Save Money By Putting Change In A Jar

Here’s a sure-fire way to save money.

• Take an opaque jar or tube.
• Put a hole in the top.
• Put the jar somewhere where you are often. Ours is right by our desk.
• When you empty your pockets, put the spare change in the jar.
• When the jar gets full, take it to a change machine, like they have by the checkout in some supermarkets or to Commerce Bank’s “Penny Arcade.”
• Convert the change to cash.
• Deposit the cash in your back account.

Wow! Genius! Sometimes life’s solutions are hidden in plain view. We dismiss them out of hand saying, oh, that’s simple.

Well, there’s a difference between saying, “Oh that’s simple,” and actually doing it. You may understand how to do it, but have you done it? Do it, smartypants! — BEN POPKEN


Edit Your Comment

  1. acambras says:

    Better a smartypants than a meanypants, I always say.

  2. bluegus32 says:

    I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. I empty the jar about every six months and usually come up with about $250. From there, I either put the money in savings or I buy myself something nice.

  3. alicetheowl says:

    I used to do this when I carried cash all the time. I pay with my debit card everywhere I go now. I don’t build the change up quite as quickly anymore.

  4. AcilletaM says:

    I do this too. The pennies a day I could be using to feed a kid in Africa add up to a pretty nice weekend away.

  5. nweaver says:

    These days, its not that much. I’ve done this with the chnage jar at home, and apart from the quarters which get removed for parking meter money, the rest is not that much.

  6. Hoss says:

    The machines like “Coinstar” charge around 9% — yikes!!

  7. bluwapadoo says:

    At some Coinstar machines, they have the option for you to receive gift certificates from Amazon, etc., where you don’t lose any of your money.

  8. notlazyjustdontcare says:

    I have about two dollars in change after a year and a half of doing this. Do people really use enough caveman money to buy vacations with the change?

  9. amazon says:

    I do this.
    And I have bought a vacation with my change. (Well, it was something like three years worth of change, and I deposited it into my account first).
    Right now this money is going to buy me a new couch. :)

  10. RumorsDaily says:

    What do people do with their change besides this? I thought this was pretty much the only way to deal with change? Is there an alternative? Is somebody actually spending their pennies on things?

  11. bravo says:

    um, this actually seems like a waste of money if the change machine takes a cut. I think people would be better served by just spending the change laying around the house instead of taking it to a change machine and slicing 9% off the amount just for the convenience of having paper bills.

  12. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Step 1: Take an opaque jar or tube.
    Step 2: Put a hole in the top.
    Step 3: ?????
    Step 4: Profit!

    I too have a large jar for change. My old job, I’d be buying lunch, hitting up fast food, etc. Now, I bring a lunch, and rarely buy anything with actual cash. So my jar has not had a deposit in quite some time.

  13. spanky says:

    When my boyfriend was moving out of his apartment a few years back, he found something like $800 in change hidden in Tupperware containers.

    Me, I’m way too classy to carry filthy lucre around. If I need anything out of a gum machine or something, I just spange off of other people like the Queen of England does.

  14. “Do people really use enough caveman money to buy vacations with the change?”

    I get enough caveman money this way to play the nickel slots for a little while on vacation. ;)

    Ingen: “What do people do with their change besides this?”

    Illinois is the only tollway system in the US that takes pennies in its automatic change things, so everyone who lived near Chicago used to count their pennies out into little film canisters by 15s or 40s or whatever. (It takes the toll machine a while to count 40 pennies, so usually you’d do a quarter and 15 pennies or something.)

    Now we have the IPass thing that scans your RFID thingie in your car, though, so I never get to get rid of my pennies that way anymore. (They charge you twice as much to not use IPass.) I guess it was getting inefficient anyway because I only go up there to visit my parents.

    Sometimes I use them to pay municipal fees I think are stupid. It’s worth the trip to City Hall to be obnoxious about it in pennies.

  15. Kornkob says:

    Added bonus:

    If you use a clear jar (I use an old one gallon pickle jar from a resturant I worked in a while back) after a while you will learn to estimate the amount of money that a certain volume of change represents.

    I’ve won a couple contests that involved getting the closest guess to how much money is in a given volume of spare change.

    For those of you thinking you’d stage a protest and pay your taxes, bills or fines in pennies: be sure to check local regs– some have passed laws allowing government managers/clerks to set ‘reasonable limits and proceedures’ for accepting payments to allow them to refuse to take a large amount of very small denomination currency or refuse to take a very large bill for a very small payment. So check the rules before you back yoru pickup truck with 50,000 pennies in it to settle your tax bill or pulling out the thousand dollar bill to pay a 15 cent water bill.

