As a recent college graduate living independently of my parents, I struggle to make ends meet. I can afford rent and food, but with an entry level position at a non-profit and the salary that goes along with it, I am by no means living a life of luxury. So I look forward to my birthday and holidays as times to get the gifts that I can’t afford to by myself. Nothing is worse than waiting all year for the perfect present and getting something you don’t need or want so if you are buying a gift for a budding professional, broke young adult or independent teenager, please heed my advice.

First, don’t discount the necessities. It may night be as fun to get underwear for your birthday as it is to get a new DVD but if you need underwear (which most people do) it makes a good gift. They even sell some holiday-themed undergarments for a holiday present. If you don’t know the type of underwear this young adult may want, then don’t buy underwear.

Besides underwear, there are some other necessities that you salaried-folk take for granted. For instance, a bag of groceries can be a wonderful and practical gift. Go to Whole Foods or Trader Joes and fill up a canvas shopping bag with good food that you know the young adult will enjoy. Trust me, they will appreciate getting to skip a week of grocery shopping and the canvas bag is reusable. It is the gift that keeps on giving; most stories take $.03 off of a bill if a person brings their own bag.

Gift cards may be impersonal but they are certainly practical. A gift card to a store that the young adult may not always be able to afford is a great present. For instance, a coffee shop gift card for the winter holidays or an ice-cream shop gift card during the summer. A gas gift card will always be appreciated. Don’t buy a gift card to a store that is expensive because it is hard to spend the exact amount on the card. You don’t want to give a $20 gift card to Neiman Marcus. There can be printing of Happy Birthday Son on the greeting card. A sweet message can be written on the card for the son through the father. 

Think about presents that keep giving. I already mentioned the canvas shopping bag which gives the person back $.03 every time they go grocery shopping. For a house warming gift, no matter the present, I think it is a great idea to wrap it in a canvas shopping bag. What about buying the teen or young adult a present that will help them maintain their car, like an oil change, new wipers, or a basket of wax and other car care products. Cleaning products may not seem like an extravagant present but they are necessities and can get expensive for a young adult. A basket of cleaning products is a great house warming gift.

Go green! Many teenagers and young adults are passionate about saving the environment and if they aren’t yet, why not encourage them to be. Green gifts can also be money saving gifts. For example, get energy-saving light bulbs and other items to help them lower their electricity bill. I know I would love to replace all of my light bulbs with low-energy bulbs but the initial cost of the bulb is a bit high for me. Get the teen or young adult a bus pass or metro card. If you want to spend a little more for a wedding or house warming gift, get energy star appliances.

If you want to get this teenager or young adult an extravagant present like a new computer or vacation, think about all the costs involved before purchasing the present. You don’t want to get a hotel room for a weekend in Florida for someone who can’t afford the flight.

Always remember the personality of the person you are shopping for. You may want to think back to when this teenager or young adult was a child but remember at this age, teens change their interests often. Make sure your gift is something they would enjoy!

In the past few I have received a few gifts and given a few gifts that I absolutely love (besides the ones I already mentioned). Those gifts include a magazine subscription, tickets to a concert, a netflix subscription, and a new cell phone.

Good luck with gift shopping! I hope my advice helped. By the way, my birthday is in November.