Skip the personalized plaque 

Get your favorite grad something useful.

GRADUATION ROBE: Better choice than a "You Did It!" frame.
  • GRADUATION ROBE: Better choice than a "You Did It!" frame.

If you've got a new graduate in your life, please, for the love of all that is space-conserving, practical and dustcatcher-hating, avoid the temptation to buy them anything that has no purpose other than to hang on a wall or sit on a shelf. As a friend of mine is fond of saying to his dogs, DO NOT.

I mean, sure, get them a frame for their cap-and-gown picture. Just don't make it one of those “You did it!” or “Class of 2008!” ones. It'll be in a box in the back of the closet within a year, and in the trash in three.

Instead, think in terms of life after graduation. What's next for this person? College? A cubicle? World travel? A drive-thru window? Your living room couch?

Here's some ideas to get you started:

For the female grad who'll have some leisure time before whatever comes next, splurge on a Kashwere robe ($132) from Bella Boutique. I hate the kitschy brand name — and the robes don't look or feel anything like cashmere in any case — but they're pretty, and very, very soft and fluffy. Add some funky slippers from Ciccia Pods for $46.

For someone about to set up their first solo household, one of those handy briefcase-sized tool kits is always a great idea. You can get them just about anywhere — Target, Sears, etc. — and prices usually start around $20. They even make pink ones, if your graduate's a bit of a girly-girl. Want something even cheaper? WordsWorth Books has a little credit-card-shaped multi-tool — two screwdrivers, a knife and a bottle-opener — for $5.50.

Speaking of books: For the adventurous (or, for that matter, the lazy), try “101 Things to Do Before You're Old and Boring” by Richard Horne and Helen Szirtes ($15). From the Amazon description: “The interactive format contains fill-in pages, checklists, and adhesive stars to place on each page when the suggested task has been completed.” (And no, you won't feel as bad as you think you might: Among the suggestions are “Start a blog” and “Become a spy.”)

On a more practical level, do your part to keep your new grad off your couch and out of your bank account with a book on money management. There's “The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens” by David and Tom Gardner ($15), and “Everything Personal Finance in Your 20s and 30s” by Debby Fowles, $15.  Or, for the financially precocious grad, “The Ultimate Guide to Off-Shore Tax Havens” by Samuel Blankson, $27.

From the oldie-but-goodie files: A nice pen. I still have the one my brother gave me years and years ago, although it lives in a desk drawer because I'm too afraid I'd lose it otherwise. Vanness in the Market Street Shopping Center is pen central in Little Rock — prices range from about $25 to you've-got-to-be-kidding, with plenty in between. Everything's 20 percent off the list price, and some discontinued models are half off.

If your grad is lucky enough to have the time and money to travel, the Sharper Image has a great selection of nice travel accessories. There's a line of travel wallets and small totes from Victorinox, the company that makes Swiss Army knives, with prices that start around $30. Or a computerized 12-language translator that gives you both the written and spoken translation of whatever word you type in ($199).

Other possibilities at the Sharper Image: For the newly minted professional, a red or black leather business card holder, nice and understated ($30), or one of those electric shoe buffers with the red and black furry bits on either end ($60). For the college student, a retro-looking Drink-o-Matic personal vending machine ($160), which holds and dispenses 10 cans of the beverage of your choice, or — if you're feeling REALLY spendy — a 7-foot-tall fiberglass Superman statue (a bargain at $5,000).


Other stuff:

Coldwater Creek is offering $25 off a $100 purchase through June 9.

• If you're mourning the loss of the Sauce Co. to West Little Rock, dry your tears. Eggshells Kitchen Store will open in the Sauce Co.'s old location on Kavanaugh next month. It'll have “less sauce” and more gadgets than its predecessor, one of the new store's owners told me, plus pots and pans and things geared toward making all household chores easier.

• Speaking of the Sauce Co., its grand reopening as the Kitchen Co. in the Pleasant Ridge Town Center is set for Friday, May 30. The new store will have tableware and cooking classes in addition to cooking equipment and gourmet foods.

• Back on Kavanaugh: Tulips has a rack of very, very cute baby clothes at clearance prices.

• Tired of your same old traditional home furnishings? Soho Modern is holding a recession sale, with 20 percent to 75 percent off selected items, 15 percent off special orders, and scratch-and-dent and overstocked items “dirt cheap,” according to a promotional postcard I got. This is a fun store — worth going for a look. There's plenty of smaller stuff as well as furniture.






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