Now that I've switched from *swipe*swipe*swipe* I am dealing with something I never thought about much before....
Actually, I used to keep and use my change all the time. First, I did laundry at a laundromat so I always needed quarters for that. I also used to take the tollway a lot and would pay with change. And I used to buy my daily soda at work from a vending machine. However, I don't do those things any more, so I rarely spend my change unless I make a special effort, and it sometimes piled up.
Here's the thing -- when you swipe a card and the total is $15.17, the $0.17 is taken out of your account and the remaining $0.83 of that dollar stays in your account, and you don't have to think about it much.
When you pay in cash, you give $16 (or $20), and you end up with 83 cents in coins.
When you pay from cash in envelopes... what do you do with the change you get?!?!?
We talked about this in my class, and I've seen various options on the internet. Dave's Envelope Systems come with paper envelopes. After a month, they get a bit ratty just taking bills out and writing on them. Coins would make them wear out faster.
The system also comes with a plastic pouch that could possibly hold coins, and some folks in my class used it that way. I tried it, and did not like it. I did not like the Ziplock-like seal. I did not like that the pouch was designed to lie flat, and coins add bulk. I also didn't like that coins would then be used for various categories, rather than the money staying IN the category. Basically I just didn't like that pouch, or I would have used it more.
I really love the idea of using cute zippered fabric pouches for my envelopes. They are sturdy, pretty, hold coins, machine washable, crushable, are more secure than regular envelopes, and if you get different fabrics for each pouch, it's easy to tell at a glace which category you have in hand.
The down side to this idea, for me, is that I really really like keeping a transaction total on each envelope. On the other hand, doing that has made me a bit lazy. I take money out of any envelope and just make sure to recalculate and re-shuffle my bills later. I don't do the thing where I spend until the envelope is empty, and then stop using that envelope. I just move money around.
But I'm discovering some flaws with that habit, which I might go into another time. At this moment I still find it a valuable practice. It makes me very aware of how often I spend and how much each purchase is. I also end up really looking at my receipts and noticing costs and taxes more. That's important.
But anyway, the point is, I actually had to think about what do do with coins, so here's what I do:
I save my change.
I went through my stuff and found a super cute box with an attached lid that was intended as a recipe card file. I have been using it as a kind of Rolodex since maybe 1994. But hey, all my contacts are electronic these days. I dumped the contents and put the box in pride of place, right next to the door when I walk in and dump my mail. And then I started saving my change and putting it in there.
I decided that I was going to pay for purchases with whole dollars as much as possible, so I could keep my paper envelopes from tearing. When I received change back at the register, I would just drop it in the bottom of my purse like I used to all the time. The difference is.... now every few days I clean it out, and I drop that change into my super cute box with the sunflowers on it.
It's a very cheerful box. It likes change. So do I.
My plan was to deposit the money in the bank periodically. But a funny thing happened once I started to really pay attention to coins.
Dude. You would not believe all the change I had all over. It was like I was afraid I might need a pile of pennies sometime and I just wanted to have stashes everywhere in case I had to leave the country unexpectedly. Here are some of the places I found random change:
• in a change purse, in my purse
• in a zippered pouch, in my purse
• bottom of my purse
• bottom of maybe 3 other pockets in my purse
• bottom of the tote bag I take to work
• bottom of various pockets in the tote bag
• outer jacket pockets
• little cute dishes sitting around that also held paper clips and thumb tacks
• on the shelves of my bookcase
• on the floor of my bedroom
• on my dresser
• in the cup holder in my car
• in the center console of my car
• on the floor of my car
• between the seats of my car
• in the pencil tray in my desk drawer
• in various baskets on shelves and my dresser
• in my pencil and pen organizer at work
• in my desk drawer at work
• under my monitor riser at work
It just went on and on. It got kind of funny. How many places can I find random coins? I'm not talking a ton of money. Sometimes it was just a penny here or there. Or a quarter and a few pennies. The point is, it seemed to be everywhere, and I didn't really keep track of it. It was everywhere because I didn't have a system for it. Every once in a while when I was cleaning out my purse or bag I'd find change, put it all together, and use it for purchases until it ran out. But then I'd have random coins around, and I'd just leave them wherever I had them.
