Simple change

30 August 2007

A good way of building an emergency fund, or to save for other things, is to have a change jar. “Change” can be coins or notes. I usually classify everything in the coin section of my purse as change, even if it’s folded notes. If I come home with change in my purse, it usually goes into my change jar.

When you keep a change jar, never take from it, don’t count it and keep it out of sight. Only count it when you are going to transfer the money into a bank account or to pay off debt. By not counting you give yourself a nice surprise when you do count it. It’s more of a moveable mystery if you don’t know how much you have. Life should have some secrets, let this be one of them.

You can also add to your jar by adding unexpected gifts or savings. For instance, if you have gift money given to you, add it, give up the coffee you buy on the way to work and add that extra $20 a week, give up smoking and add the money you would have spent on cigarettes. If cigarettes are around $14 and you smoke a packet a day, you'll save over $5000 in a year by giving up and saving that money.

Every time your change jar is full, sit down with a smile on your face and count the money. If you have lots of gold coins or notes, you might easily have $300. Whatever it is, take that money and add it to the bank account you use to pay your debts, be that your mortgage or your credit cards. If you are debt-free, add it to your savings account or use it for a holiday.

When H and I went on our holiday recently, the only spending money we took with us was the money from the change jar. It was just under $300 and we each had half. Both of us came home with $100. We did everything we wanted to do, we took Kathleen out to dinner and we enjoyed ourselves. We didn't buy junk, or anything we didn't need. That's the thing about saving, you have to have it firmly in your head that you are saving, and go for it.

For those of you earning a good weekly wage, you might think it's trivial to even talk about such small amounts. But living frugally, whether by choice or by need, is all about small steps. Most people can't save $1000 without starting with those first few dollars.

So think about starting a change jar. If you give up a few things and save all your change, you'll be able to pay off your mortgage faster or take the family on a holiday without it going on the credit card.