12 Cheap (But Awesome) Gifts for College Students in 2020

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Are you looking for affordable yet awesome gifts for a college student in your life?  It can be hard to know what to buy a college student. So, we’ve put together some great cheap gift ideas for you to buy a college student you care about.

We’ll start with 12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, … just kidding. But the song did inspire us to pick 12 gift ideas as a reasonably manageable list to choose from. Rest assured, they are much more practical and easy to acquire than the gifts in the song, The 12 days of Christmas.

In keeping with your affordability goals, all of these proven winners below are currently priced between $5-$40. And all of these gifts are great for guys and girls in college! You can personalize some of these just to their liking.

Good Gifts For College Students In 2020

Cheap Gifts for College Students

This post contains affiliate links. We earn commissions to support youth in need if you shop through the links on this page. Read our full affiliate disclosure here. 

One of the most meaningful gifts you can give is the gift of a memorable experience! College housing doesn’t usually have much room to store stuff. Under normal circumstances, we’d recommend giving your college student an adventurous experience such as an escape room, a trip to your local amusement or a trampoline park.

Last year, we invited a young man who aged out of foster care without a family to Six Flags to celebrate his 21st birthday. He was super excited and grateful to be remembered on his birthday.

But right now, if you are facing the increased restrictions of living during lock downs, we recommend other outdoor experiences. Visit a local national park, go camping, or hit the water on a boat.

Don’t worry if it’s not something you’ve done before, new experiences will make it all the more memorable for all! And what college students need most right now is to add some happy memories into the current mix.

If you’d like some ideas on where to go for cheap in California, check out our top Southern California destination ideas.

Wherever you live, Groupon also regularly has fun events available under “Things to Do” and “Getaways.” You can see the latest deals here.

If you’d rather put something put something in a gift bag or send it in the mail, we’ve got some great gift ideas for that below.

Useful Gifts Every College Student Wants

Here’s our list with some gift ideas for college students, both for those who enjoy more practical gifts, but also some that are just fun. (Those are mostly under the gifts for all 20 somethings further below).

Care Packages

When you’re in college, you’re always on the go. Having snacks handy to grab and go, so you can eat between classes or while staying up late studying can be helpful.

These are especially great for the college freshman who are still adjusting to life where they are in charge of managing their own food for the first time.

This college snack box is full of popular and an easy to grab snacks for your college kid. With over 45 individual packages including a mix of sweet, salty, savory, and healthy snacks.

Whether you buy it as a stocking stuffer or a fun surprise during finals, it’s a great affordable gift.

You can’t go wrong with chocolate! These fun chocolate boxes are easy to order and have delivered right to your college kid.

Or if Cadbury is your kid’s fav, you can also get these Cadbury treats on amazon.

Assorted Creams, 16 Oz. Box | Chocolates | By Russell Stover

If you want to send a monthly “set it & forget it” box of thoughtfulness to your college kid..

Crate Joy is the way to go.

They have boxes for the beginner baker, snack packs, book clubs, and more. You can get them a box as unique as they are.

Top Study Tools

Doing a good job at taking notes is key to success, not just in school, but in life. If you haven’t read it yet, check out The Importance of Note Taking to Success in life. There we also outlined some of the best methods of note taking, one of top of these is the Cornell style.

This notepad on Amazon is set up for the Cornell style of note-taking. Using this method tops the list of what we wish we had known going into college. It’s a brilliant plan not only for recording meaningful notes, but also to help students process and retain what they’re learning. Here’s a how-to from Cornell University.

Whether they’re studying or into journaling, these sticky notes & colored pens make great tools for helping organize information and enhancing their studying experience.

If you’re not sure what to get for college kids, they probably could use an endless supply of these.

Check out these cheap but awesome gifts for college students! #gifts #backtoschool #college Click To Tweet

Guides For College Freshmen

1001 Things Every College Student Needs to Know is one of the top rated books for college youth (and parents) on Amazon. It’s full of wit and wisdom as it provides practical advice for class enrollment, living on campus, study habits and more .

