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DIY Graduation Gift: The College Survival Kit.

Updated on July 24, 2016

The Problem: Being Broke Makes Gift Giving A Challenge

For those of you who don't know me, if there is ever the option to "Do-It-Myself," I tend to go for it! I also have a passion (and need) for saving money so whenever I can DIY something to save on costs it's like a super bonus double :)

As a recent college grad on a modest news writing "salary," it's hard to shake that cloud of doom that hangs over all special occasions - graduations, engagements, baby showers, etc.

The cloud of doom - How am I going to afford the gift?

Good news people: you don't have to go broke in order to celebrate along with your loved ones. You CAN be excited about that wedding invitation rather than instantly stressed about how many weeks you'll have to survive on ramen noodles alone in order to afford something on the registry.

The Solution: Do It Yourself!

This particular Do-It-Yourself project was inspired by a very special occasion. My little brother had officially completed his high school years, making me the proud older sister of a college-bound graduate! Proud and broke sister, that is.

As his gradation date approached (along with the power bill, rent, car payment, and health insurance premium) I was desperate for a way to show him how proud I am of his accomplishments despite my very limited means.

I knew it was time to get creative. So I grabbed my measly couple of bucks and headed out shop around and see what I could come up with..

The Creation: "The College Kit"

The Supplies

1. A 12 pack of Ramen Noodles - $2.27 at Walmart

If possible, try your best to find one like the one pictured, which comes in a in cardboard container (this comes in handy later on in the "building stage.")

2. Tape and/or Glue – If you don’t have them: $1-$2 at Walmart

As you can see, the scotch tape is clearly visible in mine, which I later went back and changed as it isn’t the prettiest means of holding things in place. Best case scenario is a hot glue gun, but plain old Elmer’s actually worked just fine as well.

3. Ping Pong/ Table Tennis Balls - $3.78 at Walmart

I used 6 on my project, however it is up to you and what you feel looks best. If you are lucky, you will come across some school-colored ping pong balls J

4. 12-24 Solo Cups - $1 at the Dollar Tree

I went with classic red, however a friend of mine who recently recreated the project for her cousin, a future Florida Gator, had the awesome idea to alternate between Orange and Blue for each level and it turned out fantastic! They make plastic cups n pretty much every color these days so I would definitely suggest giving that a try :-D

5. Ribbon - $1-$3 at Walmart

Bonus Points for school-themed colors!

6. Index Cards - $0.48 per pack at the Dollar Tree

I used 4 packs of 3” x 5” index cards in a square for min, I wouldn’t suggest getting cards any bigger than 4” x 6” to maintain the “pyramid” shape

7. Four Mini Liquor Bottles - $2-$3 at the Liquor Store

I’ve actually gotten a little backlash for this one..but come on people let’s not be naive here. They're going to college...They've probably already had a drink or two in high school. However, the inclusion of liquor is of course optional!

Have any suggestions for a liquor-less top tier? I’d love to add a list of alternatives – please feel free to comment at the bottom of the article if you have something in mind and I will add it :)

Got It All? Let's Do This.

Reader Opinion:

Would you ever use a DIY for a special occasion?

See results

The Process

Here's a step-by-step guide for putting together your "College Survival Kit"

Step One: Ramen Swirl

Make a little swirly type thing with the Ramen packets.. This will be your bottom layer and a newfound food source for the recipient. Glue or tape packets together to make sure this shape holds for a solid "foundation."

Step Two: Recycle and Platform

This is where the cardboard from the Ramen packs comes into play. Cut out a circle to tape/glue onto the top of your Ramen. This will be your platform for level 2

If you did not find the 12 pack with cardboard, no worries. Any cardboard or cardstock will do -grab a shoe box or a piece of poster board and you should be just fine :)

Step Three: Ridin' Solo

This one is pretty self explanatory. Attach 4 stacks of cups face down to the platform in a square.

I did stacks of 4 cups to make mine a little taller. Add a few ping pong balls for detail.

Step Four: A Level That Actually Has to Do With School

Use another cardboard cutout as a platform then tape together your 4 packs of index cards in a square and set on top. Place ping pong balls in crevices as you see fit. :)

College isn't all about cheap dinners and beer pong - gotta get some studying in don't they?

Step Five: Shameless Endorsement of Underage Drinking

Lastly, Add your four liquor bottles to the top of your index cards. I used hot glue for this, but I'm sure strong tape or a good amount of elmer's glue will work as well.

Tie on some bows with your school -spirited ribbon, add a few more ping pong balls, and you are all done!

Not bad for Under $20 and 20 minutes huh?

Wahlah! Your Masterpiece is Complete

Tie on some bows for festivity (I used FSU colored ribbon for school spirit), add any last decorative details, and BOOM. You've got yourself a thoughtful, creative, and useful graduation gift that any college bound kid will appreciate!

The Best Part: you only spent $15

Why DIY Gifts Are Just Plain Better

  1. Your loved ones care about you more than any present. They don't want you to go broke in order to avoid showing up empty handed at their baby shower/birthday party/graduation celebration.
  2. "It's the thought that counts" - as cliche' as it may sound - is a true statement. Knowing that someone put in the time, thought, and creativity to make something just for you makes you feel special. A handmade, well thought out gift is guaranteed to bring out a lot more warm fuzzies than a gift picked off a list along with the rest of your presents
  3. You will stand out! Your gift will be creative, unique, and unexpected. A refreshing change for the couple unwrapping their 100th predictable wedding gift right from the registry. People. Love. Surprises. Why add to the pile of store-bought onesies when you can make a diaper-passifiar-bottle pyramid that will be remembered years later?

Add Your Creation To the Page!

I hope you all enjoyed my tutorial! I would love to see some of your own creations and possibly post a few on the page for reader inspiration :)

If you have made your own DIY "College Survival Kit" and would like to share, please email me a photo at



1Abc Directory

Poll: Typical Gift Expenditure

Over $200
Graduation Gift
24 votes (12%)
61 votes (31%%)
52 votes (26%)
27 votes (14%)
21 votes (10%)
11 votes (6%)
Weddng Gift
19 votes (10%)
26 votes (13%)
43 votes (22%)
53 votes (27%)
25 votes (13%)
28 votes (14%)
The Results of a 200 person poll asking typical gift expenditure for two different special occasions: A wedding and and a graduation celebration.


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