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

Cheap Gifts for College Students

Are you shopping for cheap gifts for a college student in your life?  We’ve put together some great affordable gift ideas for that special young person.

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 sent 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-$50.

What College Students Need In 2020

This post may contain affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, your purchases can help house a homeless college student. You can 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 exciting or challenging adventure such as an escape room experience, a trip to your local amusement park, 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, as we are facing the increased restrictions of living during lock downs, we recommend 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 or know how to do well, doing something new will make the experience all the more memorable for all!

For some ideas on where to go for cheap, check out our top Southern California destination ideas with big kids.

Groupon also regularly has fun events available at a discount in their “Things to Do” or “Getaways” categories.

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

Useful Gifts for College Students

Here’s some gift ideas for college students who might enjoy more practical gifts to help them with their schooling or just to make it more enjoyable.

Fancy Coffee Drinks At Home

Coffee fuels college students. Maybe you aren’t loving going out to the coffee shops right now. Well I’ve got good news for you.

The Imusa electric espresso maker makes a fabulous espresso. We’ve tried it. It has a small footprint, but packs a tasty punch of caffeine. It easily competes or in our opinion even surpasses that expensive coffee shop coffee.

And if you want to provide the espresso, too, I highly recommend this brand of espresso. It’s smooth and a little nutty. It will give your student that extra pep to get through tough study sessions and early morning classes.

If you really want to complete the deal, then add in this top rated milk frother and steamer. Not only is it great for making those coffee shop level lattes, we happen to know it’s pretty handy for heating & mixing hot chocolate and other powder added beverages.

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 our post on The Importance of Note Taking to Success in life. There we also outlined some of the best methods of note taking, which includes the Cornell style.

This notepad 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.

Check out these cheap gift ideas for the college student in your life! #gifts #backtoschool #college Click To Tweet

A Guide For The College Newbie

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.

Help With Hydration

After all the above coffee or other possible college beverages that dehydrate, your college kid is likely to be under hydrated.


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.

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.


Personalized Truffle Assortment, 12 Oz. Box | Chocolates | By Russell Stover

When in doubt, go with chocolate. These fun boxes are easy to order and have delivered right to you. They pair well with coffee too. Just sayin’.

Bonus Idea For Every Young Adult

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

If you have any kind of 401k or retirement investment, 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.

Make Them An Intelligent Investor

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.

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Cheap Gifts for College Students

Final Thoughts 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. By the way, 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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