10 Things to Do with Spare Change

You know the loose change that piles up on your nightstand, in the car, and in the bottom of your purse? Don’t let it sit there like a paperweight.

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You know the loose change that piles up on your nightstand, in the car, and in the bottom of your purse? Don’t let it sit there like a paperweight.

As piggy bank-using kids everywhere will attest, even pennies a day can add up to significant savings. On your next cleaning spree, go from sofa cushions to cars to desk drawers and collect your spare change. Then, put it to good use. Here are 10 ways to make those coins work for you.

Roll It Up

Before you can deposit your mason jar full of coins into a bank account, you need to put it in coin rolls. Most major banks only accept coin rolls, and some charge a small exchange fee if you’re not a customer.

Your bank should give you coin wrappers for free. If not, pick up a bag of coin wrappers at your local office supply store or drug store. Sound like too much of a chore? Get your kids involved. They can practice basic math and help you save at the same time.

Open a Savings Account

A 2017 Federal Reserve report found that 44 percent of Americans couldn’t cover a $400 emergency expense out of pocket. Defy the statistics. If you don’t have one already, open a high-yield savings account, and aim to save up three to six months’ worth of living expenses.

Most banks let you open a savings account with no minimum deposit, and you can put in as little or as much as you want over time. Once a quarter year or when your piggy bank gets full, roll those coins and make a savings account deposit.

Two holiday gifts are pictured under a tree, with greenery, berries, and lights in the background.

Save for Holiday Gifts

Whenever the barista or a cashier gives you change, set it aside for a holiday gift fund. Come December, you’ll have a great head start on your holiday shopping budget. Give it a family-friendly twist and use the money to buy a fun gift your whole crew will enjoy, such as a set of new board games or an ice cream maker.

Family in front of the ocean, including a woman, man, and girl sitting on the man's shoulders with outstretched arms

Create a Vacation Fund

Do you feel like it’s next to impossible for you to save for a vacation? Start small. Deposit your spare change into a dedicated vacation savings account. A year’s worth of change may not get you a flight to Tahiti, but if you’re diligent, there will come a time when you have enough to help cover a well-deserved getaway.

Teach Your Kids About Saving

Turn your spare change savings plan into teachable moments. Offer your kids an allowance for going above and beyond with their household chores — they can decide whether to save up for a toy they’ve been wanting, or you could encourage them to donate to a children’s charity.

Another thought: Save as a family. Parents and kids can all put their spare change toward a common goal, such as an amusement park outing or movie tickets. Your kids will learn the value of saving and sacrificing now for a reward later.

Start a College Fund

With college tuition averaging between $9,970 and $34,740 per school year, spare change isn’t going to make much of a dent. However, you can use your first round of saved change to open a 529 College Savings Plan.

Many plans let you open an account for as little as $25. Research plans in various states to find a college savings plan with contribution minimums that meet your budget.

Put It Toward Your Latte Fix

If you stop drinking $4 lattes five days a week and start making coffee at home, you’ll save more than $1,000 a year. That’s not chump change.

A café latte in a to-go cup, with a heart design made from foam

However, if you can’t let go of that iced caramel concoction, pay with cash, and save the change. Combine that with your other saved change, and you’ll soon have enough for a “free” latte or three.

Donate to Charity

Another great idea is to research charities that support causes you believe in. Then save your spare change all year long with that charity in mind.

Man in plaid shirt and jeans holding jar filled with coins and the word "Donate" on it.

At the end of the year, roll the coins, and donate it all! Many non-profits happily take coin donations.

Pay It Forward

If you tend to collect change in your car, use it to pay the highway toll for the driver behind you. You can also use spare change to brighten the day of the person standing in line behind you at the supermarket or coffee shop. These random acts of kindness are a real mood-booster for you and the recipient.

Use a Coin-Counting Machine

When your piggy bank reaches capacity, one easy way to get cash for coins is to use the coin-counting machines found at many supermarkets. Coinstar machines count up to $3,000 of change and give you a voucher to exchange for cash.

Keep in mind that these machines charge a fee of about 10 percent for their service. If you opt for a practical gift card (Amazon, for example), you can usually avoid the fee and keep all your savings. Apply the gift card toward something nice for yourself, like a book about investing.

Looking for more ways to save? Check out our other budget-friendly guides that include free activities to partake in on your next vacation!

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