Graduations are a memorable and exciting time. For some, graduation symbolizes the next step in life, a moving on from “learning” into “doing.” For others, this important ceremony represents challenges tackled and odds overcome. Whatever the reason, that graduation—whether from high school, college, or any other program—is meaningful to you, congratulations on your achievement.

You may have heard whispers from family about planning a party for you, or you may even be in charge of planning a celebration yourself. Understanding the finances of a graduation ceremony can be tough, since you can expect to pay money for a celebration, but you’ll also probably be receiving money from family and friends as a gift. You don’t really know if you’ll receive enough to cover the cost of the party—or maybe you want to keep all that money for something else entirely, like paying off debt or paying a deposit on an apartment.

So how does someone make sure they’ve got the financial aspects surrounding a graduation ceremony covered? First, they’ll need to understand how much a graduation party costs, then they’ll need to consider how much they might have to fund it and whether the grad will be contributing too.

On average, a graduation party costs about $985. Don’t panic, though! If you want to go all-out, plenty of venues will let you throw a celebration bash the likes of which your whole town has never seen. Or, if that $900+ seems far too excessive, know that saving money and having a killer party don’t have to be two separate things.

When thinking about how much it will cost to host a graduation party, consider things like:

  • How many people are attending? Fewer means a lower food bill, and if they’re close friends, you might not even need to spend money on invitations, relying on word of mouth instead.
  • Where will the party be? Renting out a space is more expensive (but sometimes more convenient) than hosting a party in your backyard or a public park.
  • Are others graduating too? Those looking to save money might consider sharing grad parties—maybe the grad can celebrate alongside a best friend.
  • How far in advance are you planning? If you know your party date ahead of time, consider stocking up on things like plates and utensils during seasonal sales. If you book venues ahead of the graduation season (which is typically June), you may pay less and have more options.

Those who put a lot of the effort in by themselves using homemade food and just a few decorations, like flowers and balloons, might be able to pull together an awesome graduation party for $500 or less. Reserving a restaurant for a private party will likely put you over $1k, and higher-end celebrations like country clubs that provide a buffet, entertainment/band, and bar service could see costs climb as high as $6,000 or more.

In the end, there is no “right type” of party—it’s up to each person!

Without a doubt, the most common gift received by grads at their graduation celebrations is money. Family and friends often contribute cash to fund things like the grad’s textbooks (if a high schooler is moving on to college) or a security deposit (if a college grad is moving out). LendEDU surveyed recent college graduates to find out more about whether or not they received money as a gift.

Almost half (48 percent of all graduates received monetary gifts. However, this number could be even higher, because 16.7 percent of respondents didn’t feel comfortable saying whether they were given money or not.

Of those who did receive money, the average amount received totaled $1847.44. That’s not an insignificant amount of money—but most grads aren’t going to be putting that directly into the cost of their graduation party.

When faced with how to spend their gifted money, grads generally tended to agree:

  • The number one priority (28 percent of graduates) was to save that money for when they really needed it.
  • In close second (25 percent of students) was paying off debt (student loans mostly, with almost 60 percent of students claiming this need, followed by credit card debt at 28 percent.
  • 20% of students thought it would be best to invest their gifted money to watch it grow for later, most commonly in an online brokerage account (33 percent) or via financial adviser (32 percent).
  • Almost 12 percent of students needed that money right away to find a place to stay, like a house or apartment.
  • The rest of the students surveyed (5 percent or less in each of three categories) planned to spend their money on something they really wanted, travel, or use it for other expenses.

The finances of a graduation ceremony can be tricky, because it’s likely that money will both be coming in and going out. But that celebration can be as grand or as minor as the grad wishes, and they may even receive a monetary gift to make their next steps just a little bit more comfortable.