping into my meager funds.
Daisy is a lawyer married to a lawyer (insert lawyer jokes here) living in a small condo in a big city with a new baby and beagle. She breaks up the legal-speak by blogging about life in Chicago, which is filled with escapades of urban living. In the summer she enjoys patio dining and in the winter wonders what she was thinking when she moved here. You can read more from Daisy on her blog, Just Daisy.