Keep the Change

I confess—I’m a penny pincher. I don’t mean that I’m thrifty (actually, quite the opposite—I’m trying to learn to spend more cautiously). I mean that I literally save pennies.

When I see a penny on the ground, I have to pick it up. Even when it’s not heads up. Even if it’s not shiny. I guess I’ve always had a soft spot for lonely coins. I also try to save my own change as much as possible. In fact, up until earlier this month, I had been diligently socking away my collected and saved change for the last six years. Eventually, the five-gallon plastic bucket I was dumping it in threatened to break, so decided I’d better cash in. I walked away from the bank with a nice early Christmas present—more than $400.

But let me back up a minute. I’m not saying you should wait that long to break into your piggy bank. Had I turned those coins into dollars and invested them long ago, I’d be sitting on some pretty interest right now. What’s one of the first things you learn in Savings 101? Don’t keep your money under the mattress. Inflation will eat away at it, and it will be worth less tomorrow than it was today—that’s why you want to put it to work earning interest.

But the only thing more important than saving wisely might be saving, period. I say it’s better to have saved and lost (some interest, anyway) than to not have saved at all. If you notoriously live paycheck to paycheck, putting coins in the piggy bank is an easy place to start building a safety net—and paying down debt. You don’t have to write a check or make a deposit. The money doesn’t feel like it’s coming out of your account, because it already did. You feel kind of like you’re cheating the system. Free savings!

Plus, it gives you incentive to use cash—which makes it easier to stick to your budget because you can’t spend more than you earn. You can’t exactly treat yourself to the leftovers when you charge a purchase, right?

Yet somehow a lot of my friends haven’t caught on. I know people who won’t stoop to pick up a quarter. They think it’s not worth their effort. They throw their change into tip jars so they won’t have to deal with it. But why throw money away for convenience? When you get change, don’t put it in the penny jar (unless you’re rich, that is!). Café employees already get a paycheck. Keep your coins and tip yourself.

Then go home, put it in a piggy bank—or a jar, plastic bag, whatever you can find—and cash it in every few months or so (just don’t wait six years like me). Get some free coin wrappers from the bank, package them up and exchange your loot for bills (you can also use CoinStar, the big green change counting machine at the grocery store—but be prepared to fork over an eight percent cut).

Got debts to pay? Now you’ve got the power to start doing it. Want to start a nest egg? You’ve got some money to play with. Of course, the downside to coin hoarding (or any kind of saving at all, for that matter) is that it takes so dang long. Just remind yourself to be patient—you’ll get there eventually. But if you owe so much in debt that any savings seems like chump change—or if you don’t have time to stockpile because you need to pay the mortgage today or risk losing your home—there’s a faster way. Debtstoppers can help. Contact one of our attorneys for a one-on-one debt analysis that won’t cost you a dime. So you can keep the change—and your house.

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