How Much Money I Really Saved Putting My Change In A Piggy Bank For 6 Years

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Whether it’s a traditional pig-shaped bank or just an old, empty pickle jar, I’d venture to say that most everyone has had a piggy bank at some point in their life. I love having a specific place to keep extra coins as a means to save money, even if the coins add up to only $20. To me, saving spare coins is often easier than sticking a 10 or 20 dollar bill in the jar every week, because it doesn’t feel like you’re sacrificing much. A handful of coins in my purse isn’t much money, but if I add a handful to my piggy bank every week for a year, then those small amounts will add up to a lot more money.

I also think it’s easier to grasp the concept of saving money when it’s tangible. I definitely don’t recommend saving all of your cash in a jar or underneath your mattress, but being able to watch a jar fill up with coins makes saving money seem more realistic, because you can watch a jar go from empty to overflowing. With an online savings account (which I, of course, a recommend, I transfer money and watch my balance go up or down, but I can’t actually see the money “grow,” whereas with a piggy bank, I can.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had some sort of piggy bank. The first one I remember was a small, silver jar that held about $10 worth of coins. The second was a small, pink jar with little ceramic shoes hanging around the top. The front of the bank read: “Shopping Fund.” Again, this bank didn’t hold many coins — less than $20 worth — but I loved to watch the coins build up until there were so many that they spilled over the bank’s brim. My favorite part was counting the coins and figuring out what I could buy with my “fortune,” which my 10-year-old self usually spent on gel pens and Lisa Frank journals.

About six years ago, I started to fill the biggest piggy bank I’ve ever owned. It’s over two feet tall, shaped like a guitar, and has a picture of Elvis on the front. It may look a little silly, but it will hold way more coins than any of my other piggy banks. I have a smaller jar that holds a little over $200, and so far, I’ve emptied five jars into the guitar bank. I think the guitar bank will hold two more of the smaller jars, so I should have about $1,400 when it’s full, which is obviously more of a “fortune” than what I had at 10 years old. (And yes, because I use my credit card more than cash, I’ve been putting coins in for almost six years, and it probably won’t be full for another year!)

When I started filling this guitar bank, I thought about how I would spend the money. This was well before I had a budget and savings goals, and one object quickly came to mind: a leather, caramel-colored Chloe purse. I’ve wanted a Chloe since I was a junior in high school (almost 10 years ago!), but I could never afford to spend $1,500 on a purse. I told myself that if I could fill this guitar with coins, I would deserve a reward, and a Chloe would be the perfect prize.

Then, I started reading The Financial Diet last summer. Big mistake for my piggy bank plans; huge boost for my personal finance and savings goals.

Just a few months ago, I still had plans to buy my dream Chloe purse. I was excited, because I was getting closer to the moment when I could walk into a Chloe boutique, smell the sweet scent of brand-new, real (i.e. expensive) leather, know exactly what I wanted, swipe my credit card knowing I could afford this purchase, and walk out of the doors with a $1,500 purse hanging on my shoulder.

Now, I sit at my computer while I type these words and ask myself, “What the hell were you thinking?”

Spending that much money on a purse that I would probably be too afraid to carry, because I’d worry about scuff marks and dirt messing it up, is crazy. Yes, if I could afford a luxury item without having to save spare coins for six-plus years, I may think differently, but I can’t, so I have to tell myself that that would be very irresponsible of me.

It’s funny — and interesting and surprising — to see how much I’ve changed as I’ve gotten older and started working toward financial goals. One year ago, I would’ve bought the Chloe purse. Heck, two months ago, I would have, too. But now I have more adult-like goals that are bigger and more complex than wanting a purse because it’s “cool.” And now, I want to add my piggy bank money to my savings account to help meet my new goals. Yes, I would get a skewed version of a return b buying the Chloe purse: I would feel a rush of excitement, I would feel proud that I had saved the money and could buy a luxury item, and I would have a moment where all felt right in the world because I finally had the one item I had pined for (for almost a decade).

But then that “oh shit” moment would hit. The excitement would fade. That proud feeling would turn into a you-should’ve-saved-that-money feeling, and I would remember that a $1,500 purse doesn’t make the world a better place.

