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We Paid Cash: A Fun Family Outing

We paid cash!

A testimony from Kristin

My husband works in lawn care so there is never a spare week in the grass-growing days of spring and summer to take a vacation.

Since I was expecting another baby at the end of the summer, we would be too busy caring for an infant to attempt a family get-away in the fall or winter either. However, when we got the urge to take the kids on a fun outing one day in June, we were able to do it without lots of planning and without a twinge of guilt!

How We Did It

We only use cash when we pay for things so we accumulate a lot of spare change. Each time we return from a shopping trip, we put all of our dimes, nickels and pennies in a container in our bedroom. We roll and spend the small change periodically, usually on small treats like ice cream or a movie.

Our quarters are more sacred. We put all of them in a separate jar out of sight and allow the pile to collect…and collect…and collect.

Then comes the fun part. About once every six months, we decide on a fun way to spend the money we’ve saved. It can be used to purchase an item we can all enjoy or, as in this case, used to fund an outing we otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Since it was June and my husband couldn’t take extra time off, we needed to keep our outing close to home so we decided to visit a touristy beach town, about 45 minutes away.

Getting Ready to Go

We Paid Cash A Day AwayOnce we began to make plans, we let everyone be hands-on. My husband dumped the quarters out onto the floor and the kids stacked them in groups of four. Then my husband and I wrapped the coins into rolls of $10. We all counted the rolls and took them to the bank to exchange for paper money.

With our quarter money, we were able to spend the whole day away. We had enough money for gas, parking fees, wrist bands for a small amusement park, lunch on the Boardwalk and dinner at a restaurant on the way home.

Still Going…

When we got home, after carrying sleepy children in the house and tucking them under their covers, we emptied our pockets and…clink!…dropped the first of our new collection of quarters into the jar.

Kristin is wife to Brian and home school mom to Gavin, Maddie, Owen, Benjamin, and Alaine. She blogs about her family and her passions at Bits and Pieces From My Life.

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  • Amber says:

    This is so neat!! We’ve just started doing this, and I am looking forward to our first “change” adventure!

  • Heather says:

    That’s a good idea. Just wanted to mention that when I worked at a bank, we would have to unroll all the coins that people did themselves in order to put them in the change machine to get an accurate count, then give them the money. So you might want to check with your bank before you spend a lot of time rolling quarters.

  • Amber says:

    I love, love, love this post!!! There’s so much blah news and stories out there that it’s nice to read something like this!!

  • Gaby says:

    It’s amazing how much money you can accumulate through spare change. My boyfriend and I started a “fun fund” and we put in spare change, all $1 bills he gets from tip share, and other surprise money such as rebates. We started a little over 2 months ago and already have $460 saved!

  • Donna says:

    Our family does something similar – we save our change, and when we use it (about once every six or twelve months), we use some portion of it (at times it’s been as much as 1/2 of it) to buy canned goods to take to our local food bank. Then our family uses “our share” to splurge on something like a fun day bowling, deposit on a vacation at the beach, etc. My kids are growing up, now 18, 16 and 12, but they always make sure we use some portion of our “savings” to help those less fortunate.

  • rachelle whitaker says:

    Many of the banks and credit unions around here (Michigan) are charging to take rolled coins. However, that is a great idea for my 4 yr old! Thanks

  • Meredith says:

    We just got back from a cruise in November. We had saved for the actual cruise but our spending money on the ship and port was earned by our spare change. We had became so frugal we only spent about 30 dollars of it and came back with a nice padding in our savings!

    • birthrightrose says:

      @Meredith, We are hoping to take a cruise in the next year. We will have to save to get it, but I would like to have info on how it worked for you. Which company did you cruise with, how much ‘extras’ cost and how it was with kids. I was thinking that a cruise would be a good break where I wouldn’t have to obsess about $ all of the time since it is all inclusive. Please let me know!