  16. Echodork says:

    Step one: Cut a hole in the box.

  17. matto says:

    I do this, sort of, but I put the change in my car, where, uh, I can use it.
    Is that breaking the rules?

  18. BMR says:

    Whenever I gather the coins up for a Coinstar run I separate out the quarters as they are easy to spend on their own or cash in – and that way you don’t give 9 cents on the dollar for the valuable quarter. i think the Coinstar fee is worth it for the smaller changer though…too much counting otherwise.

  19. Myron says:

    Shazaam!!!! Thanks Ben. You just can’t get this kind of news anywhere else. Go Consumerist, go!

    I’d like to add another tip. If you ever find money in your clothes when your doing the wash, save that money, don’t just throw it away. If you do this diligently for 50,000 years you’ll have, like, a million dollars.

    (Sorry for that. I think I’m over-caffinated. But really, could you move the post filter from incredibly obvious back towards merely obvious?)

  20. Sheik says:

    Ha ha Altered. I was racking my brain to remember what that was from. I got it now. Thanks for the pick-me-up.

  21. ADM says:

    Just to make it clear: Commerce Bank’s Penny Arcade is free, and is therefore a better solution than the supermarkets.

    A few months ago, I cashed in about $130 this way, with no quarters.

  22. ElizabethD says:

    Our two kids do this. Daughter has a plastic cosmetic zippered case where she deposits change after each shopping trip. When it’s full, she comes to Stop& Shop with me to use the Coinstar machine. A full cosmetic bag usually yields $28-35 , depending on the mix of specific coins.

    Whereas I am change-phobic. I always count out coins to round up or down so that I only get bills as change at a store, or only quarters, whatever. So I never have lots of extra change to put in a tube, box, whatever.

  23. clarity says:

    In the DC area Chevy Chase bank has free change counting machines for non-account holders.

  24. gte910h says:

    If you use iTunes music store, just buy iTunes gift cards. Coinstar doesn’t charge a percentage on those.


  25. mcbarnicle says:

    There are coinstar machines that give you amazon certificates and don’t charge the 9% fee. tells you which ones charge and which ones don’t but not why the one at safeway is always broken.

  26. Negative says:

    I have 2 quart jars full of change plus a shoe box of rolled coins and I can’t bring myself to turn them in. I’ve had them so long that I’ve grown attached to them. I keep telling myself that I’ll use them for ‘something special’ but I never seem to find anything that ‘special’.

  27. Paul D says:

    I scored a large Michelob-bottle-shaped piggy bank from my grandfather. I keep it on a bookshelf right next to the front door.

    When I come home from the ol’ 9-to-5, I put my wallet, keys, and cell phone on the shelf, and all my pocket change goes into the bottle.

    It’s about 1/4 full right now, which I’m sure comes out to quite a chunk of cash.

  28. acambras says:

    Echodork — thanks for the reference — I went to YouTube and watched that video again — laughed my head off.

  29. And0 says:

    Please DON’T use CoinStar machines. As other readers have mentioned, you get dinged with a %9 fee. That may not seem like much, but it’s twice the interest rate you’d be getting on the change in a Money Market savings account (that’s where the extra money is ending up, right?)

    Many banks and credit unions will count change for free! If your bank doesn’t count the change for free, they’ll at least have much lower rates (%2).

    Or, if you do this regularly, consider getting a change counting machine. If you’re living with the CoinStar fees right now, a change counter will pay for itself.

  30. HelpMeHelpYou says:

    I bought an electronic coin sorter from Brookstone for 50 bucks and it works wonders. Investing that 50 bucks will save me hundreds if not thousands in Coinstar fees in the longrun (aside from the 2 C batteries I have to replenish every few months).

  31. SmoovyG says:

    I’ve been doing this with a 2-gallon glass jug for years now. I try to go one better than just change though – right now it’s about 2/3 full with coins and paper money of various denominations. I figure it’ll be good for an extra plane ticket cross country in another 6 months or so.

  32. crackblind says:

    Am I the only person that actually uses change when paying cash for something?

  33. i have a jar full of pennies at home, but i use them to throw at kids and small animals.

  34. Yes, Crackblind, you are, and please stop. We got places to be, people to do.

    I throw my change in a ziploc freezer bag [I keep the quarters separate for laundry], and everytime I take the bag in when it is full, I get between $90 to $120.

