With simple folds, some tape and decorative accents, you can give your grad a beautiful and useful gift that will last longer – though perhaps not much longer! – than a traditional flower lei.


  • Dollar bills in any denomination, the crisper the better
  • Double-sided tape
  • Embroidery thread or other thin string
  • Ribbon
  • Beads (optional)
  • Colorful construction paper (optional)

money lei materials

Begin by folding all the dollar bills length-wise to make a crease, then flatten them back out.

Next, fold all bills accordian-style, taking care to make sure the width of the folds is even throughout each bill and from one dollar to the next. Consistency is key!

money lei folded dollars

At this point in the project, you can also fold any colored paper you plan to use in the lei; you may have to trim papers to the same size as the dollars. We love the idea of incorporating a grad’s school colors into the lei!

Once all bills and papers are folded, create the “wheels” that will make up the lei. Take a folded dollar and, folding along the initial crease, bring the ends together and fasten with double-sided tape.

money lei flowers

Then fan out the other side of the dollar and tape the ends together too, forming a wheel. Create as many wheels as you plan to use.

money lei flowers

Now it’s time to put everything together! Start by doubling up a long length of embroidery thread, then tying a knot to create a loop about half an inch to an inch in length. You can slip the loop onto your toe or another stationary object while creating the lei.

money lei knot

Take a dollar wheel, pull each string through an opening in the wheel and double knot to secure.

Tip: Tape the ends of the string to reduce fraying.

money lei ends

money lei stringing

You’re on a roll now – keep adding dollar wheels until you’ve reached the desired length of the lei, incorporating colored paper wheels and beads as you like. At the end of the lei, create a loop that mirrors the one you created at the beginning, then knot to secure the lei. Cut a length of ribbon, pull it through each loop and tie a bow; it can be adjusted by the wearer the day of graduation.

money lei

Et voila! A gift your grad will love. For the advanced lei makers, try different origami folds; flowers and butterflies are some of the favorites we’ve seen.

Have you seen or created a money lei? We would love to hear about it in the comments below.

Grads love cash, but they will always remember a heartfelt gift on this important day. Visit our Graduation Gifts page for the perfect keepsake to add.