Table of Contents
New grads can easily find themselves overwhelmed by the responsibilities of post-college life, such as commuting to work, balancing the budget or staying fit. So, maybe skip the gift basket and give them a subscription that helps make adulthood more manageable. Here are the services we most recommend for grads who are just starting out, including a few that are free to try.
Many navigation apps can help a grad find their way around an unfamiliar town, but Waze might offer the best way. The free service’s crowdsourced alerts can help drivers avoid construction or gridlock that isn’t always visible in competing apps, including Google Maps — its sibling. Tie-ins with streaming services like Spotify and TuneIn make it easier to soundtrack a lengthy trip without using separate apps. The ads that display while stopped aren’t ideal, but the sacrifice might be worthwhile if it helps a grad arrive on time for a new job.
If your grad relies on public transportation, Transit’s app is virtually a must-have. It provides detailed, real-time mass transit directions in hundreds of cities, letting riders know when to leave and which stops to take. More importantly, it’s integrated with alternative transportation options like shared bikes, scooters and Uber rides. The core app is free, but it’s worth paying $25 per year for a Royale subscription (if it isn’t offered for free by a local agency) to look up any transit line and future schedules.
Lyft Pink / Uber One
Ridesharing today is for more than just getting to parties or visiting family — for some, it may be the most effective way to get to work. In that light, a subscription to Lyft Pink or Uber One could easily be a welcome gift. Both $10-per-month services offer discounts on rides and food delivery as well as a handful of other perks, such as Lyft’s free priority pickups and Uber’s access to top-rated drivers. Either service is a good choice, although you’ll want to be sure there are plenty of drivers where your recipient lives.
Cloud storage and security
Apple One / Google One / Microsoft 365 Personal
Students can make do with a free cloud account or join a parent’s family plan, but there’s a good chance they’ll want a paid account of their own once they graduate. Thankfully, all the major platform creators have cloud service bundles that cover much of what they need. Apple One ($17 per month for Individual), Google One ($20 per year for Basic) and Microsoft 365 Personal ($70 per year) all deliver extra cloud storage as well as services you’re likely to use for entertainment, productivity and security.
The choice of service depends on what your grad is looking for. Apple One is, unsurprisingly, best for iPhone and Mac users — you get 50GB of iCloud storage, Apple Music, Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade. Google One, meanwhile, provides 100GB of shareable space, advanced Photos editing features and a VPN to secure your connection. Microsoft 365 Personal, meanwhile, is a big boost to productivity with Office apps, 1TB of storage and security tools like Windows Defender. While these bundles don’t cover every possible need, they can easily save money versus paying for each service on its own.
A VPN (virtual private network) can be extremely helpful for the security conscious. It can hide sensitive information from prying eyes and help access regional content that would normally be off-limits. There are many good VPNs, but our pick for a grad is ExpressVPN. While it’s not the cheapest at $100 per year, our security reporter Katie Malone says it’s extremely well-rounded. It’s easy to set up, works across many devices, includes a password manager, doesn’t log activity and is even gaming-friendly. Simply put, your ex-student is more likely to keep the VPN running regardless of what they’re doing.
Passwords are already a hassle in school, but they get worse once you leave — how is a grad supposed to remember all those new logins for utilities and other must-have services? That’s why we’re recommending 1Password. For $36 per year, it makes sign-ins easier on many of your devices. It can also store credit cards and other sensitive information. And importantly, 1Password is moving to passkeys to access its accounts. A grad won’t have to worry that someone will guess their master password and effectively have access to their entire digital life.
Buddy Premium / YNAB
It’s important to learn budgeting skills as a graduate, but it can sometimes be a pain to find the right tool — many people even settle for a spreadsheet. But a budgeting app can often provide extra features that a simple spreadsheet cannot. Nattkod’s Buddy Premium ($35 per year for iOS) and YNAB’s namesake app ($99 per year for Android and iOS) make it much easier to track spending and plan for the future. Both visualize expenses in an easy-to-understand way, making it clear just how much you have to spend each month.
Buddy is particularly helpful for sharing expenses with a partner or roommate, and you can even use an Apple Watch to enter data when you’re settling the bill at a restaurant. YNAB, meanwhile, is a good choice for grads saving up for long-term goals like vacations or that first new car.
To-do lists can help anyone stay organized, but the free options (such as Google Keep) might not cut it for a grad who suddenly has to juggle more than just classes. If that’s the case, they may appreciate a Todoist Pro subscription as a gift. While the free version already includes advanced features like filtering and labels, the $48 per year for Pro adds genuinely useful extras like reminders, automatic backups, more filters and larger 100MB file uploads. Throw in access across many platforms and it’s an easy choice for someone figuring out how to manage their personal and professional lives.
Graduates don’t have to stop learning just because they got their degrees. A subscription to Masterclass Individual may seem expensive at $180 per year, but it could easily help grads learn important personal and professional skills from (often famous) experts in different fields. They can perfect their cooking with Gordon Ramsay, or writing with Margaret Atwood. And importantly, this isn’t just about watching videos — pupils can follow a curriculum that involves finishing real projects. Skillshare ($168 per year) can be a better fit if a new grad primarily values creative skills, but Masterclass may be worth the outlay for honing life skills or simply indulging curiosity.
If you know a grad who has an iPhone and is eager to get fit, an Apple Fitness+ subscription is an easy gift. A relatively low $80 yearly outlay provides access to 12 workout types that cover a wide range of durations and skill levels that can fit into a busy schedule. There are even audio-only running and walking workouts for those who prefer to exercise outside. The service works best when paired with an Apple Watch, but that’s no longer necessary — an iPhone is all they need to participate.
Peloton’s equipment isn’t always a viable gift for a grad, but a subscription to its app certainly can be. The $13-per-month membership gives Android and iOS users access to Peloton’s well-known trainers as they guide you through a variety of workouts that even include bootcamps. This is also an ideal gift if your recipient prefers structure — there’s a range of programs that help develop skills, such as running marathons. Add community elements (such as seeing who’s participating in the same workout) and it can help newcomers stay committed.
Apple Music / Spotify
There’s a good chance the grad in your life wants to soundtrack their commute or work day, and a subscription to Apple Music ($99 per year) or Spotify Premium ($10 per month) should provide exactly what they’re looking for. Both services offer ad-free streaming and offline access to large song selections and well-curated playlists on many devices — you can listen to Apple Music on an Android phone, or play Spotify on your favorite game console.
The choice depends on a grad’s tastes. Apple Music clearly has an advantage for users heavily invested in Apple’s ecosystem, but it’s also best if you want lossless or spatial audio. Spotify, meanwhile, has a strong social element, broader device support (particularly for smart speakers),exclusive podcasts and a hard-to-beat library of niche playlists.
There’s a real possibility your giftee has already signed up for Amazon Prime Video or Netflix, but what if they want more? That’s where a Disney+ subscription might come in handy. The $110 per year no-ads plan ($8 per month with ads) provides access to a library that might not beat rivals in sheer quantity, but includes plenty of new and back-catalog material from Disney’s many huge franchises. Grads can see what The Mandalorian is all about, or catch up on the Marvel Cinematic Universe before the next big movie comes out.
YouTube TV has been subject to price creeps, but it’s still the best live TV streaming service for most people, including new graduates. The core $73 monthly plan offers over 100 channels, including multiple 24-hour news networks and live sports from ESPN. Add-ons bring networks like HBO, too. There’s far-ranging device support, and unlimited cloud DVR storage means a grad won’t have to miss a favorite show.