There are two things I love – walking for leisure and using exact change. I'll dig in my purse, wallet, cup holders – wherever I can – till I can find exact change. But funnily enough, I never used to pick it up off the ground on my walks.
At the beginning of last spring, though, I decided to pick up all the coins I saw on the ground. I placed a jar on my dresser, and every evening, I would empty the change that I had collected from off the ground (an impressive $3 a month) and from my purchases into that jar.
Tricks and Challenges
I eventually had to hide the jar because my husband and kids would beg me for money out of it to buy snacks.
As someone who loves using exact change for purchases, I struggled at every transaction to convince myself not to count out coins for the purchase. The tension was often so strong that I'd opt out of going to the store altogether. I only wanted to spend what I needed to, and not using exact change made me feel like I was spending more.
So instead, I would wait until I had emptied all the coins into my jar before going to the store.
Change Jar to the Rescue!
I pride myself on my strict budgeting skills, and every month, I make sure all of my dollars have a name attached to them. So when my good friend offered to take me golfing so that I could learn how to play, I was beside myself. The only problem? I hadn't budgeted for the eleven dollars that it was going to cost for me to play.
I agonized over switching things around in our family budget solely to appease my wish to learn to play golf. But then I remembered – the change jar.
So I dug it out of its private hiding place and poured it on the bed. I counted the pennies first, because, well… they’re pennies, and not fun to count. But five dollars later, I was happy I did. I'd saved a total of $15.65 in just over thirty days. I had made $15 dollars essentially by not spending money. Using that money, I went golfing and had a wonderful time. And when my cousin heard that I was golfing, he gave me some of his mother's – my great aunt's – old golf clubs.
Small Change, Big Lessons
I was more excited than ever about the possibilities. I'd always offered the advice to the adults in my class that spare change was a viable saving tool, but had never tested the theory. Now I knew for a fact that it worked, and I couldn't wait to start saving it again. Remember – I also picked up any money I walked past while out.
Three months later, I was averaging $15 a month in saved change.
In the beginning, I used it for fun things like golfing, manicures, and lunches with friends. But then I thought, what if I saved it and put it towards debt? So for the next three months, I saved it and added an extra $45 to my credit card payment.
The most exciting part for me was when my husband and kids took notice. My husband snatched up an empty gallon water container and started putting his spare change into it, too. My 10-year-old now picks up all the coins that he sees while out walking, even if it’s tails up.
Everyone in my house has a change jar, and there's stiff competition to see who can fill it the fastest. That one experiment of saving all of my change has led to throwing a little extra at our debt. And most importantly, it has everyone in my house excited about saving money.