Sunday, December 30, 2007

Little Money Trick #2

There is a lot of money to be saved in stockpiling coins. This is in the same vein as my earlier post Little Money Trick #1, I recommend doing the same thing with coins. I generally have coins in an antique coffee cup on my desk, next to the dish I keep my house keys in.

While I generally don't stockpile coins and take them to the bank or a coin counting machine, I used to. The first time I ever counted the coins I had in my apartment, I had about $100. It was satisfying, and time-consuming, to count and roll all the coins and then take them to the bank. I remember putting that money in my savings account, and that money later went towards my first international trip.

After the "discovery" of that $100, I started intentionally always getting coins back when I bought anything. Very similar to what Bank of America does now, without the monthly fee (for the record, I don't like BoA, but I do think their change-saving program is a fantastic, fantastic idea).

My one main rule about saving change, is to not save pennies. Pennies grossly inflate your idea of what you have, and they are just a pain in the bottom to deal with. Instead, I keep them in my purse and use them at every chance -- it's a nice thing to search for a couple pennies, and find you don't have any! If I find I have a lot of pennies, I'll count them out and use them for bus fare, which for me is the quickest and easiest way to use them up.

I also like keeping a certain amount of change at home, because if I'm short of cash in my pocket I always have bus fare. I don't tend to keep a lot of change at home, because it's heavy and takes up space, and also because it takes a fair amount of time and effort to accurately roll it all up -- though, this could be a good lesson in saving for kids, making them count and roll coins, so they can more easily see how much can be saved by simply keeping coins. Since most banks no longer have change counting machines, I don't tend to stockpile a lot of coins. Coinstar does have change counting machines, and I think it's worth it if you or your family has a lot of change or wants to use coin saving as a way to boost a savings account.

Several years ago, I had a friend who made a bet of sorts with a family member, to see who could save the most coins in a year. They each found a water cooler plastic container (the big ones you see in offices), and on 1 January started throwing in any and all coins they laid their hands on. I don't know what ever happened with their "bet," but I do know that my friend (who was not-so-good with managing money) finally found a way that she could successfully save money, because it was easy and in such small amounts.

I do think this is an excellent way to get kids in the habit of saving money. I still have the coin bank I had as a kid that my dad bought for me to save change in. He would give me an allowance, and suggest I save some of it, and he would have me put in coins occasionally. Then, whenever there was something I wanted (usually toys, since he started this when I was seven), he would ask me to count what I had and if I had enough I could get it. I think this method certainly is not limited to children, and that an adult could do something like this, and then dip into the piggy bank once or twice a year to splurge on something they want (this is certainly what I occasionally do with the cash I keep in my closet).

I think this is an excellent way for someone who has difficulty saving money to start working on that. Given time, we all generate a lot of change and it all definitely adds up.

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