About That Change Jar . . .

change-jarSome of you may have noticed that in my Feel Good Friday posts (both here and previously on The View From the Treehouse) I’ve noted how much we put into our change/$1 bill jar. It has fluctuated from a few dollars to more than $10 some weeks, but it’s been an easy and painless way to add to our savings. In the past five weeks we’ve put way $50.82; since last November we’ve saved $736.00 (and some change).

My mother always kept a jar of pennies in the kitchen that she called her “trip jar.” Whenever the pennies filled the jar, she would roll them and turn them in at the bank. The money she saved from all those pennies went toward the break we took every afternoon when our family took a road trip. We always stopped somewhere for pie, or a sundae, or some other snack so my parents could have a rest and some coffee before hitting the road again. Saving pennies was a great idea for the time, but as costs started rising over the years pennies just weren’t going to cut it.

I later noticed that the nickel-and-dime amounts in our checking account seemed to drain our balance quickly. In one of those lightbulb moments I thought if that were true for my checkbook, then small amounts of money set aside should also add up quickly, so I started my own “trip jar.” At first all we saved were the odd coins we got from turning in bottles and cans, or that we found on the ground. The amount in our jar never seemed to grow all that much because we rarely used cash. I did save 100 yen coins for a year when we lived in Japan and ended up with several hundred dollars that I was able to use toward a trip to Hong Kong. It was eye-opening. The reason I was able to save so much? Cash was king in Japan – we didn’t use credit or debit cards there.

We seriously changed how we saved our change several years ago though when I wanted and needed to put away some serious $$$ for a Disney World trip for our family. One day I was reading a list of tips for saving toward a Disney vacation, and someone wrote about how they saved all their change and $1 bills. They paid for everything with cash, and if they used a debit card, they rounded up to the next $5.00 (for example, if the total was $33.29 they would round up the total to $35.00 and put away $2.71 in change). This person made a rule that neither change nor $1 bills would get spent – period. If they got any they were to immediately be put away. No exceptions.

And that’s what we’ve been doing ever since. We use cash these days, or round up whenever we use our debit card (and get lots raised eyebrows or questions from the cashiers over the small, strange amount of change we want back). We never spend any of our change or $1 bills, with the exception that at the farmers’ market we allow ourselves to use up to five $1 bills because we get so many back in change. All change or $1 bills immediately goes into a jar when we get home, and when we have $25 in $1 bills we bundle them and put them into our saving account; we roll our coins and put them away as well. We cash out small refund checks (less than $10) and put that money into our change jar, and we put in the money we get from recycling cans and bottle (everything gets recycled here in Hawai’i). Found money goes into the jar. We also occasionally set aside $5 bills, but we found that doing it regularly took too big of a bite out our budget.

My goal for this year was to save $800, but it’s pretty obvious at this point that we’ll exceed that, and we’ve set a goal of saving $2500 from change and $1 bills before we head out for our first travel adventure in the fall of 2018.

It really is a painless, easy way to save. We did learn through trial and error that rounding up or putting the change away needs to become a habit. But, once the habit is in place the “small stuff” adds up quickly.



6 thoughts on “About That Change Jar . . .

  1. My first husband saved all the coins in his pocket, and put them into a tall glass beer mug in our kitchen cabinet. When that filled up, he poured it into one of two popcorn tins we had. He had to use more than one because they got so heavy. He called it his “vacation fund”. After he died, they stayed in the garage for a couple of years until I had the “great garage clean up” a couple of summers ago. I planned a Saturday, informed my two kids and my new husband that they were all required to attend from 8:00 a.m. to whenever we finished, supplied breakfast and lunch, and we went at it. The further entice the kids out of bed, I told them they could split the proceeds of the tins – I figured there was about $250 – $300 in them. At the end of the day, they hauled them down to the grocery store and started pouring them into the Coinstar machine (they didn’t want to wait to go to the bank ha ha). They had half the grocery store guessing on the amount, and texted us to see what we thought. It turns out there was almost $700!!! They were two happy kids, and I was very happy because my garage was sparkling clean and organized. But it amazes me how fast it adds up, and I’m going to start again.


    1. Great story! I worked as a waitress back in the day, and one of my co-workers saved all her dimes. Just dimes. She almost filled one of those big water jugs in a couple of years and had hundreds of dollars. She was another great example of the power of saving the little stuff.


  2. I also have a change jar but it never has much because I hardly ever use cash. Don’t have a debit card and only one credit card. I mostly write checks. Old fashioned but it works for me


    1. That was true for us as well before we switched to cash and debit; we just never had much change. It worked for us too, and I have to admit the change over to debit/cash wasn’t always smooth, but we got there. And, now we get lots of change!


  3. I put all my change in a tin for Christmas and by December, there is usually $300+. Not bad considering I shop mainly with plastic. Here in Canada, we no longer have pennies and our $1 and $2 are coins so it adds up quickly.


    1. It really does add up more quickly than you might imagine.

      I used to feel very sentimental about our penny, but now find it somewhat of a nuisance and am leaning more to doing away with it. Japan has also moved to having smaller yen denominations in coins versus bills, but I don’t think they will ever do away with the $1 bill here (or the $5).


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