Inexpensive, Useful Gift Ideas for Your Young Adult's First Apartment

Wide-mouthed ceramic mugs
Wide-mouthed ceramic mugs

Better than Gift Cards; and What NOT to Give

So your child or godchild is moving out on his own. Here are some lightly priced and useful gifts to help your grad or new adult, male or female, set up an apartment and get well started on the road from dependence to independence. In the excitement of starting out, your new adult, even with a gift card, might not be thinking to purchase items that are durable and useful, sometimes good for a lifetime. They'll thank you later.

1. Basic Hand Tools: Claw hammer, large and small screwdrivers, large and small Phillips screwdrivers, adjustable wrench, pliers, measuring tape, picture-hanging hardware, a box of household nails and screws, thumbtacks. Buy new, not used; not motley, but a matching set. This inspires respect for the tools and makes them identifiable when they are borrowed. Include a toolbox. I got my basic tools when I was 21 and have used them in hundreds of situations.

2. Dictionary. Not an online dictionary; a real book.

3. Bible or Qu'ran or other spiritual book, preferably a study version of the book, in hard copy. (Not the precious family Bible; don't hand that over yet.) Even if he or she doesn't care for it now, it is standing by, and the kid will eventually turn to it, guaranteed.

4. Collection of basic kitchen spices: Salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic salt, taco seasoning, pizza seasoning, cinnamon, Italian herb blend, curry powder, and any other familiar seasonings. Matching bottles look nice.

5. Pyrex 4-cup measuring cup. You can microwave this, eat from it, measure liquids in it, use it as a snack bowl, refrigerate it, bail out a plugged sink with it, keep a goldfish in it, beat eggs in it...and it's always nontoxic and good as new.

6. Sleeping bag. Doesn't have to be high-tech or Arctic-expedition quality. They will need it for when the heat goes out, or for weekend adventures, or for a guest.

7. Memory foam pillow. Worth the money. Foam is also hypoallergenic. Above all things you want your kid to sleep well.

8. Subscription to a magazine of your offspring's choice. Having a magazine delivered in the mail makes a crummy apartment almost feel like a home.

9. Small sewing kit. I still have a kit given to me 30 years and eleven apartments ago, with 12 different colors of polyester thread. Have used it a hundred times. If the kid cannot sew on buttons, he or she can take the kit and clothing to a neighbor who maybe can.

10. Plumber's helper. Handy for sinks as well as toilets. Is it unromantic? What's more unromantic than an overflow? Or you could wait until an overflow happens on a Sunday morning and they call asking what to do.

11. Mugs, and not ordinary mugs, but wide-mouth mugs (see photo) that double as both coffee mugs and soup bowls or ice-cream bowls.

12. Potholders or oven mitts. Please do not make these; buy these. Hand-crocheted, decorative, "crafty" potholders are useless.

13. Kitchen trash can with top. Helps fight roaches.

Things NOT to give:

1. Motorcycle

2. Credit card

3. Pet (Young people aren't home a lot.)

4. Doilies

5. Barware

6. Firearms

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