Once I had my little box set up, it all changed (no pun intended). I started collecting it all up. If I found a quarter on the floor under my bed, in the box it went. When I found random change at work, I dropped it in my purse to be cleared out later. Lucky penny in the street went into my pocket, and eventually into the box. It was just funny, is all. Like, I never really noticed or thought about individual coins much before unless I needed them. But once I had A Place for them, then I noticed them more, because I wanted to put them there. Like the dog metaphor I used before, about how dogs just want to be loved and paid attention to, the little pennies just wanted to be valued. To be noticed.
So it piled up, pretty quickly. After a week I found myself counting the coins. Once it got past $20, the box had a deep layer of coinage in it. I would take $20 in coins out and put it in a Ziplock bag and stick it elsewhere to psyche myself into thinking I really didn't have any money. Now, I figured, if I had "an emergency" it would have to be dire for me to touch that cash. Who wants to pay the pizza guy with a baggie of nickels?
I never really got around to depositing the money. As I've mentioned, my bank is a 45 minute drive away. They've also cut their hours deeply, so it's hard to get to a branch during lobby hours.
I had this brilliant (I thought) idea... that I would use my $20 baggie of change for my BLOW money (miscellaneous and fun spending). I figured, I'd have to really want to spend it if I was willing to drag out a Ziplock of change and pay in quarters (so classy). Good thought, but it did not work. I did hate doing that. Instead of using the change I would just take dollars out of my envelopes and write down the amounts. It didn't work for me. I'm not embarrassed by the process, but it takes longer, requires juggling, and when I am commuting and worried about pickpockets, panhandlers, and other scam artists, I just don't need the additional hassle. (This is a great example of how you have to experiment with things, see that some work and some don't, and adjust according to your life and your needs.)
So the change piled up. Now I do calculate my spending on my envelopes, and no I do not round up or down. This possibly is a mistake. I was taking the change out of circulation, but not accounting for it being gone. Whatever, that's what I've been doing usually. I'm not a math major. It seems ok so far.
In late November I had an emergency that depleted my entire savings. You know what? I was out near my bank at the time. And I knew the day before that I would be. So I brought the change along. (This is when I had the brilliant idea that perhaps a large zippered make up bag I was not using might have been a better place to store change...) I had no idea if the bank would give me a hard time, but hey, it is legal tender, it's my money, and I wanted to deposit it.
So I paid this big bill and I went through a bunch of trauma (not meaning to be mysterious but I don't wanna talk about it here)... and the very minute I could, I drove to the bank and handed over a few bags of change to the teller. My bank has a machine that will count my change for me. I deposited my change and some other money and restarted my Baby Emergency Fund right away. And now, I'm still racking up the change.
But I don't know, because some of these fabric pouches are super cute!!!
Other things I want to talk about in future:
• How much cash do I carry on me (Dude, ALL of it) (Really)
• My first time actually doing a monthly budget
• Struggles I'm having (still)
• My first giveaway. I swear, I am giving something away on this blog, and soon, related to this topic.
I signed up to take FPU again. I need the support. So that class is next week and we will see how it goes.
Oh and by the way.... I AM going to see Dave live this spring. I saw an internet ad the day after payday and THAT TIME I had money still in my account. My ticket was $30 and I took it out of my Entertainment envelope, meaning I did not put any cash into that envelope this month (If I decide to see a movie or buy a magazine, I still have my BLOW money.) So I will be saving for the gas and hotel room over the next several months. See how that works? I know it's coming, I know how long I have until the trip, I will calculate my gas and meal costs, look up hotel costs online, and budget monthly so I don't have to scrimp the month of.
Financial Peace. It's good to have. Thanks for reading.
Photo 1: Loose change. From "It All Adds Up." Triumph of the Spirit weblog. 23 Mar 2010. LINK
Photo 2: Zippered money pouches. From "Are You Using the Envelope System?" The Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op weblog. 29 June 2009. LINK
Photo 3: Fabric envelopes. From "Dave Ramsey-inspired Fabric Envelope System." The Beautiful Budget weblog. 12 March 2010. LINK