      • Meredith says:

        @birthrightrose, Well, we cruised with Carnival this past November but I would suggest shopping around and not going with the cheapest cruise (this is what we did for this cruise). Every cruise ship has pros and cons. I can tell you that there are TONS of hidden costs. It just takes a strong will to bypass them. Of course ships make a lot of money on alcohol but there are other things like parking costs, tipping (we pre-pay ours usually), games on the ship, etc. However, you can do the cruise without spending an extra dime. There is a ton of food and free entertainment, you just have to search for them while you are on the ship. Here are some things we did, researched hotels by port of call to see if they offered parking, took an inexpensive bottle of wine on board and drank it over two days in the lounge, only ate where the food was free, did our own shore excursion, didn’t buy much while we were there because we had bought the cruise…that was enough, and we just used it as a time of relaxation, not a party time. Also, worry about which floor you are on more so then if you have a window or not. The lower you are, the more the boat rocks. Look at Royal Caribbean, Disney, and Princess. Most offer tons of free activities for kids and adults alike. We did a three day cruise for a total of $600 which included gas to port, the cruise, a 10 dollar impulse buy in the Bahamas, and our passport costs. Not too bad in my opinion!

  • Brook says:

    I second that about the coin rolling since they use coin counting machines most places. Our bank has you unroll them. They won’t accept them rolled at all.

  • Julie says:

    We not only save our coins, we also save our dollar bills. It is amazing how much we save doing this. Plus, we spend less on the little things because we try to use cash all the time and who wants to break a five dollar bill for a pack of gum?

  • That’s an inspiring story. I was just thinking about the change we have lying around the house and how I plan on taking it to a money machine to get instant cash. I’ve never done that before. Do these machines take a percentage? I will use the extra funds to pay off debt!

    Thanksk for sharing!

  • Jen says:

    I have never once encountered issues with rolled change at my banks. I live in the Indy area and roll all of my change. Most of the banks have these little machines that they tell what change it is that’s rolled, e.g. nickels, and it knows within a certain weight range what the total weight should be. If the roll is too heavy or light it beeps.

    That said, we do the exact same thing. The only change I spend from change given for a dollar are the pennies. I HATE rolling pennies. Sadly, my husband saves his pennies too and doesn’t roll any of it so I still roll pennies. But…they add up too.

    We haven’t decided what we’re going to do with our money, about $200 in about 4-6 months but I do like the idea of using a portion of it to help those less fortunate. Great idea!

    • Dawn says:

      Do you mind telling me what bank? Indiana Members Credit Union and Chase both charge to accept change deposits over a dollar or two. I found this out the hard way when I went to “cash in” change from a charity bakesale. Both banks charged a %fee–very frustrating, particular when we have major accounts at both of these banks.

  • #1 When I was little, my parents had us save change all year long for carnival money. When the carnival came to the small Catholic church in our town, we would roll up all that change and that would be our game/ride/food money.

    #2 I used to work as a cashier at a cafeteria and one time an old man came up to me to pay two different bills. Generally when people could pay me in exact change they did. So after I cashed out one ticket I asked if he wanted me to apply the change to the other to make it exact cash. He told me no, that he saved all of his change for his grandson’s college. I laughed and he said “don’t laugh…I paid for both of my children’s college completely in change”. He was dead serious. Now I’m sure it wasn’t actual change, but what he meant was he just always paid cash and saved the change and over time it added up to their college tuitions. Amazing!
    Change really does add up!

  • Lana says:

    I love your story! Hubby and I did this when he was in college and we were so very poor! Those small outings from our change were a real bright spot in our lives. This was over 30 years ago and change went a little further back then.

