Stuffing cash in an envelope in lieu of buying a gift often gets a bad rap.
But let’s be real: Who couldn’t use some extra cash? You’ve never heard of anyone trying to return a cash gift because it wasn’t their size or didn’t suit their taste.
And giving money doesn’t have to be impersonal or boring if you use one of these fun money gift ideas.
19 Creative Money Gift Ideas
Stop stressing about gifts during the holidays or other special occasions. Give the thing everyone is sure to love — cash!
1. All Boxed Up
Mimic the look of a traditional gift by putting some cash in a box, wrapping it and topping it off with a bow. A small box, like the kind jewelry comes in, works perfectly. But if you’re a jokester, put the cash in a small box and put that box in a medium-sized box and put that box in a larger box. All the unboxing will be like opening up nesting dolls — but with a monetary reward at the end.
2. Money Origami
Turn dollar bills into hearts, butterflies or cranes with some crafty folding skills. With origami, you can turn paper currency into so many different objects or designs. The Spruce Crafts shares nine origami projects for you to transform dollars into creative money gift ideas. You can use bills of any denomination.
3. Money Photo Book
Turn a small photo album into a creative money gift by slipping dollar bills into the slots of each page instead of photos. You may choose to include prompts, such as “treat yourself to something sweet” or “pick out a fun nail polish color.”
4. Framed Money
Put a dollar bill (ideally a $20 bill or higher) into a picture frame with instructions to “break in case of emergency.” No one says the “emergency” can’t be a new pair of shoes!
5. Money in a Pizza Box
Special delivery! Serve up some real dough by overlapping dollar bills into the shape of a circle to resemble a pizza pie. To carry out this cash gift idea, buy an empty pizza box on Amazon or from a restaurant supply store.
6. Money in a Candy Box
Another money gift idea is to put different dollar bills into an empty box of assorted chocolates, folding or arranging each bill in a unique way. Your gift recipients can use the money to “treat” themselves to something nice.
7. Money Cake
Similar to a diaper cake given to expecting parents at a baby shower, a money cake is formed by rolling dollar bills into cylinders and then arranging them vertically to form a circle, stacking a smaller circle of rolled-up dollars on top to create what resembles a tiered cake. This fun gift idea is great for birthdays but can also be used as a way to gift cash on other special occasions.
8. Money Roll
Gift recipients will have fun with this money gift idea. To create a money roll, lay out a line of dollar bills and tape them end to end. Tape the first of the connected bills to an empty toilet paper roll and roll the money up.
9. Money Lei
Making a necklace out of dollar bills is definitely a creative way to gift money. Inspired by the Hawaiian lei, a money lei is a necklace made out of dollar bills shaped into flowers. This YouTube video from the Classy Cheapskate shows you how to make one.
10. Money Wreath
This money gift idea is particularly festive. You can make a mini money wreath to give to someone on your Christmas wish list. This project requires 15 dollar bills, but you can mix different denominations of bills if you choose. Watch this video from NProkuda Origami for the steps to make one.
11. Money Tree
Another creative way to gift money around the holidays is to fold a dollar bill up like a Christmas tree. This tutorial from Curbly shows you how to do it in just eight steps.
12. Money Bouquet
Everyone loves getting a bouquet of flowers. Make your bouquet even more special by creating the flowers out of dollar bills. This tutorial video from Stanford Federal Credit Union shows you how using four dollar bills per flower. To complete the bouquet, add artificial stems and leaves, which you can purchase from a craft store.
13. Money Notepad
Wow your loved ones by creating a notepad out of money. This is a fun gift idea for kids or teens — just make sure to tell them the notepad is made from real dollar bills and not fake ones they can write on! The blog What Mommy Does gives step-by-step instructions for how to create a money notepad. All you’ll need is a stack of crisp dollar bills, a piece of cardboard, a paper trimmer or scissors, two small binder clips, some padding compound adhesive and a glue brush.
14. Money in a Balloon
Putting dollar bills inside a balloon is a fun idea for giving money. To do so, roll up a dollar bill and stuff it inside a deflated latex balloon. You can also add confetti if you’d like. Then inflate the balloon, preferably using a hand pump instead of your mouth. Tie the balloon closed and give it to your gift recipient with instructions to pop for a nice surprise.
15. Piggy Bank With a Cash Gift
A piggy bank is a great personal finance gift for kids — but don’t leave them with a $0 starting balance. Add some bills and coins to the bank before wrapping it up and encourage them to get in the habit of saving money.
16. Scavenger Hunt
Send your loved one on a scavenger hunt with a real treasure — money! — waiting for them at the end. Do a Google search for scavenger hunt clue ideas if you’re not able to come up with your own.
17. Pay Off a Bill
This is a money gift idea that is sure to be well appreciated. If you have the account information for the bill, you could pay it off as a surprise. That’s a nice idea for a romantic partner, roommate, adult child or parent. However, you can also send a note inside a card promising to pay a specific upcoming bill as a gift — and forward the gift recipient the money for it once they tell you the amount.
18. Contribute to a 529 Plan
Make college more affordable for a special kid in your life by making a financial contribution to their 529 college savings plan. The child doesn’t have to be your dependent for you to add money to their account. This would make a nice gift for a grandchild, niece, nephew or friend’s kid — as well as your own.
19. Gift Card
We couldn’t end this list without mentioning one of the most traditional ways to gift money to someone: a gift card. Select gift cards from your loved ones favorite stores. Many retailers offer gift cards with special designs for holidays or other occasions.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.