In a way, I’m glad it has taken over six years to fill this guitar bank with coins. During this time, I’ve learned that changing and solidifying my financial goals is more important than the split-second rush I would get from buying an expensive purse. I’ve learned it’s okay to let old dreams morph into new and different dreams. And I’ve learned that buying a Chloe purse is definitely not worth seven years of saving spare coins. If it hadn’t taken me so long to fill this guitar bank, I’d have a gorgeous, caramel-colored Chloe collecting dust and hanging in the back of my closet. And I’d still be $1,500 away from meeting my next financial goal.

Kalee Cowan is an office assistant for an insurance agency in her hometown. She loves to read, bake cupcakes, and attend every concert she can. She loves her hometown, but constantly dreams of moving to Nashville, TN.

Image via Pexels

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  • Christian Gonzales

    As someone currently filling a hedgehog piggy bank, i love this post! I love that having a bank so big forced you to think out your reward over a long period of time. It stopped you from making a quick, easy-fading decision and forced you to think out what would be more beneficial in the long run. love it!

    • Kalee Cowan

      Thank you so much. I think it’s funny how time forces opinions to change and grow and sometimes expire.

  • Keisha

    I have to say, that guitar-Elvis piggy bank sounds like the most amazing piggy bank ever! Love it!

    • Kalee Cowan

      It is pretty amazing:) Especially if it will hold over $1,000 worth of coins!

  • Amanda L.

    I’ve currently got a stegosaurus “piggy” bank. But because I almost exclusively use a card, it only gets fed found change. It is taking FOREVER to fill, but it makes finding change in the parking lot so much more exciting.

    • Kalee Cowan

      I completely understand that excitement of finding change on the ground:)

  • Tierney Fowler

    I was in the same boat as you with the designer purse longing…and I did eventually get one. But instead of buying a brand new one, I did a lot of time waiting and sifting through a local designer purse resale FB group. My dream purse eventually came up–excellent used condition, original receipts/shopping bag/dust bag. When I went over to the woman’s house to pick it up, she took like an hour to show me her entire collection–how she traveled for years for work and had these special limited editions from Paris or Milan.

    I got my dream bag for less than half of what it cost new, and it looked like she’d only used it a few times. I had that same worry about scuffing it or ruining it, but then I just let it go. I never plan on reselling, and it makes me so happy every time I carry it.

    • I’m a big fan of browsing resale sites for designer handbags! As long as it’s a trustworthy source and you’re okay with the condition of the item, I think it makes so much more sense than buying new (if you are okay with spending a ridiculous amount on a bag at all)

    • Kalee Cowan

      First, that sounds like a dreamy closet. Second, I’ve definitely thought about buying a used purse like you did. I do think I would be happy every time I used the purse, especially – and maybe only – if I could get it at a discounted price.

  • Meg

    My husband and I received an amazing (and thoughtful) gift of change for our wedding. We had a two year engagement, and that entire time my uncle and aunt saved every dime (only dimes, no other change) in a jar and gifted it to us in an old whiskey bottle. There was over $200 in change in it! One of the most unique gifts I’ve ever received!

    • Keisha

      What a cool idea!

      • Meg

        It was actually really special. I knew about their idea in advance, but seeing the entire jar at our wedding showed that they were very thoughtful and intentional with their gift. It was so nice that they thought of us every time they had a dime in their hand!

    • Rosabella Alvarez-Calderon

      Please, please tell me that before you took the bottle to the bank to deposit in your account, you did take out all the dimes and counted them, played with the, made little stacks and towers and took many pictures! How many other chances yoy will have to have that many dimes on you before doing the responsible thing with them?

      • Meg

        This made me laugh! No, unfortunately we didn’t, but I wish we would have! It was tough enough to shake out all of the dimes (the bottle had a narrow neck), and we “broke” the machine twice on that one visit alone!

    • Kalee Cowan

      I’ve never heard of giving such a gift before, but I love this idea. As you mentioned, I especially like that they thought of you every time they added a dime to the jar.

