Money is great, but here are a few gifts for grads they won't get from Aunt Sylvia

These gifts won't break the bank and will make your grad smile a lot more than a necktie.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

This weekend marked the graduation for our local high school and the usual circuit of graduation parties. Graduation announcements from various distant relatives have been rolling in and the $20 bills have been rolling out. I know, last of the big time spenders, right?

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Still, all those $20 bills got me thinking about some gifts that might not be quite so generic. Money, after all, is precisely what most grads (high school, college, and otherwise) need, but sometimes a more personal and interesting gift is in order. So here's a short guide to some gifts for grads that won't elicit gee-thanks-a-tie-tack groans but won't blend in with the rest of the cash on the money tree, either.

Tuff-Luv cases The folks at Tuff-Luv sent me one of their iPad 2 cases to test out. It has some Velcro adjustments that actually allow it to hold my Motorola Xoom quite effectively and they have cases for iPhones, Kindles, Nooks, and other tablet-y devices your grad will likely be receiving. My particular case (that I actually liked so much I sent off my payment to keep my press sample today) is their so-called Veggie Leather (real leather, saddleback leather, and hemp make appearances across their lines as well) Tri-Axis (the real leather version is pictured here). The product is well-padded, easy to hold, and, while not cheap, at around $70 is priced well for a high-end tablet case. I've already discarded a cheap silicone case and snap-on hardshell case. I should have just bought this in the first place and it will be much appreciated by the grad for whom you need to buy a nice gift (but don't need to buy the iPad).

Gunnar Digital Performance Eyewear

I recommend these in virtually every gift roundup I write. This is the most expensive gift I'm including here, but at $99, the pair I'm wearing in the picture are indispensable. Several pairs can be had for $79 (and plenty can be had for closer to $200), but for the student who spends countless hours a day in front of a screen, they work very, very well. Dry eyes are eased, eyestrain becomes a non-issue, and extended reading (you know, for those new-fangled digital textbooks) on a computer screen is noticeably easier. Regardless of the light (fluorescent library nastiness or table lamps when roomates are trying to sleep), the Gunnars make it easy to sit in front of a computer for hours on end. I'm a fan of the "Advanced Computer Eyewear", but your grad may be more interested in their "Advanced Gaming Eyewear" which are optimized for greater distances between wearers and the screen.

Rothco Bags I know not everyone is as much of a bag fiend as I am. There aren't many guys who admit to such a weakness for bags either. But I'm secure enough to say that the Rothco bag I recently bought for my tablet and other assorted stuff (wallet, passport, phone, zip ties, whatever) is best bag I've ever purchased (and yes, that does mean I've purchased several other bags).. It was cheap ($24 from the Rothco site, where there are bags of all sizes and capabilities), it's durable, and it fits all those little electronic things that tend to accumulate. A netbook, a Nook, a Kindle, an iPad, you name it. A MacBook Air would fit nicely as well. As will the carrying case I just ordered for my Gunnars. Students increasingly rely on small, mobile computing devices around campus and, for the grad who would rather not carry the 17" laptop between classes, a bag to carry something more portable is right up their alley.

Targus Stylus Though marketed for iPads and other i devices, this stylus will work on any capacitive touch screen. There are more expensive styli, and there are fancier accessories, but for $8 on Amazon, this little guy will make that iPad, Xoom, Streak, Archos, or any other tablet a far easier way to take notes in class. For that matter, at $8 a pop, buy a couple. They'll fit nicely in that bag and turn a useful tool (the tablet or smartphone that the wealthy grandparents bought the grad) into the best notepad a student can buy.

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