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Graduation Gift Idea: DIY Money Lei

May 17, 2019 — 5 min read

With the projected number of high school graduates at around 2.5 million for 2019, and approximately 3 million projected to receive Associates or Bachelor's degrees, chances are you know someone who is graduating this year. Graduation notices and party invites have probably started rolling into your mailbox by now. What should you give the graduate? Depending on how well you know the graduate, this is a difficult decision. For those who have no idea what to do, I've found an easy and popular choice: a Money Lei.

Why Give Graduates a Lei?

Leis are traditionally symbolic of affection toward the recipient. If you've ever been to Hawaii, you probably received a lei upon arrival or witnessed someone else receiving one. That's because leis are commonly presented when someone is arriving or leaving. Therefore, it makes perfect sense as a graduation gift, since the graduate is leaving their existing educational environment and likely arriving at a new milestone in their life. Floral or botanical elements are the most common lei, but it's becoming more popular to use unconventional materials as well.

Why Should I Give Money Instead of Flowers?

There's no specific reason why you should give one type of lei over another. Floral leis are very popular, but you'll most likely have to order it ahead of time, and they can be expensive. There's also a chance the recipient is allergic to pollen so they might not appreciate your gift as much. Money leis are thoughtful, allergy-free, and allow more customization for the graduate's school colors. Today I'm going to show you how to make a money lei, step by step. Aside from the money itself, everything I used came from the dollar store, so this is a relatively inexpensive gift.


  • Construction paper (colors to match graduate's school)
  • Tape
  • Beaded necklace (Right now the dollar store has graduation-specific ones, but year-round they have various colors of plain ones.)
  • Stack of money (I used 20 $1 bills.)
  • Scissors
money lei materials


  1. Cut the construction paper into pieces the same size as the money. I used two colors, and cut 10 of each, to supplement the 20 bills I was using. If you have access to a paper cutter instead of scissors, this step is very fast. cut construction paper
  2. Grab your stack of money and get ready to fold! Fold a bill in half lengthwise, then unfold it. This will make it easier to work with later in the process. fold money in half
  3. Fold width-wise with accordion pleats. You'll wind up having seven folds per piece.fold accordion style
  4. Fold the accordion in half with the crease you made at the beginning. The money will look like a little fan at this point. folded money like a fan
  5. Repeat this will all of the bills. Try not to roll around in the pile of money like Scrooge McDuck. Or go for it, I'm not one to judge.pile of folded money
  6. Repeat steps 2-5 with the piles of construction paper. pile of folded paper
  7. Use a small piece of tape to attach one end of the money (or paper) to itself, then wrapping the other two ends around the necklace, tape the other sides together as well. This will make the money into a flower-like shape. This photo is without the necklace so you can see what shape you're aiming for. taped dollar
  8. Repeat this process, alternating money and construction paper, until you have the whole lei covered. Here's what it looks like with a few pieces of each. lei progress pic
  9. Complete your lei using all the pieces of paper and the money. If you have a little extra space on the necklace, you can add cutouts of the graduate's school mascot. finished money lei


  • How much money should you use? That depends on a few factors. First, how much do you want to spend on the graduate? Second, how long do you want to be folding little pieces of paper? Folding $20 and 20 pieces of construction paper took me the better part of my morning today, so make sure you have adequate time for whatever amount you decide to use.
  • Although my supplies photo shows double-stick tape in it, I discovered that it doesn't hold the money together very well. I switched to normal clear tape because I didn't want money flying off the lei before it even made it around the graduate's neck.
  • These gifts are great for other occasions, not just graduation. Any occasion for celebration would be a great time to give a money lei. Who doesn't love receiving money? Plus, these look cooler than just handing over a $20 bill. The recipient will know that you spent time working on their gift, and aren't just throwing money at them because you don't know what else to give.

Did you like this idea for a graduation gift? Can we interest you in some ideas we have about mortgage financing as well? Fill out the form below or contact us today!

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