How to Put That Coin Jar to Good Use

by Amanda Finn
Instead of letting all those loose coins rattle around in your pockets, put them in a jar and let your savings grow. Rare coins might even be worth more!

While we may rely heavily on plastic currency in the US, having cash is still a budget-advised way of making purchases. It makes you think more on the things you’re buying, and you’re less likely to overspend if you are spending with cash instead of a card.

But living life as a cash-carrier comes with one seeming downside: You end up with piles of loose change here, there, and everywhere!


Put all your coins in one place.

Because so few things can conveniently be purchased with change, we’re unlikely to actually spend it. If you haven’t consolidated those piles from the car, your pockets or the bottom of your purse, you might want to consider it.

By putting it all together in a jar, bank, or another container, you can accumulate a great deal of change to trade in for dollars or deposit them right into your account—depending on your bank or credit union’s policies.

Did you know the average jar can hold nearly $200 in change?! That’s not chump change!

By actively collecting your change you’re setting aside micro savings every time you drop a penny in the jar. Not only are you saving for a rainy day, but you’re saving your sanity from a lot of unnecessary coin clinking.

What to do with coins from your coin jar.

Here’s the tricky part of this coin jar idea: Banks are starting to play hardball.

You used to be able to bring all of your change to your local bank branch to have it sorted and counted, but most banks don’t do that anymore. Many are happy to exchange your coins if you separate and roll them yourself, but that’s a pain. Though they also usually give the coin wrapping papers to you for free, it’s not often worth the effort.

Coinstar kiosks are honestly your easiest bank alternative. On the Coinstar website, you can even search your neighborhood for the closest kiosk! Although the machines take over 11 percent in fees from your deposit if you take cash, the fee is waived if you exchange your change for an Amazon gift card instead. Some machines also have other gift card options.

Gift cards are a great way to save that 11 percent and set aside your spare change for something in the future. Holidays? Events? Supplies? There are several retail options available at most kiosks. While not having the coin-to-cash exchange isn’t the most ideal way to trade in your coin jar, it’s certainly better than erroneous fees.

Coinstar has effectively cornered the automated coin exchange market and is really your only option outside of rolling/sorting yourself or being lucky enough to find a bank that will exchange unsorted coins for you.

Make your coin jar work for you.

When it comes to collecting coins, you don’t necessarily have to wait until you have an entire jar full. There are plenty of ways to make those extra coins work extra hard. Two Cents at Life Hacker suggests the (albeit time-consuming) route of organizing that collection of coins to determine which ones are actually useful.

“You can turn some of it into a coffee fund or snack bank you keep on your desk at work,” Melissa Kirsch at Life Hacker suggests. “Or you can separate coins so you always have a stash ready for bus fares, toll booths, parking meters, laundry, and what have you. You might end up with a ‘useful’ and ‘not useful’ pile, but you can eventually get that ‘not useful’ pile of pennies and whatnot counted and exchanged later.”

Some old coins are worth a pretty penny.

If you’ve been hoarding those unspent coins for some time, you might want to think twice before sending them off.

There are some US coins that are quite valuable in today’s collector’s market. If you think it’s worth the time to take a look, folks like Mighty Bargain Hunter would suggest perusing your collection ahead of time.

Here is a list of valuable coins with details provided by Mighty Bargain Hunter’s coin collecting article:

  • Mercury dime. No, not Freddie Mercury, but Mercury the god. These were produced from 1916-1945. The Roosevelt dime replaced it following FDR’s death that year. These are also 90% silver.

  • Wheat cents. The cent had the portrait of Abraham Lincoln beginning in 1909, the year of his 100th birthday. The Lincoln Memorial was the design on most years 1959 and after, but prior to that, the reverse design had wheat stalks.

  • Kennedy half dollars, 1965-1969. Same design [as the 1970’s version] but much different composition. This particular range of years is 40% silver. About seven of them contain an ounce of silver, so they’re worth about $3 apiece.

Mashable also has a short list of coins to keep an eye out for in your coin jar or personal coin collection:

  • 2004 Wisconsin state quarter with extra leaf (up to $300)

  • 1995 double die penny ($20-$50)

  • 1942-1945 silver nickel (up to $12.25)

  • 1943 steel penny (up to $10)

  • Ben Franklin Half-Dollar ($12-$125)

  • 1932-1964 silver quarter ($7-$65)

  • ‘In God We Rust’ 2005 Kansas state quarter (up to $100)

  • Presidential dollar coin with lettering errors ($20-$45)

*The Bargain Hunter also noted the Ben Franklin half-dollar as a coin to watch out for. Oh, and if this section tickled your numismatic fancy, check out our post on the long history (and murky future) of the U.S. penny.

Make it work for someone else.

If nothing seems worth saving those coins up for, yourself, maybe saving them for someone else will do the trick. After all, no one is likely to turn down free money.

Make a charity’s day by filling up their donation jar with the contents of your coin jar! Even if you think it isn’t enough to make a difference, you might be surprised how worthwhile those jars full of coins can be.

Coinstar will even make that donation for you if you’re so inclined to drop your change at their machine.

According to Kirsch, donations can be made through Coinstar to charities such as the American Red Cross, The Humane Society, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the WWF and more.

“You can take your change and fill up one of those donation boxes you see in supermarket checkout lines or at a fast food drive-thru,” Kirsch said. “Or you can drop off a jar at a local charity, Salvation Army, community center, or religious institution. Many charities will even accept foreign coinage as donations so you can finally unload all those useless coins from your international travels.”

Save that money for a rainy day.

So what are you going to do that extra money you’ve saved? Our suggestion: Use it to start an emergency fund. That way, you’ll be prepared when an unexpected car repair bill or medical expense rears its ugly head. Otherwise, you might find yourself relying on short-term bad credit loans and high-interest no credit check loans (like payday loans, cash advances, and title loans) to make ends meet.

That wouldn’t be ideal! The more money you have in savings, the more financially secure you’ll be. And the best way to build your savings is to, first, built a budget! To learn more about budgeting and saving money, check out these related posts and articles from OppLoans:

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