12 Best Affordable Gifts for College Students in 2021

gifts for college students

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 (including some extended Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals) for you to buy that college student on your Christmas list.

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 2021

Cheap Gifts for College Students

This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you 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

The next few items made our list of useful gifts for college students. We’ve put the more “fun” gifts further below for all 20 somethings (whether in college or not).

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 blue ribbon 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 and is amazon’s choice for college snacks.

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

Give The Gift Of Success

Give your young adult that extra edge to real success that they rarely get taught in school.

Brian Tracy is the foremost leader on personal success. He is a keynote speaker and his courses cover how to improve yourself, be better, be successful, and manage your time wisely.

His 9 Disciplines of Successful Entrepreneurs offers the critical techniques you need to start and run a thriving business. Download Now and get the FREE E-Book plus 2 bonus techniques that can accelerate your time to market.


Unique Gift Boxes

Want to support small businesses, but still have the convenience of shopping online? Most subscription boxes inside Cratejoy are small businesses! By shopping on Cratejoy for gifts you are supporting mom and pop shops.

They have boxes for the beginner baker, snack packs, fun socks, book clubs, and more. You can get your kid a box as unique as they are. You can buy single packages or get subscriptions.

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.

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.

This Personalized Gift

Want something a little more unique and personal? Check out this sweet necklace by Fettero for less than $15. You can get one with her initial on it.

Want something less dainty? You can also get this leather keychain engraved with their name for $10!

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.

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!

The Gift Of Laughter

Are you the fun one in the family? Even if not, all the better – they’ll never see it coming! Whatever you buy, especially if it’s a more useful or less flashy gift – put it in this hilarious gag gift box. No more worrying about toilet paper!

Want more laughs? Add these chocolate covered almonds disguised as olives to the box!

This Cook Book From Snoop Dogg

Did you know that Snoop Dogg wrote a cookbook? Forreal.
From Crook to Cook: Platinum Recipes from Tha Boss Dogg’s Kitchen is top rated, not just on Amazon, but we’ve heard directly from parents who’ve bought it for their kids – it gets the kids cooking and the food is good!

The book features OG soul food staples like Baked Mac & Cheese and Fried Bologna Sandwiches as well as new takes on tacos and easy Orange Chicken.
If the ride is more fly, then you must buy.

If you want to start off a little easier, there’s also The 5-Ingredient College Cookbook: Easy, Healthy Recipes for the Next Four Years & Beyond.

Check out these affordable but awesome gifts for college students! #gifts #christmasgift #giftideas Click To Tweet

Best Gifts 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.

Bonus Gift Of Hope

Give the gift of peace and hope with this great stocking stuffer! Get our hope bible verse coloring book with a Christmas theme! Not only will your college kid be encouraged, but 100% of the proceeds go towards giving hope to kids who never got a family and are struggling with homelessness and isolation. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

Making The Most Of Your Gift

Whether you pick out some cheap gifts for your college student 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!

gifts for college students

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

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

How to Get Your Young Adult To Move Out

Get Free Inspirational Quote Adult Coloring Pages

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Comments

  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!

  3. My sister is off to college this year, which is why I’m thinking of gifting her with a personalized notepad because she may use this in organizing her tasks. I’ll also keep in mind to look for this book that you suggested because according to you, this will give her advice about class enrollment and study habits. Thank you for also suggesting here that it would be a great idea to give her a warm and fuzzy blanket.

    1. Hi Rachel,

      You’re welcome! Hope the gifts serve your sister well as she goes off to college!

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