Save Money Faster By Turbo-Charging Your Change Jar

I recently shared my latest supermarket misadventure where I had the misfortune of getting behind a nice lady who paid for her groceries with a giant bag of quarters.

I used that little episode to talk about about the benefits of Coinstar and why I have no problem paying their 9.8 percent fee. Needless to say, I was more than just a bit surprised when I got beat up by the majority of my readers for expressing such an opinion. In fact, most of them thought that was the dumbest idea since Coca-Cola CEO Roberto Goizueta’s boneheaded decision to reformulate the world’s most popular soft drink.

Okay, you got me; actually, they thought it was dumber. And that’s why, dear readers, today I’m going to attempt to get back in your good graces — at least with respect to the world of loose change.

Change jars are a fairly popular way for folks to save money. You know the drill: When you come home, you’re supposed to empty your pockets or change purse and then put the spare coins in the jar.

Of course, a big drawback to that savings method is that it usually takes an excruciatingly … long … time … before … you … see … significant … results.

Thankfully, there’s a way to turbo-charge your change jar savings rate: Simply avoid spending any dollar bills you get as change throughout the day. Then, after you come home and are ready to make contributions to your jar, be sure to include all of those unspent dollar bills along with your coins.


Oh, and if you have no singles in your wallet or pocketbook, then pull out a fiver and drop it in the jar.

By using this turbo-charged method, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by just how much quicker your savings will grow.

And if you’re not, well, I’m sure you’ll let me know.

Photo Credit: ewen and donabel


  1. 1


    I must have missed all the uproar about Coinstar. For me, it makes more sense because my bank doesn’t have a branch in the town where I live. Ever take a bunch of change into a bank where you don’t have an account? They pretty much laugh at you.

    It has taken me about a year to save roughly $25 in coins. I rarely use cash. But I’m surprised that so many people would be angry about losing 10% to get cash for change. We pay a lot more than that for convenience in other areas.

    • 2

      Len Penzo says

      Start saving $1 bills and I bet you’ll quintuple your savings rate, Andrea! Report back in a year and tell us how it goes! :-)

  2. 3

    Chris Eaker says

    I’m with you on Coinstar. I don’t usually pay the fee, but rather get a gift card to Amazon or something. I buy lots of stuff from Amazon, so it works out well. However, if I really needed the cash, I’d pay the fee. It’s far easier than rolling them myself and cashing them in.

    • 4

      Len Penzo says

      Yep, there is no fee when you use a gift card. That’s a great option and Coinstar has lots of alternatives too.

  3. 5


    My bank lets customers use the coin machine for free so I don’t have to pay any fees at all. It came in handy last year when my father-in-law passed away. He had several HUGE jags full of pennies tucked away…about $170 worth. That’s 17,000 pennies!!

    • 6

      Len Penzo says

      Amazing how much change is in circulation, isn’t it? The fact that anyone could save 17,000 of anything is amazing too!

  4. 7


    Len, you may not know this about me, but one of my hobbies is coin jar estimation. My friends and I make wagers on the amounts before cashing in our coin jars. Often times, the wager exceeds the amount of the coins! Anyhoo, I’m getting pretty darn good at it. This skill also extends to other areas like jelly bean counting and other assorted candies.

    Think I should put that on my resume?

    • 8

      Len Penzo says

      Wow, that is a pretty cool talent to have, Geoff. Care to share your estimating secret? Or is it kind of an innate ability? You should be able to parlay that into some kind of profitable activity.

  5. 9


    Len, why stop at ones or even five spots?

    For those who can’t save any other way, why not drop a Benjamin or two in the jar every pay period?

    Do that for 40 years and it’s real money…..

    But to get the impact of compound interest (super-turbocharged) you would need to take the trouble to put it in the bank periodically. Oh well, that sounds just like a “savings account….” Or better yet, an IRA…
    Heaven forbid!

    • 10

      Len Penzo says

      Dr. Dean! I can’t remember the last time I had a benjamin in my wallet — or a ulysses for that matter! (Probably because I’m married! LOL)

      You make a good point though, it’s probably wise to turn that change over periodically and let it start earning extra money for you, even if it’s only a percent or two of interest.

  6. 11


    Many years ago when I used cash more, I used to throw change in a jar every day. At the end of the month, I would have $40 in change. Every month, I would deposit the change in my bank. As soon as it was large enough I invested the savings. Now, I bring my lunch and use very little cash.

