Peek into the money jar

How to Save $1,039.70 and Still Have Starbucks

I’m sure each and every one of us has seen or read articles on how to save $1,825 a year by skipping your daily Starbucks (The Latte Effect). But what about those of us that really enjoy indulging in small everyday luxuries, but still want to save money? Maybe it’s Starbucks, frozen yogurt, pastries, or smoothies… whatever it is, it’s important to you. You want to have it daily, weekly, and/or monthly. You want to save money because you have dreams and are planning a vacation, spending a year overseas, starting a business or ???. Well that’s all good and all but neither of us wants to completely suffer without our favorite barista making orgasmic frappes during this stressful time! (Yes, you read that right… I said orgasmic.)

I also, wanted to save money outside of my savings account. For me, my savings account was too easy to transfer money out of when I needed it. When your goal is several months or years away it can be hard to see the bigger picture. Many 1-year around the world backpackers spend 1-3 years saving for their trips. I needed something I couldn’t touch. Something that I could see add up and be super motivated about. Something that was tangible.

My Big Ozarka Water Jug - Faithful coin holder

My Big Ozarka Water Jug - Faithful coin holder

So I got a big plastic ozarka jug and everyday I put my change into it. I followed 3 simple rules:

  1. Never use change (coins) when buying something. Always use bills. This is so you can get multiple opportunities for change each day.
  2. Never touch the money. (It’s a pain in the ass to take out $20 in quarters to use it anyways – Not worth the hassle!)
  3. No counting. Let the change add up and be surprised at the end. For me, it gave extra motivation to book my trip because I was super curious about how much those coins were worth after all those months.

Not only is this money to supplement your regular dream savings. It could be a rainy day jar where you use the money for days you’d like to do something special that’s beyond your daily budget or you could use it to buy gear or airfare. It’s up to you!

You won’t miss this money. In fact, you probably won’t even notice it missing from your wallet. However, over the course of time it adds up to a significant amount of money. When I was guesstimating the net worth of my coins I figured it’d be around $400-$600… so did everyone else.  I ended up with $1,029.70 over 17 months of throwing my daily change into a jar. This averaged to $2.01 per day. In fact, Chris Guillebeau advocates putting away $2 per day to save up for a trip anywhere in the world after 3-years of savings. What if you did both? What if you saved $2 per day and threw your change into a jar. That would be an average $4 per day in additional savings. For me, this is completely separate and is not a replacement for your overall savings strategies. This is an easy and fun way to get some additional funds from money you don’t really need anyways. I found it really fun to track and watch the progress of the jar go up.

What’s your one place in the world that you’d like to visit someday? Start putting your change towards it and actually get there in 3 years or less!

Sometimes, it motivated me to skip daily luxuries and put even more money in than change. I had bills ranging from $1-$20 included into this “change saving” but wanted to make this post about how something small can add up to value over time. It is easy to put in $20 in your wallet that you  know you’ll spend on something stupid anyways – might as well save it. This kind of ‘bill’ savings became a multiplier on top of my regular changing saving technique.

Save money, but still get your daily Starbucks fix.

Save money, but still get your daily Starbucks fix.

To put it in other terms with daily change hoarding you could have:

Note: For easy math I rounded daily totals to $2 based on my savings of $1,039.70 over 17 months. Unless linked estimates are based on my own travels.

1 Month - 4 nights in a private room at a hostel in Fiji ($60)

3 Months - 90 budget breakfasts ($2) while backpacking South America ($180)

6 Months - A nice Gregory Deva 60 backpack, rain cover, Sea to Summit Toiletry Bag, and Eagle Creek Packing Cubes – My actual gear ($360)

9 Months - Cost of Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Trek (all inclusive), sleeping bag rental, and guide/porter tip ($540)

1 Year - 22.5 days in Thailand – based on $31.96 per day at Me-Go ($720)

1 Year 3 Months - 106 nights in hostels while backpacking South America – $8.5/night average ($900)

1 Year 5 Months - Roundtrip flight from Los Angeles, CA  to Bangkok, Thailand – AA.com ($1020)

Just $2 per day can give you enough to go anywhere in the world in 3 years.

Just $2 per day can give you enough to go anywhere in the world in 3 years.

