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.