DIY Graduation Money Lei

Last weekend I had the privilege of heading up to LA to celebrate my sister’s great accomplishment–graduating from college! She even graduated on time, more than I can say for myself!

Something that’s really common in Southern California is that graduates often receive Hawaiian leis to wear with their robes. Usually they are real flowers, although I have seen artificial ones, candy leis, and money leis! Instead of buying a lei I decided to make one myself combining candy and money.

While I was working on this project, Doug asked if this was a common tradition. I realized that in all the graduations I’ve attended in Kansas– I never saw a grad receive a lei! Usually if they get flowers, it’s in a bouquet. I guess this gift has become more widespread in California because there are a lot of Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders living here. I’ve seen leis given to grads by family and friends at every graduation I’ve been to here in CA, and I love this tradition!

Money Lei Supplies

To make this product, I used two long chains of candy, tape, money, and ribbon. If you don’t have access to cute Japanese candy like I had, you can make a candy chain with any kind of candy by following this video. San Diego locals: I got the candy chains at Marukai Market on Convoy St.

To make your own–here are the steps!

  • I taped the chains of candy together using packing tape to make them into a necklace.
  • Cut the ribbon into lengths you feel comfortable tying into small, tight bows. My pieces of ribbon were about ten inches long.
  • I decided what color pattern I would tie my bows in–this is an extra step since I ran out of burgundy ribbon… I had to sub in some raffia in a couple of places. I ended up going with two burgundies, then one raffia (repeated x 4). Making a pattern looks really nice though, and you could use school colors!
  • I double-knotted the ribbon between candy pieces first, before adding the money, just to make sure it was tight. I did all of this at once, then it was time to add the money!
  • To make the dollar fans: First, you want to fold all of your bills into a tight accordion.

Dollar Accordion

  • Then, attach this to the lei by tying a bow around the center of the accordion. Make sure the accordion is “standing up” from the candy at a 90-degree angle, and that your bows are very tight and secure!

Money Lei Process

  • Finally, create a fan by opening up the accordion and taping the edges of the money together. The nicer your money is, the nicer the fan will be. Try to get crisp bills!

Money Fan from Back

Money Fan from Front

This project took me a little over an hour, after I had gathered all of my materials. This is my own twist on the regular money lei. If you want to see a “normal” version accompanied by a how-to, check out this video. I used the video as a resource as far as figuring out how to create my dollar fans–I think he uses over $50! Full disclosure: I used $20. Ten 1-dollar bills and two 5-dollar bills, which meant I created 12 fans. You can make a lei with any amount you want!

I know, I know… you’re dying to see the graduate with the finished product!

Steph's Graduation

Congratulations, Stephanie! Your family is so proud of you!


Dorm Room Decor

Hey, youngster. I know your graduation party is coming up and you’re gonna have some money burning a hole in your pocket. Did you know that dorm rooms are boring, personality-less spaces? With white walls and tile floors? Well, they are… unless you use your graduation money to spruce things up! Better yet, stretch your dollars as far as they can go by shopping exclusively in the clearance section! 

That’s right, I placed a random and completely unnecessary parameter on my inspiration board. Everything pictured is on sale at Urban Outfitters. RIGHT NOW! Which means that it won’t be terribly long until these links are obsolete, I admit this. I believe that you, future Dean’s List scholar, can figure out how to do the same with other clearance objects in the future. (Note: I was not perked by UO to shop specifically on the one site. I just felt like it.)

All of these items can be pictured for less than $200 total.

  • Save yourself a ton of money and stuff your current well-worn comforter into this new Diamond Stamp Duvet Cover instead of buying a whole new set. Now you have more money for video games textbooks. $29.99.
  • This sweet cream-colored crochet curtain can help add a bit of warmth and texture to your sterile white abode. $39.99.
  • You know what’s expensive? Rugs. You know what’s cold? Tile. Use this budget-priced 60″ round rug (a pretty good size) to protect your delicate feet from the icy floor. $39.99
  • Think outside the box. This cute bike basket can be strapped around a wood slat on your standard-issue dorm bed and act as a bedside table, since finding a bedside table 3+ feet tall is… not easy. What? You haven’t lofted your bed yet? Kid, that is the surefire way to create more floor space for hanging out and watching Netflix doing homework. Get on it. $34.99.
  • Lastly, get a couple of cool prints to put on the wall. The light one comes already framed–isn’t that nice? $9.99 and $19.99.

Okay, now that I think about it… I want all of this stuff for my place! 

Please share with your favorite high school grad.