Different cultures have different milestone birthdays, generally falling somewhere between 13 and 18. In the United States, although the "Sweet 16" is a hallmark year in many young women’s lives, the 18th birthday has long been important for members of both genders. It is at 18 that a person in the United States is considered a legal adult, able to partake in most adult activities that are closed off to children, and no longer a ward of their parents or the state. As a result, 18th birthday presents are often particularly special, and they should reflect this transitional time from adolescence into adulthood.
Many people turning 18 are also about to head out into the world on their own for the first time, either to college or to live independently. Great presents can take this into consideration, and highlight this new-found independence. At the same time, gifts that are practical can be welcome, giving the person celebrating his or her birthday something that he or she can use in starting a new life.
For example, if the person is heading to a new dorm life at college, 18th birthday presents may take the form of some sort of furniture or appliance for that new dorm. A couch, table, mini-fridge, cooking set, television, or any number of mid-sized gifts the person may not have already but will need can help celebrate this special day. Presents given on the 18th birthday are often more expensive than earlier presents, and they may be more so than those given for later birthdays, so gift givers should expect to spend a bit more than they normally would. At the same time, many excellent gifts in this vein can be found for those on a budget, simply by checking classifieds or visiting vintage or thrift stores in search of funky but hip décor.
Some people choose to purchase presents that somehow celebrate one of the new freedoms the celebrated person is gaining with his or her new age. In the United States many things cannot be sold to those under the age of 18, and some of these things might be purchased by friends as a way of celebrating. Lottery tickets, for example, cannot usually be purchased by those under the age of 18, so a cheap and fun present can be a collection of scratcher tickets. The sale of both cigarettes and pornography is generally prohibited to those under 18 years of age as well, so many people choose to buy an assortment of these items as a bawdy, gag gift. Similarly, a more costly present could include a trip to go to a casino.
Finally, as turning 18 is a time of great transition, gifts to celebrate the day can offer an opportunity to look back at the life being left behind. People with a skill for scrapbooking may wish to compile a scrapbook that looks back at the person's life, and those with computer skills might set up a multimedia presentation highlighting the past. If prepared with love and care, this can make for a keepsake that the person celebrating a birthday will treasure forever.