Bonus Tips:

  1. Put pennies in a separate jar. For me, I liked knowing there wasn’t any fluff to my change jar.
  2. Have fun with it. The more you have fun with it the more you’re going to be motivated to do more and add more. If you have kids get them involved. You could create an evening or weekly routine around jar deposits. Things can range from conversations to songs to sound effects to games and anything in between. The more positive experiences you have and the more fun you have doing it…the more change you’ll start trying to come up with to extend the experience.  Maybe you do end up skipping a frappe here and there to add more to the jar than usual.
  3. Show a few trusted friends your money jar! Tell them what it’s about and what it’s for. Talk about and share your dream. Many times I just told them because it was tangible proof that I was working towards my dream. I was really proud of it. I wanted them to know and be inspired. But often my friends would empty out their pockets and add to the coin stash themselves. I got a little extra coinage for my jar and they felt good about helping me.
  4. This one isn’t completely related, but if you are with Bank of America add the “keep your change” program to your savings account (or something similar). This rounded up the amount of my debit card purchases and added the change to my savings account, resulting in an additional $371.57 in my savings account.

A little bit of change every day adds up over time. What are you going to save your change for? What’s your one place? Let me know in the comments below.

Facebook Users: I would love it if you would ‘share’ this post using the button on the left in my “share bar.” Doing so adds a small link in your news feed that lets others see what you’re reading. It works as one of the top referrers to my blog because people are interested in what their friends are interested in. Doing so, will really help me help more people get to their one place. – Thanks!

Jenny is rebooting her life. She is leaving everything behind to backpack the world as a digital nomad. She doesn’t know when, where, or if she’s coming home.

  • http://www.baconismagic.ca Ayngelina

    I also kept a tin from the dollar store that I had to open with a can opener to get the money. I threw change in and every time I was excited about the trip I’d also throw a bill. It really adds up.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      My first guesstimate of the coins was around $500. I was really surprised to see that it was over $1,000. I also had bills in there but excluded them for this article. I wanted to show that a saving small amounts (really small amounts) can add up to big money over time. : )

  • http://WWW.acmanhouston.com Downdon

    Hi Jenny, I have the same jug. I put all my change in it all the time. When I was saving to get money for the metal on my ramp, I had a rule that every time I got a 5$ bill it went in the jug. Buy the time I eas ready for the metal I had $600.00. Just something else for you to consider. I hope your trip is going well, your friend Don

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Hey Don. I’m missing the Friday night skate sessions!!! I haven’t even skated yet since I’ve been here. I’m a little behind on work with the move and holidays. That’s a good idea with the $5 bills. I actually saved bills too in the jar, but excluded them for this article. I wanted to show that a really small daily amount could add up big over time.

  • http://twitter.com/jenfromal Jen Fromal

    This is great! I have the Bank Of America “Keep The Change” set up on my account, so whenever I spend, the amount gets rounded up to the nearest dollar and whatever the difference is gets put into a separate account. If I spend $2.07 on something, 93 cents instantly goes into a savings account. So, it’s the same idea, but online and very effortless on my part.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Yes. I like the ‘Keep the Change’ program. However, it doesn’t add up as fast as I’d like because I don’t use debit cards all that much (use credit card to get airline miles and pay off at end of month). For someone that uses their debit card for everything, you wouldn’t miss the money and they do all the work for you. Same concept.

  • Nicole

    Great chain saving post! I love my coffee but the $2 per day + change sounds like a goal I want to work towards.
    I want to do a big RTW trip in three years with two smaller ones at the end of the next two years and I think the coin collection would play a big roll in my short-trips.
    My father and now I do exactually the same waterbottle change collection technique :) he managed to fill two bottles at one time once and the countig took forever!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Woohoo another RTW’er. I think that you could strive towards the $2 plus change per day to save and pay for your two smaller trips. I’m not sure where you plan on going, but that’s around $1,460 (If you saved like me and got around $2 in change per day). I’d also throw any bills you have in your wallet towards “food” or whatever in your jar every week. If you dont’ have the money in your wallet, you don’t spend it, or you find a way to get what you need cheaper. You can get really resourceful if you need to.

      If you were flexible and went after the best airfare deal, you could do the entire small trip with that savings alone. For example, I could go to Costa Rica for less than $400 airfare, giving me $1,060 in spending money for 2-3 weeks. It wouldn’t even bother your regular savings for your year long trip! It’d keep you sane in the process too… waiting 3-years for something is a huge commitment. Good luck and keep me updated.

  • http://twitter.com/Aventuresabdm Sylvain et Audrey

    I like the idea!! There’s an almost empty jar at home…Think I know what I’m gonna do with it!:)

  • http://twitter.com/Aventuresabdm Sylvain et Audrey

    I like the idea!! There’s an almost empty jar at home…Think I know what I’m gonna do with it!:)

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      AWE-SOME!