  35. DougDascenzo says:

    Whatever you do, don’t put coins in a metal container. I used to use a beer bucket that I “borrowed” from a bar, and it totally rusted out.

    Also, Chase will convert your change into cash for free. Not sure if you have to have an account there or not.

  36. mschlock says:

    My wallet has a coin purse built in. Yes, I am that person who hands the checker $20.38 on a $6.38 tab.

    OK, I’ll hand over whole bills if I see the line behind me is really long, but other lines, and especially slow drive-thrus, are ideal for getting rid of change.

  37. pestie says:

    For me, this approach strikes the perfect balance between laziness and responsible behavior. I’m saving my change, but I’m also pissing away 8.9% on the Coinstar machine. But it’s nice getting $30 – $50 every 6 months or so (I really don’t use “caveman money” much). It accumulates in a Solo cup next to the spot where I dump all my crap out of my pockets at the end of the day. The first time I cashed in a completely full Solo cup I got about $50 for it. Since I was debt-free at that point (consumer debt, anyway) I opted for a night at the strip club. $50 can go a long way when you don’t drink and don’t buy lap dances.

  38. MeMikeYouNot says:

    When my son, who’s now 28, was about 12 or 13, he got a Christmas Gift which was a big replica of a Hershey’s syrup bottle. I don’t remember what came in it nor why someone gave it to him (wasn’t me) but the neck of the bottle was great for putting coins in. He’s kinda tight-fisted anyway, and he put lots of his change(and mine to, I might add) in this jar. By the time he got ready to graduate from high school, we helped him buy a cheap car and he opened the bottle and had about $600 or so to spend on a radio and car accessories.

  39. ca_little says:

    I do this, but to really make an effect on the ol’ piggy bank I do this. Whenever I have singles (you know, plain old $1 bills) in my wallet, I put them in the jar.

    You can save a heckuva lot more than spare change this way.

  40. Michael Bauser says:

    I know a lot of people here in Michigan still save change in bottles and jars, because the phrase “a large bottle of coins was reported missing” appears in my local newspaper’s police briefs a lot. (Sadly, they don’t put the police briefs online.) It’s like there’s a really lame Batman villain living in suburbuan Detroit, collecting ammunition for his Spare Change Cannon.

    Like most of the posters here, I don’t use cash often enough for coinage to accumulate. (Most of the spare change I do gather ends up in Ann Arbor’s parking meters.) Back in college, though, I would deposit my spare change at the bank using the ATM. The poor employees at 5/3 Bank counted every coin too — if I made a mistake counting my pennies, there would be a 1 cent “deposit correction” on my bank statement.

    Unfortunately, all the banks print “no coins” on their ATM envelopes now. I guess you can all blame me for that.

  41. jonom says:

    I’ve been doing this for a long time too. Up here in Canada it’s even better since we’ve had $1 and $2 coins.

    A handful of change in your pocket could easily be $5 or more.

  42. acceptablerisk says:

    Don’t most banks let you deposit coins? I don’t really know. I’ve been banking at the same branch since I was sixteen.

    I just bring in my jar to the teller and tell them to deposit it.

  43. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I’ve done that for years. Depending on the size of the coffee can, I might get a few hundred dollars. I bring it to the credit union and then they deposit it into my checking account. It’s a great way to save extra spending money for a vacation, or buy a toy for yourself.

    The best part is, you don’t have to justify the purchase to anyone! It’s 100% guilt free.

  44. RandomHookup says:

    I’m with crackblind — if you actually use your change, it’s amazing that you don’t accumulate a lot of new change.

  45. simmo says:

    Pure Genius! I have an old poster tube that should pay out big when it gets full!

  46. denki says:

    I usually carry around enough change, but I hate American money, because I have to open my wallet for denominations over 25 cents. When I am in Japan, 500 yen (about 4 bucks) is the largest coin amount there is, and they don’t make paper money for anything less than 1000 yen. So instead of the lengthy process of having to draw out the wallet and then search for 3 dollar bills or that one 5 I’ve got in there, I just reach in my pocket and can bring out a wad of money that is easy to separate and define. A friend of mine has an opaque can which she places 500 yen coins in (indeed, it was made for that purpose), and when it gets full it will be worth 500,000 yen. Right now it’s a little over half that, so around $2,700 of 500 yen coins….

    America needs more coin money; people would bitch at first because it would be worth more and they would lose it, but right now our coins are such small denominations that we really don’t care if we drop them, and as such don’t know how to keep track of our change at all times.