Birthday Present? Graduation Present? Birthday-Graduation Present?
February 19, 2015 10:26 AM   Subscribe

My youngest sister is graduating high school on her nineteenth birthday. Gift ideas needed!

I've got a budget of $150-200. Should I get a birthday gift and a graduation gift, or one big gift for both?

About her:
-- OBSESSED with Jack Skelington/Nightmare Before Christmas. Her room is entirely decorated as such and such ephemera has been her most requested for years worth of gifts.

-- Pagan. I was the first in the family she told and the one who took her book/supply shopping when she was too young to go by herself, so gifts in this spirit would be appropriate.

-- Animal lover. At last count, she had two dogs and two cats. She's always had pets.

-- Loves to bake. Is considering culinary or pastry school. She got new cookie sheets and cookie cutters for Christmas.

-- Regularly babysits our neice (age 4) and nephew (age almost 7).

-- Has gone above and beyond in helping to take care of our mom, whose health has been declining over the last year or so.

-- Not very "girly". Might wear nail polish and occasionally makeup which tends toward light-goth. Has piercings including earlobe, cartilage and tongue. Is planning a tattoo. She really isn't the type to enjoy a "spa day" (I've offered, she says it sounds utterly boring.)

-- She drives a non-descript two-door sedan and is always looking at seat and steering wheel covers and other accessories.

-- Has been dating her boyfriend for a couple of years. The family and I all really like him. He's very good to and for her. Maybe a gift of an experience they can share?

My family is really bad at expressing desires, especially for gifts, so of course when asked, she responds with, "I don't know" or "Nightmare Before Christmas stuff" or "baking stuff". I'm afraid I've exhausted all of my ideas for the latter two over the last few years of birthdays and Christmases. I'd really like her birthday/graduation gift(s) to be more awesome than that anyway.

When asked if she'd rather have one present for her birthday and one for graduation, or one big one for both, her response was that she really didn't care, but knew my and other "Christmas baby" disappointments of combo-presents.

I will be driving back to our home town to attend her graduation on her birthday, but will likely only be able to stay a couple of days. She's in the Corpus Christi, Tx area and I'm in the Austin area, so ideas specific to either location are also appreciated.

I don't think any graduation or birthday parties have been planned yet, as we're still a few months out, but I like to plan gifts, especially big important ones, way in advance.

Sorry this is so long, I've never been quite so stumped on gifting before. So I turn to you, because you're awesome at this. Thanks much.
posted by MuChao to Shopping (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Money is traditional for graduations. I'd give her $100 cash at least, and a separate birthday present that is Nightmare Before Christmas themed.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:46 AM on February 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

I vote for a cooking or baking class, preferably a private one. There are some chefs who will come to your house and do a whole class and then you get to stay home and eat it when they leave! That could be really fun for her and her boyfriend.

Ooooh!!! Or a gift certificate towards her tattoo!!! If she knows where she's going, that is.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 11:07 AM on February 19, 2015

Congrats to your sister!

One of the best presents I ever got was an emergency "cash can," a tiny capsule that holds a single bill and fits on your key ring, with a hundred dollar bill to go inside.

It's a great coming-of-age present. I received mine from my boyfriend when I was eighteen. I've used it a couple times in the past four years, luckily never in any serious situation. I'm very glad I have it. Every time I see it on my keychain, I remember that someone loves me and wants me to be safe.

Side note: If you decide to go with this "cash can" idea, don't give it to your sister with the bill already inside the capsule. She has to have the annoying experience of trying twelve times to get the bill into the capsule before it finally somehow works. This will encourage her to only use the money in the capsule thoughtfully, since it's such a pain to refill.
posted by The Girl Who Ate Boston at 11:34 AM on February 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

Cash. Although I love The Girl Who Ate Boston's idea of an emergency cash cashe.

Seriously, when you're going away to school, or embarking on the world of adulthood, cash is really the best gift.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:36 AM on February 19, 2015

Could you pay for her tattoo? You could connect her with an artist that will have better design/hygiene standards than the budget type of place kids often go right after high school.

Alternatively, you could help finance a road trip for her and her boyfriend, if that's something she'd be into. Maybe pay for a stay in a nicer place than she'd book herself, and offer to watch her dogs and cats?
posted by fermezporte at 11:58 AM on February 19, 2015


A nice quartz cluster is expensive enough to be something she may not buy herself, but inexpensive enough that you could get her another gift.

You could also figure out a crystal that might have meaning to her/help her overcome a specific issue and buy pendant off Etsy or Ebay. (Ebay has the best prices on crystals, but keep in mind if you're not buying a specific item but rather a item out of their stock, the item you buy might have flaws or different coloring not shown in the product photo).

Animal lover

Zack & Zoey makes really high quality dog clothing; like a little garment versus a piece of fabric held on with a velcro strap. My dog lives in their hoodies all winter.
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:19 PM on February 19, 2015

Cash or splurge on a Kitchenaid mixer for her. So exciting for a fan of baking and with smart shopping you could get it within your budget.
posted by purenitrous at 3:59 PM on February 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

2nd'ing a good mixer. Or food processor. But if she's a baker, then a mixer.
posted by kjs4 at 2:02 AM on February 20, 2015

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