  • http://twitter.com/Aventuresabdm Sylvain et Audrey

    I like the idea!! There’s an almost empty jar at home…Think I know what I’m gonna do with it!:)

  • http://twitter.com/Aventuresabdm Sylvain et Audrey

    I like the idea!! There’s an almost empty jar at home…Think I know what I’m gonna do with it!:)

  • http://wherespoople.com Jack and Jill Travel The World

    That’s a great idea! I remember when I was in college it was heaps of fun to count the coins (and they always added up to be a lot more than we thought they would). But nowadays we almost never use cash anymore… we even have to go to the bank to get quarters for laundry machine.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      It would be a hard saving technique for someone who doesn’t use cash. In that case, they do have a “keep the change” program with Bank of America where it does the same thing with each purchase. If you buy something at 1.07, it charges $2 to your checking and adds .93 to your savings account.

  • http://wherespoople.com Jack and Jill Travel The World

    That’s a great idea! I remember when I was in college it was heaps of fun to count the coins (and they always added up to be a lot more than we thought they would). But nowadays we almost never use cash anymore… we even have to go to the bank to get quarters for laundry machine.

  • http://wherespoople.com Jack and Jill Travel The World

    That’s a great idea! I remember when I was in college it was heaps of fun to count the coins (and they always added up to be a lot more than we thought they would). But nowadays we almost never use cash anymore… we even have to go to the bank to get quarters for laundry machine.

  • http://wherespoople.com Jack and Jill Travel The World

    That’s a great idea! I remember when I was in college it was heaps of fun to count the coins (and they always added up to be a lot more than we thought they would). But nowadays we almost never use cash anymore… we even have to go to the bank to get quarters for laundry machine.

  • http://twitter.com/TravelWorkLive GlobetrotterGirls

    We can only agree with that – we always had a tin which we filled up with coins and every time it filled up we were amazed how much it had added up!! We didn’t save for our RTW-trip that way, but we treated ourselves to quite a few weekend getaways which didn’t affect our bank accounts at all :-)

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      That’s another great way to use it. Some people save for 3 years before they can depart so those small trips can be worth your sanity. I know I couldn’t wait 3 years… especially reading blogs. I can’t stand being at home while watching all these other people have adventures and depart for their journeys.

      • http://spicedpear.wordpress.com/ Heathre

        Same here.

  • http://www.justinhamlin.com Justin Hamlin

    Amazing how the money adds up, doesn’t it? Rather than using those quarters at a drive through, putting them aside is great. My wife is all excited, she got one of those jars that counts the money you put into it, and so far she is up to $70+ from her miscellaneous jars and daily change. I have an old water bottle with close to $120 in change too, so its nice to see as it adds up and the value you can get out of that!

    One other thing I had done was to every day only withdraw cash that I would need for the day, so if that was $10 or $15, I would put everything that was not used into a jar. It was nice, I had a daily budget, but if work paid for lunch, or I didn’t need gas or anything like that, that money went straight to savings.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      That’s a great savings idea Justin…. would be a great way to make your change multiply like rabbits.

  • http://twitter.com/swgraphic Sarah Wu

    This is a great post, so many people hate to carries changes or use them. My fiance for example, he hate carry the penny in his pocket. So having a jar will be a great idea to throw them in when you get home. Good stuff Jen.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      I hate pennies too. I don’t let them hang out with my silver. ;)

      • http://twitter.com/swgraphic Sarah Wu

        haha they don’t get alone huh. ;P

  • http://www.travel-for-love.com Laura

    Very impressive results! I personally use a rewards card for everything, and just used my cash back to pay for about 75% of a new laptop! But I do have a big jar of change kicking around as well… I need to cash those coins in one of these days.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Wow. That’s awesome. Wish I could get the new mac book pro I want 75% paid for. I have a rewards credit card that I pay off every month too, but I stack up airline miles with it.

  • http://www.ricardobueno.com Ricardo Bueno

    Love this idea!

    Re: “Never use change (coins) when buying something. Always use bills. This is so you can get multiple opportunities for change each day.”

    I tend to do this already. Then, when I’m doing laundry, I always see change fall out of my back pockets. Basically, I do a pretty horrible job of saving that change. Doing something like this would probably serve me very, very well.

    As for where I would go? I asked my girlfriend that question the other day. Her response was Europe. We’ve never been. I’ve done a lot of traveling to different states. Her, much less. So I think I’ll put this into effect and work towards a trip next year :-)

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      I’ve never been to Europe either. I can’t wait to go. I want to immerse myself in France so that I can learn French and be part of my nephews culture. What countries in Europe do you want to explore?

