Wednesday, January 11, 2012

the change jar

I have a confession to make.  I hate to jingle.  Change.  Jingly coins in my pocket or in the bottom of my purse that weigh me down and make a spine-grating racket drive me bonkers.  One solution, of course, is not to use cash - but breaking out the debit card (or worse, a credit card) is an easy way to let spending get out of control.  Having to handle the actual cash makes each purchase more deliberate, the costs more tangible.  So I am an advocate of using cash for most purchases, but what to do with the change?

Don't let it accumulate in your pocket/purse/ashtray of your car.  Having bits of change in a dozen different places not only contributes to clutter, but also keeps you from knowing just how much money you actually have.  Instead, start a change jar.  Regularly drop your change into this jar and forget it.  Let it accumulate undisturbed.  Use a good-sized jar.  Pick one day a year to empty and count your change - I like doing this in early December.  A family tradition is to use the accumulated change to buy a gift "for the house" - a board game, new curtains, towels - something everyone can use, since everyone is contributing to the jar throughout the year.

Some years might find less in the jar than others.  One year, the jar change kept us from having to eat ramen for a month when money was tight.  Another year found us with nearly $100 in the jar, giving us the flexibility to take a quick, unexpected road trip to visit family.

Our current jar is a giant Budweiser bottle my husband won years before we met.  It is dark brown glass, so the level of change inside isn't immediately obvious.  We regularly forget about it for weeks at a time - until I start to jingle.  Then, all the change comes out of pockets and purses, off nightstands and the top of the washing machine and goes clinking into the jar.

Individually, the coins aren't worth much, but over time saving in a jar makes dollars out of cents.

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