Gift or Money for the Graduate
(Spring Valley, AZ USA)
In my personal experiences, it is better for a graduate to receive money rather than a gift. A graduate whether from high school or college is going to need money as they venture out into the world independently. They can use money to help them on their journey. If they had received a gift, they would just have a memory but no help.
The amount of money a person should give to the graduate varies. If it is a high school graduate and the graduate is an immediate family member, the money gift should be right around $50. If it is someone not too close to you, you should give approximately $25 to the graduate. If the graduate is just a friend or classmate you are close to - you should give approximately $10.
One thing for certain, the graduate is going to be looking for money at graduation and will tend to be upset when they receive a gift instead of money. The graduate will have a plan already mapped out for their monetary gifts at graduation. An important thing to remember is to not give more than your means allow.
If you do decide to give a gift instead of money, it is up to you to choose a gift that means something to the graduate. It could be a gift card or something that the graduate has expressed an interest in before. Make sure, however, not to spend more than if you were giving just cash.