  • http://twitter.com/nomadicmatt Nomadic Matt

    I used to put dollar bills away too. Then the money really added up! but this is a great idea. Change bins are amazing and when I cash them in, i’m always blown away as to how much is there.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      I was floored when I saw that it was over 1k. I for sure thought it was only $500. Adds up quicker than you think!

  • http://www.donteverlookback.com Amy & Kieron

    Fantastic advice Jenny!

    I’m not quite as strict as you with not using coins (we don’t have dollar bills here in Oz!) but I’ve got a nearly full coin tin that’s been a year in the making. It weighs over 10kg and I’m super keen to find out exactly how much is in there! My guess is $300-$400 but hopefully I’ll be surprised as well!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      I hope you’ll be surprised and find just as much as I did!!!! :)

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  • http://travelerahoy.wordpress.com Alouise

    These are some great tips. I’ve tried to save change before, but it’s in an old martini glass, and really easy to access for quick indulgences. Using a big water jug would help deter me from spending money. That Bank Of America change program sounds interesting. Of course I live in Canada, so it won’t do me any good. But I would recommend (for other Canadians) getting a high(er) interest savings account and automatically transferring money to it each month, or bi weekly. Even $4/day will help; it’ll get you $1460 after a year. I like ING direct because it’s all online, and easy to transfer money to.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Thanks for the great tips. Yes, make it hard to get the money out of it and it’ll be easier not to spend. That’s the key to saving it. Don’t give in!

  • Anonymous

    Great tips!
    My parents did this and only added 2 pound coins or notes and got over 1000 pounds out when they finally smashed it! I started to, but I was too close to my trip to make any major savings as I was already cutting back on almost everything :-)

  • Anonymous

    Great tips!
    My parents did this and only added 2 pound coins or notes and got over 1000 pounds out when they finally smashed it! I started to, but I was too close to my trip to make any major savings as I was already cutting back on almost everything :-)

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      I actually had a glass one before the plastic one. It was one of the really old ones. Well… one day when I was moving I dropped it and it smashed and shattered on my toe. Ouch. The plastic one is awesome, but it’s really really really heavy with all those coins.

  • http://twitter.com/Nomad_Student Jessalyn Pinneo

    I love this idea! I actually have a savings account that’s nicknamed my “wish jar” to remind me that not all of my savings has to be used for “serious” or “important” purchases and that no amount is too small to be saved. And I have a small jar that I occasionally dump change in, although I haven’t been nearly as intentional about it as you are. After reading this, it’s definitely time to start putting change into it every day. Thanks for the inspiration, Jenny!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Awesome Jessalyn. Let me know how it goes. The point was to show that small amounts over time can make a huge difference.

  • http://twitter.com/BAbackpacker Breakaway Backpacker

    I was obsessed with your change jar Its so big and so full. I have been doing the same but since I hardly ever use cash I just put the change I do ever get in a small vase I have next to my bed.

    Thats a lot of money way to go.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Thanks Jaime. You know we’ve both been sooo curious to how much it actually was.

  • http://theresnoplacelikeoz.com Heather

    My parents always did this growing up and I thought it was a fantastic idea :-) Must start when I return home! I hate pennies anyway.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Me too. Pennies got their own jar. I have yet to count them. Prolly only like $20.

  • http://poortravelblogger.com Poor Travel Blogger

    This is just what I needed Jenny! Thank you so much for writing it. I’ll be saving up this year again to start my journey all over again and I’ll need all the motivation and advice for such an undertaking. Since I’m starting from scratch, I’ll be pinching every penny. And OMG I didn’t know about the “keep the change” program! I’m signing up for that as soon as I get home.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      AWE-SOME! Glad that the post was able to help many of you out. Would love to hear how much everyone has saved after 6-months or so.

  • http://waywardtraveller.com/ Annie

    This is such great advice Jenny! It’s insane how far a little change can go!

    I saved all of my tips from 6 months working at the coffee bar before coming to Italy (change and bills) and ended up with over $1,000 extra in my bank account before leaving. Such a mood booster!

    Imagine doing this with change and tips!! :) It’s WORTH it, especially because you are spending so much time stressing over your savings and budget, it’s like getting a little unexpected gift at the end!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Rock on Annie! That is a GREAT idea to add your tips to the jar if you work in service. That would definitely add up over time.

