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A Great Way to Give Money at Graduation

Woman wearing a money lei with gold and red accents along with her graduation gown.

It's graduation time at our house and I wanted to make something that would make my high school senior feel special at the actual graduation, but also be useful afterward. This money lei fits the bill (get it? Bill, like dollar bill?)

This is an easy project with a lot of bang for your buck (last pun, I promise). It looks impressive around the graduate's neck, AND it's a great gift because it's just straight up cash.

You can personalize it with their school colors or their favorite colors, and the neck strap is made of ribbon so it's actually comfortable to wear while they take all the many pictures.

Let's jump right in!

Watch the video tutorial here:


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  • Cash – I used $1 bills and needed 36 total.

  •  Scotch Removable tape – this stuff holds well but is very easy to remove from the money. You want the person you make the lei for to actually be able to use the money, right?

  • And if you don’t have a tape dispenser you definitely need one in your life.

  • Yarn or string – I used #3 weight cotton yarn

  • 7/8-inch ribbon for the neck

  • 14 mm beads in the school colors – I needed 11 beads total and I bought them from Hobby Lobby.

  • Two pieces of colored cardstock in the school’s colors cut to about 6.14 x 2.61 inches (or you can just trace around the dollar bills and cut the paper to the same size). I needed two of each of my two colors.


  • 28-gauge jewelry wire for use in threading the beads and bills onto the yarn/string. This is VERY helpful.

  • Krazy glue or hot glue

  • Lighter to lightly burn the cut ends of the ribbon so it doesn’t fray.


Get all of your pieces ready for the money lei:

Hands folding a dollar bill into an accordion fold.

Fold the bills and the pieces of colored cardstock. Starting at one of the short ends, fan fold/accordion fold the bill or cardstock.

Hands folding a dollar bill that has been folded into a fan/accordion shape in half.

Next, bend the folded bill in half the long way.

Hands folding a dollar bill into a circle shape.

Slightly open your folded fan so two of the ends are visible. Tape the two ends together with the removable tape. Then move the other two sides together to get a circle and tape these.

If you are using some colored cardstock pieces, fold them the same way you folded the bills, but use regular tape.

Measure and cut about 140 inches of yarn/string. You need enough for the lei to fit around the person’s head and hang down far enough, and then double that amount before cutting the yarn.

Hands using jewelry wire in half and inserting yarn into the wire loop.

If, like me, you chose beads because they were the perfect color and the hole in the center isn’t large enough to easily thread through the beads, I have a trick for you. Cut a piece of 24-gauge jewelry wire to about three inches. Place the yarn end into the center of the wire and bend it around the yarn so the two ends meet. Press the wire around the yarn so it holds it in place. Repeat this process for the other yarn end.

Hands using a piece of wire to insert yarn into a red bead.

Now you can easily thread the small ends of the wire through the beads and dollar bills.

Once you have all the pieces ready, you can begin stringing them.

Leaving a small loop of yarn/string about 1/2 inch long at one end, make a knot. This will prevent anything from falling off after you have strung it on.

I like to start and end the lei with a bead. One at a time, thread each wire/yarn end through the first bead and move it down to rest on the knot you made.

Hands threading a piece of yarn through a folded dollar using jewelry wire.

Next up, use the wire to thread each end of the yarn through the openings on each side of a folded and taped bill. After every four bills, I put on another bead. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

After seven sections of bills and beads, I threaded on four pieces of folded cardstock, alternating my two colors. Then I repeated the bills and beads section two additional times. This made the lei long enough at about 25 inches long. I finished with a bead and knotted the yarn just after the last bead.

Cut your yarn but leave tails that are about 3 inches long.

Attach the neck ribbon to the money lei:

Hands inserting red and white ribbon into a yarn loop at the end of a lei made of dollar bills.

Thread the end of your ribbon through the loop you made at the start of your yarn/string and then knot it.

Hands using scissors to cut red and white ribbon on an angle.

Trim the ribbon end. I like to leave a small tail because I like how it looks.

Hands using a lighter to burn the cut edge of piece of red and white ribbon to prevent it from fraying.

Lightly run the flame from a lighter over the cut end of the ribbon. This melts it just enough to keep it from fraying.

Measure about 10 inches (or whatever length you think will fit around the back of the graduate’s neck) and knot the ribbon to the other end of the lei using the yarn tails. I tried it on my own neck to get a feel for where it would sit on a person's chest and how long I wanted the ribbon to be.

Once again, trim the ribbon and burn the edge of the ribbon.

Hands applying Krazy Glue to a knot of ribbon on a lei made of dollar bills to prevent it from opening.

Use Krazy Glue or hot glue on the knots of ribbon/string to make sure they don’t come loose. We wouldn’t want any of the money falling off, right?

Now you're ready to give a gift they will appreciate at the graduation as well as after it!

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Happy crafting!


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