By Richard Bauman
(Editor’s Note: My grandmother used to tell all of her grandchildren to never leave a penny on the floor and to put it into their piggy banks. She also said, “If you take care of the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.” To this day, I can’t ignore a penny on the ground)
When you buy something and it costs some dollars and cents (for example, $2.13), do you scrounge in your pocket or purse for the coins to make “exact change”? If you do, you might be wasting several hundred dollars a year. On the other hand, if you spend only folding money, at the end of a year you will probably have accumulated several hundred dollars.
How can you amass money by spending more dollars? It’s really simple. No matter what you’re buying, never use coins to pay for it. Then every day retrieve from pocket or purse the change you received from your folding money purchases and put those coins into a special container. Believe it or not, within three or four months you will probably have saved about $100. If you never take back any of those coins, you can amass several hundred dollars in a year’s time. And you can use it to increase your savings, invest it, or do a lot of good with that money.
About ten years ago my wife and I heard financial expert Suze Orman recommend that people save their change, all of it, and use the accumulated coins to invest in the stock market. Donna and I started doing that and in a year typically totaled $400-$500 in coins. She counted it on a monthly basis and when we had one hundred dollars we invested it in a mutual fund.
About seven years ago we changed direction and decided to “invest” that money in programs that help others have a better life. We picked three different organizations to support: One that feeds the hungry, (Food for the Poor); another provides decent housing to those who need it (Habitat for Humanity), and another that helps people become self-sufficient (Heifer Project). These were our choices. There are hundreds of worthwhile programs that will be happy to receive dollars you created from change you didn’t spend.
Saving our change has become a habit for us. It is an odd time when we spend any coins we have. Additionally, when we walk into our house any change we have, regardless of the amount, is tossed into our coin collector—an old white milk can in the kitchen. The coins stay there and don’t come out until counted.
Consumer advocate Clark Howard echoes Suze Orman advice about saving change, and he points out you never miss the change you toss into you coin collector. Not spending your change has no real impact on your lifestyle—but it can have major impact on the lives of others.
How much of a difference can your unspent change make? Here’s an example from Heifer International. A $120 in donations bought a goat for a family in Africa. The goat was pregnant and had two kids. The family sold one of the kids. They also sold surplus goat’s milk and amassed $800—more money than they ever dreamed of having. With it they paid for school tuition, books and uniforms for the family’s oldest daughter. But that’s not all. They were able to put a new roof on their simple house, and buy some other necessities. The goat’s milk also provided nourishment for the family as well as being a source of income. Thus that initial $120 in donations effectively grew more than ten fold.
That’s not an unusual story—it’s repeated over and over by worthwhile organizations, using donated funds to help the less fortunate live better.
Your coins, from pennies to quarters, saved, day-in and day-out, will add up to dollars. Those dollars can help you save for some desired item, or can be used to help others change their lives. All you have to do is spend more paper money and keep the change.