Is your kiddo unsure about their life’s direction? This national bestseller, StrengthsFinder 2.0, is the new and improved version of the renowned life skills assessment.

Beyond helping you identify your strengths & talents, it’s loaded with hundreds of strategies for applying your strengths.

A Personalized Gift

With the salty snacks and other possible college beverages that dehydrate, your college kid is likely to be under hydrated. Being dehydrated affects your ability to perform well academically.


You can help your college student stay hydrated with this personalized stainless steel water bottle. Keeping this beautiful water bottle handy will help them remember to drink water, too.

More Gifts for 20 Somethings

Maybe college isn’t for your “college aged” kid. Maybe they, like so many others this year, are taking a gap year. We’ve got a few more ideas that should be a treat for them no matter what path they’re on.

gifts for 20 somethings

This Snuggly Blanket

This warm, fuzzy blanket is Amazon’s choice for throw blankets. It comes in a variety of colors and will keep your young adult warm and snuggly while reading, studying, or watching tv.

If they are a big fan of a particular franchise (Spiderman, Avengers, Star Wars, etc) get them a blanket that reflects their fandom. We got the young adult foster youth in our lives a Spiderman blanket. Your’e never too old for a snuggle blanket!

A Sonic Bomb Dual Extra Loud Alarm Clock with Bed Shaker

Is your dear daughter having a hard time waking up? Is your sweet son on turning into that lazy live at home?

Turn them into a mover and a shaker… literally! This awesome alarm clock is sure to get them up, moving, and helping a little around the house, for crying out loud.

This Cook Book for Beginners

Speaking of helping around the house, get ’em cooking! This 5 ingredient cookbook is number one on Amazon. Easy & affordable recipes are a great help to young adults who are learning how to live on a budget.

Best Gifts For College Students And Every Young Adult

College or not, being smart with your finances leads to financial success in life. There are millionaires out there who never went to college, but built their own wealth through intelligent investing.

If you have a retirement account, you know that when you’re young is the time to start! Compounding interest and making smart choices in where you put your money can help create a more solid future.

Give The Gift Of Intelligent Investing

Get your kid rolling towards success with their own investment account at Ally, Schwab, or even the Millennial favorite Robin Hood. Put in a little money to help them get started.

Don’t leave them just hanging in the wind, though. Make sure to get them some good guidance, like Warren Buffett favorite, The Intelligent Investor.

And even though it pushes us past our 12 gifts, we have to mention this book, which was recently recommended as the one book you need to a group of college students by Jim Cramer of CNBC’s Mad Money.

The incredibly well written, One Up On Wallstreet, by famed investor Peter Lynch is not only full of great information for the new investor, it holds your attention as he shares personal stories of success, failure, and growth.

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gifts for college students

On Getting Cheap Gifts for College Students

Whether you pick out some cheap gifts for college students or spend a little more on the 20-somethings in your life, it truly is the thoughtfulness that counts. Make sure to include a card with encouraging words.

Young adults this age appreciate words of affirmation more than they did in their younger years. If you are supporting a youth who is aged out of foster care, this can be especially true. In case you missed it, when you shop on through one of the links above your purchase helps support youth aging out of foster care at no extra cost to you!

For more ideas on how to support the college aged youth in your life, read:

The Keys To Success: 10 Things You Can Start Doing Now

How to Get Your Young Adult To Move Out

How to Deal With An Entitled Teen

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  1. I would have loved all of these gifts as a college student, especially anything coffee related!

    1. Glad to hear it! Yeah I only got the espresso this year (many years after college) it’s way less hassle than typical espresso makers (which some of my friends had in college). I definitely wish I had known about it years ago… or even better, had received it as a Christmas gift 😉

  2. These are GREAT! The experience gifts are always good. When I was in college, I could never afford expensive, fun experiences.

    1. Right? Same here. I’m on board with this new trend of having experiences over things. Plus college is such an important time for experiencing, growing, learning…. it fits well.
      Thanks for the encouragement Jessica!

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