Last week I came across this article in the news:
With a bit of creative savings, $5 can get you at least $12,000
Three years ago, I made a decision that changed my relationship with money: I stopped spending, and started saving, every five-dollar bill that passed through my hands. Squirreling away each and every $5 received as change from a cash transaction didn't require any complicated savings strategy, but it has paid off, to the tune of $12,000.
That's right. In three years, I have socked away $12,000 just by saving fives.
I have always been more of a saver than a spender, back to the day I walked into a suburban branch office of Industrial National Bank of Providence with my mother to open my first savings account with First Communion gift money. I recall, with pride, walking out of the big, brick building smiling as I clutched my passbook.
At 18, I came to Boston for college and transferred my funds to State Street Bank. By then I had $3,000, not a bad stash for a college freshman in 1971.
When my husband and I married and moved to Brookline in the late '70s, I was the one with the savings account (but gosh, he had a cute smile), so I set up the weekly Star Market budget, one that allowed us to eat well but never to waste money, or food. Our wages were meager, our expenses real. To me, it was simple. What we didn't waste living each day, we could save for a home in the suburbs.
Life has changed since then, and like many in the western suburbs, we've enjoyed family, fulfilling careers, and an easy commute. For most of the years we were raising our children in Newton, the money we didn't need for essentials, we either saved or splurged.
And then, after years of habitual saving, with two daughters away at college and Newton taxes and a mortgage still to pay, I gave up. With $7,500 a month to shell out for tuition and fees (you read that right, too, $7,500 a month, 10 months a year), there was no extra money. If some miraculously appeared, I stocked up on toilet paper.
One day, floating in cyberspace, I read a headline that drew me in: Trouble Saving Money? 10 tips to try. One suggestion was to quit spending fives and to make this currency the basis for a separate savings account. The blurb went on to say there were fewer five dollar bills in circulation than ones, tens, and twenties (don't know if this is true but I believed it), and that if I stopped spending fives, I wouldn't really miss them.
I opened my wallet. It contained two fives, a twenty, and change. I picked my own pocket and buried the two bills emblazoned with Abe Lincoln's face into a zipped pocket of my wallet, and the rest is history, one five at a time. The account went over $12,000 one month shy of its three-year anniversary.
More happy news. The younger daughter graduated from college in May, two years after her older sister. We paid their way. They did their jobs well, both making the most of their (expensive) college years.
But I digress. Here are a few lessons worth passing on.
This idea will only work if you are disciplined. When I decided to save my fives, I meant it, and I save every one. No exceptions. (OK, once on the Mass. Pike I gave the toll collector a 20 and he returned three fives and four ones. I panicked. This was my allowance for the week. I asked him to give me a ten and more ones instead.) Otherwise, if I get a five dollar bill back - at
When the fives pocket in my wallet reaches $50, I make a deposit in my credit union. When this account reaches $2,000, I buy a CD to earn higher interest.
Also, it helps to pay with cash. You can't get a five back if you're always using credit cards. Each week, I use the ATM in Newtonville to take out the money I expect to need to cover my basic expenses. I only use cards to pay for (ouch!) gas, and large purchases or airline tickets. Otherwise, I'm cash-to-go, which has not only helped my savings to grow, but has also saved oodles of time when I Christmas shop and get into the short, cash checkout lines at the mall.
People always ask me what I am going to do with the money in my fives accounts. I have no idea. I'm having too much fun watching it grow to want to spend it.
So, this totally got me excited and I shared it with my friends, then the children and I had a talk about it, too!
We decided that $5 is a lot. You could get a lot of things with a $5 bill. But a $1, on the other hand, is pretty limited in what you can spend it on by itself. So we decided to start saving up our $1 bills.
WOW! We started that day (the 22nd of July) and already we have $48 saved up! (Do you see the new Ticker on the left sidebar?) We are all on the lookout for $1's and now I put them in a separate pocket of my purse so that when I get home the children can put it in our saving place. When Dad gets home, he donates his $1's as well.
Is this something you could do? Get your children involved! I know that they sure help -- Do you have any $1's? Mom, remember to save that one for when we get home. ;-)