  • Loved how your thought process changed! Though I’m still over here laughing at the idea of walking in to a Chloe boutique & dumping $1500 worth of change on the counter 😉

    • Kalee Cowan

      Oh, the horror on the salesperson’s face if I did that:) I would definitely use my credit card for a purchase that big (and immediately pay it completely off!) to get bonus rewards, but I’ll skip getting those extra rewards in favor of saving my money this time.

      • Haha yes I know you would never, but just couldn’t stop the image!

  • Go for a Kate Spade surprise sale! Then you get your purse (for closer to $200 or less!) but mostly pursue your goals!

    • Kalee Cowan

      Kate Spade would be a great alternative. I’ll have to look into that!

  • Rosabella Alvarez-Calderon

    I still have my piggy bank from the time I was 9 years old and opened my first savings account at the Weybridge, Surrey branch of NatWest bank – a baby piggy bank! For some reasons, my two sisters also opted to save theirs, and one of them -now nearly 30 years old- sits in my niece’s bedroom.
    My sister also went through a savings phase of acquiring the most tacky, over-the-top piggy banks (always piggies, usually painted in bright neon colours and with little wiggly eyes) and then staging elaborate smashing ceremonies when they were full and she needed the cash. My grandma, on the other hand, would save her spare change in the piggy banks her bank gave her, and when they were full show would donate them to her favorite charity.

    • Kalee Cowan

      That’s awesome for your niece to have her mother’s childhood piggy bank, and I love that your grandma donates her savings! Though I love your sister’s take on piggy banks, too:)

      • Rosabella Alvarez-Calderon

        My sister would actually name her piggy banks: the first one was called Washington the Pig, the second one was called Yessica Quimberly.

        • Kalee Cowan

          Love it!

  • Laira

    I’m curious about exactly how much ended up in the piggy bank, rather than an approximation. I have greatly overestimated how much change I had saved only to be greatly disappointed by a Coinstar.

    • Kalee Cowan

      I could be wrong, but I’m probably (and hopefully) underestimating how much change I’ll have. Both of my parents have filled and cashed the same smaller jar I use, and they got about $250 two or three times, so I underestimated to $200 so I wouldn’t get my hopes up too high. And I sort and roll my change, and then deposit the rolled coins at the bank so I won’t have any fees/charges for cashing in:)

      • Laira

        That’s awesome! I’ve also started putting money in a piggy bank (usually loose change and $1 bills — $5 bills if I’m feeling crazy.) I’m excited to see how that adds up. The feeling of saving tangible money really is quite addictive.

        Also, there are machines owned/operated by Coinstar that give you a gift card to a major retailer of your choice without charging a fee! So you still get 100% of your money, it just has to go towards Vons or Target or something. It’s a nice alternative if you’re sick of rolling pennies and know you want to make a purchase at a particular store.

        • Kalee Cowan

          I also add bills to my piggy bank whenever I think about it (usually 1 and 5 dollar bills, but I know I’ve put a few 20 dollar bills, too). And I didn’t know that about the gift cards. I may have to do that with my pennies:)

  • Rose

    I, too, put spare change in a jar; mine is a glass 1/2 gallon milk jug. I cashed it in before moving to NYC five years ago and it had about $130 in it, if I remember right. I cashed one in again a few years ago, and went straight to the ATM to put the money in my savings account. I’ve currently got just over $120 (I counted it one day a few months back when I was very, very, bored, and watching Netflix); it will also be deposited in my savings account once it’s full!

  • Marilyn Jones

    I enjoyed your article. My CCs have got a bit above my head. I got some coins from selling stuff on those FB bidding sites so I decided to buy a small piggyback. Now I’ve become addicted to putting money into it. I can’t wait to return these water and wine bottles to put the change in there! Lol

    Growing up in the land of debit and credit cards kind of takes the “reality” out of the money that is being spent. Seeing the actual tangible money go into my lil piggybank makes me feel good! But it has also opened my eyes to the real mindless spending that I do with the debit/cc cards.

    Nowhere near as big as a two foot guitar with Elvis on it, but just big enough for me to have the “aha” moment I needed 🙂

    Marilyn.

  • Che

    Hi Kalee! I love this. Are you a financial advisor? 🙂

  • Shanna

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