Posted by: Kate | January 27, 2011

Money Talks: Spare Change

I have been thinking about spare change recently, and after a conversation with Kathy the other week I felt the stirrings of a money post. (I’m hoping she might post her spare change stories as well …)

I learned the value of spare change when I was in high school. (Warning, shocking reveal coming up.) I was a smoker when I was a teen-ager, and when I turned 18 cigarettes went to $4 a pack. That seems cheap compared to today’s prices (no, I’m not a smoker anymore, but my mother was until recently) but at that time it was a huge price increase. I was headed to university in a few months and I knew I couldn’t afford to be smoking then, so on the day it went to $4 I quit. As a reminder of the cost, I would put $4 in a jar about the time I would have been buying a new pack of cigarettes. In just a couple of months I had enough money to repaint my room and buy some clothes. (Looking back, I do wonder what possessed me to paint that room. I left home for good four months later, and I knew that was coming at the time I painted.)

Nowadays I keep my spare change in a jar in my craft room (it’s also a guest room, but I use it for crafts a lot more often than we have guests in it). For the past few years whenever it started to look full I would roll the change, cash it in and use it to buy new craft supplies (not something I do very often so it was a treat). I was only putting silver in the jar — no toonies or loonies generally (two dollar and one dollar coins). The pennies are for another jar which I’ll explain in a moment.

This year I’ve decided, after reading some articles on home finances, to go another route with my spare change jar. I am going to use it apply to debt. Even if it is a small payment, that is one step closer to reducing the debt and that is a good thing. I’ll likely add more loonies and toonies to the jar knowing this.

As to the pennies. Bushboy collects pennies for a campaign here in town called Pennies for Presents. The money is collected by a local newspaper and then used to buy presents at Christmas for children whose families receive hampers through a local charity. I started Bushboy on this when he was in Kindergarten, and got him to involve his class. I started him on it as I felt it was a simple charitable act that a young child could relate to. Now he takes it on himself to make posters, do school announcements and go to each class in his school talking to the kids about the collection. Family and friends also save their pennies for him over the year and bring them to him in the fall. This year his total was over $200. That is a great lesson in spare change.

So those are some of my thoughts on spare change and the power of emptying your pockets. Any good stories to share?


  1. Fascinating post…and good job for putting BB on the path to such a great charity (and to BB for wholeheartedly embracing it). I have spare change jars (separate ones for pennies and silver) sitting around where I deposit almost any change I get. Even though it’s been years since I started, I have yet to take them to the bank to be counted…you’ve made me curious to see how much I’ve collected! However, I must admit that I rarely use cash anymore so change isn’t gathered as frequently. Listening to some of your ideas (and maybe Kathy will chime in as well), I may have to reconsider the plastic versus cash approach for some things in the future.

    BTW–I’m glad cigarette prices took a leap if that’s what it took for you to quit! ;) I’m trying to wean myself off another addictive substance…pepsi…a year or so ago I calculated how much I spend on it and was shocked. Like you, I should cease and desist and actively use the money saved on something better.

  2. Great idea with the pennies! In our household quarters, loonies and toonies are hoarded for parking meters and “park n pay” lots. They are so valued that if one family member borrows one from another they have to swear they will return the same kind of coins when they repay the lender.

  3. When my kids were little my daughter bought her brother one of the 2 ft tall orange crayon banks for Christmas. That thing weighed a ton when we finally took it to the bank. The bank tellers had to cut the bottom off (no easy task) to get the change out. Thankfully my kids were there and the tellers were nice about it. I can’t remember how much was in there but my kids were so excited. Just last week I took in a cookie jar full of pennies, nickles and dimes (quarters go into another jar) and there was over $200.

  4. That’s such a great thing that Bushboy does. Admirable in one so young! I have a jar that I collect spare change in too. It goes towards a charity that helps a school in Uganda. My youngest daughter lived and worked in the African village for five months between finishing her degree and starting her Masters. Hope you have a lovely weekend. Ros

  5. Great story today, Kate. You’re such a good Mom, Kate. I love how BB’s embraced giving to charity. Even pennies help! Great idea.

    I’ll have to put in my 2 cents worth, pun intended. haha. I’ve been saving coins for years & years. When the jar gets full (usually an old peanut butter jar or one of those liquor tins), I’ll roll them up & take them to the bank. I like to collect loonies & toonies as they add up so quickly (and it lightens my purse). I do have trouble with “someone” taking whatever change they need & not replacing it.

    I also had a “swear jar” when our kids were in high school, boy, that worked like a charm! It wasn’t too painful, just 25 cents a swear and if you used the Lord’s name in vain, it was doubled. I remember we all went out for supper using the proceeds.

    Now I’ve got spare change in a few place around the house, making it more difficult for “someone” to find! ha ha

    Congrats for quitting smoking!!! (huge applause!!!) I haven’t smoked since 2003 :) Nasty habit anyway. My doctor told me that’s the single most beneficial thing I could do for my health.

  6. Hi Kate… a very good post. Ironically, since our conversation, our coins will also likely be applied to debt. I will definitely post about my experience since it actually includes many of the experiences that people mentioned in your comments. I think some time in February I’ll do my post.
    I think it’s great what BB is doing. You may have started him on it, but all the work that he does, shows that he really embraces it. It’s very touching (insert preteen eye roll here in response to comments – don’t worry BB, I don’t squeeze cheeks).

  7. i really like this idea kate – i think we might just be applying our spare change to our debt as well. lately lily has just been swiping all our spare change for her “collection” and i never see it again :)
    i guess i should focus up and get her started on a project like bushboy’s.

    thank you for the inspiration kate!

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