It's graduation month in Grand Junction and inquiring minds want to know what an appropriate amount is to spend on a graduation gifts.

This can be a tough time for people who are financially strapped. Maybe this is you.

You want to honor a friendship and bestow a gift or cash on your friend's graduating senior, but you've had extra doctor bills, put new tires on the SUV, traveled out of town on a family emergency, and you've recently had to buy birthday presents for one or more of your own kids. Money is tight. What do you do?

There's a sense of obligation to do something, and, perhaps, a genuine desire to give a gift. But,  you don't want to insult your friends or have them thinking you're a cheapskate. It would be embarrassing to explain to them your shortage of cash.

If you honestly can not afford to give a graduation gift, don't do it. There's already too much obligation in the world. Get a nice card, write some heartfelt words and call it good. If it costs you a friendship or you're looked down upon, then there wasn't much of a friendship there anyway. You don't owe them an explanation.

If you are planning to buy a graduation gift, the folks at Love to Know have offered some general guidelines you might find helpful.

Of course, a lot depends on your relationship to the graduate, but Make College Count says for siblings an appropriate amount would be $15-$30.  For aunts, uncles, and grandparents, an appropriate amount would be between $20 and $50. More distant relatives or just friends can give as little as $15 and feel just fine about their gift.

For college graduates, close family members commonly give in excess of $100. However, for more casual friends and acquaintances, I personally believe the general guidelines for high school graduates works just fine here as well. Any cash gift should be greatly appreciated, but you can make the determination on whether or not any gift is necessary at all.

Just because you received a graduation announcement,  you should not feel obligated to give a gift. Do it because you want to.