Have you ever rolled your eyes at someone telling you how effective it can be to collect the spare change from your pockets? Well, in Frankfort, Ind., a man named Paul Brant learned from his father the value of stashing away his loose change in containers around his house. His dad used to use that money to fund family vacations. Following that example, Brant saved and saved, for 23 years. In 1994, he discovered that he'd saved $36,000!
That was enough to buy a Dodge pickup truck for himself and a Neon for his wife -- and it was all from pocket change! Thirteen years later, he had collected roughly another $25,000, almost enough to pay for one more new truck.
Brant's story shows us just how effective saving small amounts of money can be. It's also a fairly painless strategy. Shaving off $200 a month from your paycheck to sock away in a retirement account may hurt a bit (though it's probably well worth doing, and in greater amounts, too), but dropping the change from your pocket into a cookie jar each night should seem easy in comparison.
Granted, Brant might be better than we are at collecting loose change, since he frequents vending machines every day. But even so, if you estimate that you have $1.50 in change in your pocket each evening, that amounts to $10.50 each week, about $45.75 each month, close to $550 each year, and nearly $11,000 in 20 years.
Still, Brant's approach isn't perfect. Let's imagine that after his first 10 years of saving, he had accumulated $10,000. If he'd invested that $10,000 in the market over the next 13 years and it had earned 10% per year, it might have grown to $34,500 by truck time, and he'd still have the $15,000 he'd accumulated in the interim, for a grand total of $49,500.
Another consideration is that while money sits parked somewhere, uninvested, it loses value over time. Brant started saving in 1971. What he could have bought for a dollar then would cost about $5 today. Yes, he accumulated a lot of dollars, but those dollars are just not as powerful as they used to be. Investing in the stock market over long periods, you're very likely to increase the value of your investment well beyond inflation's effect.
OK, so stuffing loose change into cans or jars for years isn't the best idea, but it's still a lot better than saving nothing. It can help you accumulate some funds to pay for holiday gifts, a vacation, or some other treat, and it can even let you beef up your emergency fund. (You do have an emergency fund, don't you?) Head over to our Savings Center for lots of tips on how to maximize your short-term savings.