  • Nicole says:

    The change jar used to fund or evenings out to the local casino’s nickel slots when my husband and I were dating. 🙂

    I rarely carry cash–if I have it, I’ll spend it. So when I do, say, break a $20 and have $8 change, I’ll take it out of my wallet when I get home and bury it–literally until I cannot see any bit of it– in my husband’s change jar. Out of sight, out of mind. I’ve been doing this for about 5 months now and we recently cashed the change jar in preparation for a trip to the east coast with the kids. I’d socked away $182 EXTRA dollars! On top of the change that was in there. That money I probably would have blown on sodas from Sonic or more cute hairties for my daughter or other stuff I didn’t really need. That’s enough to get our infant (who was going to be a lap child) his own seat on the plane!

  • Ginger says:

    I really liked this story. Thank you.

  • jane says:

    It was a touching n inspiring story.. makes me feel better on a bad day

  • Wani says:

    This is such a fun way to get the kids involved in the saving for a family trip! I love it!

  • carla says:

    What I loved about this post, was the fact that the savings was not used for something “BIG” like a house or a new car, etc. but something more attainable for most of us. It is great to see and read about those who can and do save for the bigger things, don’t get me wrong, but in reality, at least in our real world we could get very discouraged reading about all the bigger things that we can’t do. I absolutely loved thinking about what a wonderful day this family must have had.

  • Ashli says:

    I know all too well how much change can add up! The first year that my husband and I were married I was working as a substitute teacher and he was working as a phlebotomist (the guy who draws blood at the hospital) and a bartender. After his shifts as a bartender, he would come home and put all his tips into a large water cooler jar. Most of his tips were in change, some were in $1 dollar bills, and every now and then we would get really lucky and get a $5. We were staying with his mom until we saved up enough to get an apartment of our own. One night after about 7 or 8 months we sat down and rolled all the coins only to find out that we had enough for a security deposit and first month’s rent on an apartment! It was an amazing feeling to pay for something like that using spare change, and it was so liberating to walk through the door of that apartment for the first time!

  • Susan says:

    Some credit unions (maybe banks too, I don’t know) have a program where, when you use your debit card, they will automatically round up to the nearest dollar and put the “change” into a savings account. So you can use your debit card and literally save the “loose change” you’d have ended up with had you used dollar bills.

    I love Coinstar and we use it several times a year. Normally it charges 9%, but every now and then there will be a promotion where it won’t charge anything. We put our loose change in a jar and occasionally go to coin star to cash it in. I don’t mind the fees. It’s a small price to pay to avoid the hassle of rolling coins. You can’t put a price on my sanity!

    I didn’t realize that some banks and credit unions have a machine similar to Coin Star that doesn’t charge a fee. I will need to look into that.

  • rachelc says:

    Loved this post! We have various containers that we put out change in… I roll it (our bank insists on that), and put it into my son’s savings account. It really does add up. We also put money that we get from recycling bottles and cans into his account. Occasionally, my husband will let him spend a dollar or two of “his” money. He’s 4, so it’s nice for him to see the value of his dollar!

  • Susie says:

    When our kids were 8,9 and 10 we didn’t have a lot of money for vacation. We decided to write what we wanted to do on a slip of paper and put it n a jar. The rules were that it could be anywhere and anything within 3 hours travel from the house. The other rule was that everyone HAD to participate. What a surprise when we read the slips…My oldest wanted to rent a pontoon boad and spend the day on a nearby lake. My son wanted us to go to his favorite fishing spot, and my youngest wanted to ride horsies! My husband wanted to go camping for 1 night and I wanted to spend a night in a B&B. Some things we combined like fishing and camping. We found an evening trail ride that ended watching the sunset and having a cowboy supper by the fire…awesome! The B&B turned out to be a hunting lodge on beautiful trout stream. It turned out to be a wonderful week of togetherness and everyone getting exactly what they wanted. We still talk about that week 13 years later!!

  • Em says:

    This is a great idea. I must say that we do the same thing! I save ours all year long, and then with the pennies, nickels, dimes, and yes sacred quarters 😉 we go on a nice outing. Thanks for this, it is nice to see other families making use of saving in a way that is simple. The reward is primarily a great thing spending time together.

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