  • http://www.thetravellingeditor.com/wp/ Dylan Lowe

    Fantastic tips you’re offering here! I’ve been storing away masses of 1 and 2 pence coins for a while now – doesn’t seem to going anywhere monetary-wise, so perhaps I should expand this to the higher-value tokens I can probably get a steady income of savings going! Cheers for the heads up!

    And no, nothing can separate me from my white choc mocha/flat white. Period.

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      hahaha. Dylan. Yes… add bigger coins. I was seriously surprised at how fast it added up.

  • http://www.seanogle.com Sean

    Awesome post Jenny. I think actually the most useful part for me was the link to the Inca Trail trek – as I’m thinking about going in a few months :)

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Glad you enjoyed it. Just don’t use Wayki Tours because they royally fucked me over when I did a tour with them on the Inca Trail trek. Hard Core. It was a disaster. I left with a great story, but seriously.

  • http://cruisesurfing.blogspot.com/ Roy

    Good for you Jenny. I once accidentally saved $400 in coins. I kept throwing it into a drawer and after 2 years needed to move out. Needless to say I was surprised at how much had accumulated :D

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Roy, it adds up fast huh?. Bet that was a nice surprise!!! :) What did you spend it on?

  • http://www.destination-world.net Magda

    I’m glad to know that this strategy works :) I always wanted to try it but I tend to forget about putting those coins in a jar. But after reading this post I think I’d give it another go. Having a few extra $ won’t hurt :)

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      You could always leave it out somewhere you would see it everyday in your home. I usually left mine in the bedroom next to the bed reminding me to check my pockets. If the jar is smaller, you could try leaving it on the kitchen counter or somewhere similar.

  • Krl529

    This is great! I can’t wait to start my own money jar!

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

      Be sure to let me know how it goes.

  • http://www.thetravellerworldguide.com @_thetraveller_

    That jar is AWESOME! I’m doing it!

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  • http://www.maiden-voyage-travel.com Emily

    Love this idea! I do a digital version of this. I have an interest-earning savings account with an online-only bank. Every week, I have a small amount automatically transfer from my checking at my regular bank to the savings account at the other bank. Because they are separate banks, each transfer takes 2-3 days to process. I don’t have a debit card or checks for the savings account. This means I can’t just spontaneously take money from it–I have to wait a few days for it, so that’s enough to keep me from messing with it. Just $15 a week adds up really fast, and I don’t even have to think about it since I set it up automatically. If I used cash more often, I would do the jar idea, but for those who tend to use plastic, this is a great method! And I also do Bank of America’s Keep the Change program–I love it!

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  • http://twitter.com/TravelatedRease Rease Kirchner

    I actually did this before I went on my 3 week trip to South America in 2009. I don’t spend much money and I’m actually really good at not touching my savings so in maybe 5 months I only ended up with about $100ish dollars but hey, that was a lot of extra cash. Sadly, now that I live in Buenos Aires I can’t really do the change thing because there is a coin shortage, no one wants to give you coins at all and you always need them for public transport. However, I might be able to manage saving $2 peso bills…

  • http://twitter.com/SilverAntigen Ags

    That is awesome! I’ve had a huge glass milk jar (I live in the Midwest haha) that I’ve been filling with pennies for a long time now. In addition, about 4 months ago I started a money jar in a red plastic C my dad gave me. I’m moving it to a big jar.I had forgotten about it until I read this post. Turns out I had almost $5 in change rolling around my purse. Thanks Jenny!

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  • http://twitter.com/MilkThePigeon MilkThePIgeon

    Haha this is a really clever Idea I never though of.  It’s awesome how just putting away $2 a day can really add up.  Especially when you usually would have spent it on gum or something just totally pointless.  Things really do add up.. hmmmm.

  • http://twitter.com/MilkThePigeon MilkThePIgeon

    Hmm that’s really interesting haha.  I never thought of putting away a tiny amount of money daily.  Things really do add up!

  • Rajasthan Tours

    Excellent post … its really interesting

  • internet marketing belgium

    great tips for saving money i really like it a lot

  • Daniel

    In the picture is that the $1,029?…because its not full…if so how much would it be full?

    • http://www.whereisjenny.com Jenny

       Yes. That’s the $$$. It’s not full, but I imagine if full it would be around 5k but take me several years to get to that point.

  • Lovely In Dirt

    I absolutely love this idea. There really are no excuses for not going where you want. You just have to want it bad enough. When I came home from backpacking Europe I calculated everything in the currency of nights in youth hostels. Do I want to go out for pizza and a movie, or do I want one night in a killer hostel on the French Riviera? That way of thinking has helped me backpack Europe twice and two Hawaiian islands. It really doesn’t cost as much as you think.