  7. 13

    Cemlyn Jones says

    I certainly did not think your idea of using Constar was dumb. I wish we had something like that in the UK. As far as i know there is nowhere to do this. The banks will not handle a large amount. It all has to be separated into the different coins, counted and bagged into the correct denomination of coins for each type of coin. It’s too much hassle for most people if you have a large coin jar. We made it into a family thing. I went to the bank and got all the different bags I might use and off we went to count. Making small stacks of each coin. Bag them, count them and then back to the bank, not normally on the same day!! When the 1 pound ( $1.60) coin came out in the UK the value of the coin jar suddenly shot up!! Our big family jar would hold over 100 pounds ($160) mind you that would take nearly 2 to 3 years to fill up with a family of 4.

    All the best


    • 14

      Len Penzo says

      Thank you, Cemlyn. I’m with you. My time is much too valuable to spend it rolling coins. Much too valuable.

  8. 15

    Someone says

    I’m sorry, but I really don’t see the wisdom in paying Coinstar a 9.8% tax on the coin you give them. Especially if you plan your trip better, you can stop by your credit union or bank and use their free coin machine and keep that 9.8% for yourself.

    Think of it this way. When you invest, you are trying to get good rates of return. Part of the trick to investing is to _reduce losses_. 9.8% is a significant loss. And it is so unnecessary when free options are so easily available.

    Save that 9.8% and reinvest elsewhere. Let it compound.

    • 16

      Len Penzo says

      Fair enough, Someone. Everybody values their time differently.

      I like your point about reducing losses in your investments to unnecessary fees. But I just look at saving spare change as a way to save a few extra bucks to use as mad money — rather than it being an investment. :-)

  9. 17

    Christy says

    Excellent advice to throw in the $1 bills Len. Here in Canada, where we have $1 & $2 coins, change adds up very quickly. My older brother saved up enough coins when he was in college throughout the year to pay his rent during the last month! At the time, it was $300 rent, but still… saving those coins can help immensely. I have to admit though, when I feel like I’m in need of a slurpee, I find myself digging the twonies ($2 coins) out of the jar. Otherwise though, I think most Canadians could tell you that once the loonies and twonies came into our country, our change jars added up faster and faster. So save the $1 and the $5s if you’re brave enough!

    Also, when you’re dealing with large amounts of money, it’s generally worth it to roll them yourself. Once you get into the swing of things, it goes pretty quickly. Think about it: My husband and I dumped our change jars into our unborn son’s piggy banks. Then we kept filling the banks with spare change. When he was 4 months old, we rolled it and took it to the bank. We got $173. (which paid for his new car seat, with a few dollars left over to leave in his savings account) If we had taken it to a machine, we would have lost about $17! (they’re not available in our area anyway) It took us about an hour to sit down together and roll the coin. Think of the time you have to sit with your kids/significant other and talk about money and what to do with the money your rolling.

    • 18

      Len Penzo says

      I had no idea Canada had a $2 coin. Is it popular, or does the public essentially ignore it like we ignore our $1 coins here, Christy? (And I don’t care how easy people say coin rolling is; the lazy bum in me prefers to pay the Coinstar fee because it’s cheaper than the value of my lost time.) :-)

      • 19

        Christy says

        The twonie and the loonie are both used a great deal. Both coins have become accepted as the norm. I haven’t seen a one or two-dollar bill in well over a decade.

  10. 20


    Hey, don’t knock the power of the coinage. We changed out a candy jar of coins the other day and lots of them must have been quarters because we had $250 in coin! I’m not paying a machines $25 to count my coins. Instead I rolled up to the local bank with a coin machine, pretended to be my mother (you have to have an account there to get this done) and had the machine count my change for free.

    A little fibbing involved? Yes.
    Money saved $25.
    Walking out with $250 instead of $225? Worth a 1/2 tank of gas.

  11. 22

    Kelly Ledsinger says

    If you use the coinstars in Kroger’s and you get a Kroger’s gift card with your cash , you won’t pay a processing fee .

    • 23

      Len Penzo says

      Yep. It’s the same deal at my local grocery store, Kelly. In fact, you don’t have to pay the processing fee if you exchange the coins for any kind of gift card!

  12. 25

    Debbie says

    If you’re saving those coins in a jar for extra savings it is ridiculous to pay a fee for cashing it in. If you told us of a service that paid us 9.8% for turning in change we would all think that was a wonderful high amount and it is also a terrible high amount just for turning your coins into cash. If you use it for a gift card then it is great as there is no fee but why save your change in the first place if it’s just to have 9.8 percent of it taken away??? In that case just keep it in your wallet and spend it as you make purchases!


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