Cut The Cost Of Graduation

Updated on 17 February 2009 | 1 Comment

About to graduate? It's expensive. Here's how to cut down your costs!

Graduation season is now upon us. And that means a whole heap of associated costs that - if you are soon to join the alumni of your hallowed institution of learning - you may not have even thought about.

Well, now's the time to get your (thinking) cap on. Because it's not just you who is suddenly expected to fork out a small fortune - parents and friends will face steep costs, too.

Below are a few tips that will hopefully reduce the expense of the day, but still ensure it is a special event.

Robes and Photographs

The hire of robes unfortunately seems to be stuck in the century when the wearing of robes was normal. Many universities still take a monopolistic approach and force you to use only one company, and lack of competition means the costs can be exorbitant. 

For example, I've found that robe and cap hire typically come in at around the £40 mark (plus an extra £10 if you want to keep the robe for an extra week)!

And, as for photographs (perfect if your family wants to embarrass you using the tried-and-tested method of a display on a mantelpiece), you're walking into a rip-off merchant's paradise.

Again, there may only be one company used by your university, and while they tend to offer a variety of packages, these range from roughly £25 for a basic pack, up to a staggering £135!

Do your parents really need the super-deluxe package with fifty copies in varying sizes to give away to Auntie Mabel and great-uncle Horace? If they simply want lots of copies, ask the photographer to sell you a disc of the photos instead, which should only cost around £15, and that way you can make as many copies as you like. 

Don't be tempted to buy just one photo and then copy it - this will breach the photographers' copyright and could land you in court.

An obvious alternative to professional photographs is simply to take your own camera. Taking photos outside the venue is usually free, although inside the venue it may be banned.

Now to think about the other associated costs;


Although the car may be more convenient, the soaring costs of petrol can make it far more economical to travel by train, especially if you book in advance.

Just don't forget to take advantage of any rail cards that you can (for instance Young Persons for those under 25, Senior for those over 60 or a Family card for up to 4 adults and 4 children).

And watch out for booking fees. The Trainline, for example, can add on an extra £5.50 in charges at the end of a booking, although you can get 2% off your ticket by booking through cashback wesbites like Quidco.

I prefer, however, as it does not charge any booking fees and will send you your ticket by first class post for free.


If the graduation ceremony is early in the morning, or your family will be travelling a long way, they may need to stay overnight.

Most universities offer up their halls of residence facilities for a reasonable rate. But at this late stage in the year, you may find these guest rooms are already booked up. If they're not, it's probably because a budget hotel will be cheaper. So check the prices of local bed and breakfasts before you book. If you team up with a friend, and their family, you may be able to negotiate a discount.

Celebratory Meal

Many families traditionally celebrate after the event with a meal, which in itself can cost more than everything else put together.

Again, it's best to book ahead so that you don't end up in the most expensive place because everywhere else is booked up. Use sites like Toptable to get discounts when you book.

Alternatively, try to head for somewhere that does meal deals. And if your graduation ceremony takes place before midday or in the middle of the week, look out for a posh restaurant that has cheaper weekday/lunch menus.

If you have any reward points, for example on a Nectar card, this might also be the perfect opportunity to visit a participatory restaurant and use them up.

And finally...

The Graduation Present

Although not strictly an essential, many parents and families want to get you a little something. Instead of splashing out on an expensive gift you don't need, ask them to make a deposit into a tax-free ISA. With all your student debt, this will no doubt come in handy at some point soon - and ensure you have a good start to the harsh realities of post-University life!

Happy Graduation!

More: Why Your Student Debt Will Cost More This Year | Cut Your Interest Payments Down To Zero


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