How I Saved $36,000 by Doing This Simple Trick

old five dollar bill

(Article by Marie C. Franklin, originally posted at Len Penzo dot Com)

Pull up a chair and get comfortable because I’m about to tell you a story that may seem hard to believe — but it is the absolute truth. Around 12 years ago, I made a decision that forever changed my relationship to money:

Instead of spending every $5 bill that passed through my hands, I started saving them.

At the time, I had two daughters in private colleges and, to put it mildly, my husband and I were financially stressed. But I found that socking away each and every $5 bill I received as change in a cash transaction was one way I could stay in control of what little extra money I had at the time — and the strategy has paid off. The girls are out of college and both are married now. And I’ve saved almost $36,000, all in $5 bills. Wowza!

The best part about my plan is that you can do it too. All it takes to get started is a commitment to save and one $5 bill.

The number one reason most people don’t save is that they don’t have a savings plan. Not me. From the moment I wake in the morning, I’m thinking of ways to get back a $5 bill. That’s one reason I do most of my day to day living by spending cash, because let’s be honest, you can’t get a $5 back if you pay with a debit or credit card.

And once you commit to saving your fives, you’ll never look at a $5 bill the same way again. Once you see them accumulate, you won’t be tempted to spend them. It becomes an addictive habit, a fun game to see how fast you can grow your stash.

One of Warren Buffett’s ideas about investing that I really like is that we should invest in ourselves before anything else. What better way to invest in ourselves than committing to a personal savings plan?

The way I see it, people everywhere are yearning for a simple way to put aside some extra money, to pay for a wedding or a vacation, a new car or a house; to pay off school loans or help put a child through school; or maybe the ultimate savings goal — retirement. Some people throw loose change in a jar, while others are way more ambitious and disciplined, setting aside 10% of their monthly income as savings before paying their bills.

But loose change never amounts to any significant money and most people can’t save at all, much less 10% of their salary. So I started a blog to help people get started on the saving their fives idea, and hope you will become a faithful reader and a follower. For more information on my nest egg saving method, please visit Save Money Fast With Fives.

Marie C. Franklin is a former member of the Boston Globe staff and today a journalism professor at Lasell College in Auburndale, MA. She publishes a personal finance blog at

17 replies on “How I Saved $36,000 by Doing This Simple Trick”

Growing up, my parents kept a “piggy bank” where they would put whatever bills were left from their spending that week – it might have been $1s, $5s, $10s, or $20s. Some weeks it was hardly nothing but other weeks it was a lot. It was SUCH fun fishing the bills out with my dad when it was time to take it to the bank – and a great lesson in saving more than just pennies.

Based on my math you would have needed 600 cash transactions (1.64 every day) for 12 years to total $36,000. That also assumes every cash transaction results in change of $5. I’m not buying it.


It wasn’t passively waiting for a transaction to occur, if you read the article, she eventually began actively trying to add 5s to her collection.

Essentially, putting a focus on ‘spavings’. It’s not that difficult to save $5/day once you begin scrutinizing your habits.


I’m glad to hear this worked for you, but I have two problems with this:
1) You have to spend money to save anything.
2) You have become an unwitting target for thieves who want to take your cash stash.
I prefer to save up front, keep the cash sitting safely in the bank (or invested) and away from would-be thieves.

All MONEY get spend at sometime. Also you collect and save (in bank). My story over the last 3 years I saved about $5000. Which put in the bank and I will spend it some time

Any saving system that works is a good system! Not all of us are adept at conventional ways to stash cash. This sounds similar–though more productive probably–to the technique of dropping all the change in one’s pocket in a big bucket at the end of each day.

I know a lot of people are saving this way and no matter what I think about it, it works for them. Like my Irish friend keeps repeating “Different strokes for different folks”.
I am totally fine with that but I always try to convince people to make savings upfront: the first thing that you do when receive salary is take 5-20% of it and transfer it to saving account.

Come on people, nobody has enough cash transactions to equal #36,000 in change. Unlesss the author is walking around with $100 bills and using them to pay for a pack of gum the numbers don’t add up. You’re being duped. Sounds like someone wants a blog to make money from. What a novel idea, save your change.

She talks about all the ways she gets the $5’s on her blog (using bigger bills, asking to get $5s in change back vs $10’s, etc). And remember, she pays everything with cash. Says she gets about 2-3 on avg a day.

Sure, she could be lying – as with any of us here – but believe me, without putting in a $hit ton of time/energy/passion you won’t get rich off a bog. And even if she was lying, what’s so horrible about helping people save money in a different way? There are worse things! Haha…

I am not sure the cynism portayed by some here…we use cash for the most spending and put all changes in a coffee can until it’s full…usually after a couple of months. We then shop our grocery with the money from the can…in average we get about $80-$90 per cash out…this is based on unplanned habit. The author obviously made a conscious effort to save $5/day…if you are on a cash-based take home pay, this is a very doable way to save money. We have been saving the $1 and usually have about $200+ in a couple of months for savings account. It’s the Lesson of intentional effort we are learning, my friends.

For those of you brainiacs who think too much the main idea the author was trying to convey…is. If you save money you won’t be broke! Dah!!!

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