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How to save loose change and what to do with it

A pink piggy bank on a white background

“Are you afraid of change? Leave it here!” You’ve probably seen tip jars using that pun to encourage you to leave your loose change. Aside from placing your money in service trays, there are other things you can do with your coppers and silvers, and many involve keeping them all to yourself.

Here are our tops tip for how to save your change and how to make the most of it.

Piggy Banks and Jars

Piggy banks and jars are a traditional way to save but there is a reason why the simple idea has endured so long. Regularly empty your spare pennies and 5ps into a container and you’ll soon see your collection grow. You’ll be surprised by how quickly this adds up as most shopping spends will not total an even number.

If you do decide to go with a piggy bank, make sure you buy one with a stopper. Although those without are designed to prevent temptation, their effectiveness for money saving is reduced if you have to buy a new pig every time you smash yours.

Create Saving Rules

Putting your smallest coins in a pot is the most common rule but you can also follow other patterns to help you save. For example, you could squirrel away every £2 coin you receive or even put away every new £5 note that has a certain code. These are bigger amounts to save but if you can adapt to this, you can quickly see your savings grow while learning to budget with less cash in your pocket.

Apps

If you prefer card to cash, it can be harder to save change as you don’t have as much. Bank and card statements may allow you to track what you spent your money on but as you are always paying an exact amount, you do not see your ‘change’.

One solution for this is apps where you can put away small amounts of money you won’t miss. Moneybox encourages you to round up your card purchases and putting that extra in to a stocks and shares ISA. There can be a risk with this kind of ISA but if you decide that it’s right for you, you won’t notice the different in paying £3 for your coffee instead of £2.80. Although a true money saver would embrace the heated flask, we all deserve a treat sometimes and this is a good way to save without scrimping.

What to do with the change you’ve saved

There is no point collecting ‘spare’ money if you’re not going to do something with it. With Moneybox, this part is already taken care of. For our other suggestions, here are some solutions:

The Coin Counter

Machines that count all your coins and transform them into more easily spendable amounts of money make cashing in savings easy. However, these machines often have a processing fee.

Coinstar, who have almost 20,000 units worldwide, charge a 9.9% coin processing fee for cash transactions (although fees may vary). Although this sounds like a lot, if this is the only way you’ll bother exchanging your loose change, it is still worth considering. 90.1% of something is better than 0% of nothing. If you find yourself always saying “Keep the change”, break that habit and when you’ve built up enough, visit a supermarket with one of these installed and see how much you save on your shopping.

Not all coin counters charge though as Metro Bank offers this service for free so visit one of their branches if you are near.

Be Your Own Coin Counter

If you want to keep every hard-saved penny to yourself, you can be your own coin counter and deposit it directly in your account. If you ask your bank for some free cash bags, you can count up your change and then cash it in at your local branch. The downside of this is that you’ll need a rounded up amount – 98p won’t do, you’ll need it to be £1! Instructions for how much each bag should contain will be printed on the bag.

Although counting coins and banking them is time consuming, it will make your savings go further. Plus, counting coins can be relaxing and potentially even fun. If you have children, why not get them involved and help them learn counting skills and the benefits of savings at the same time?

Donate to Charity

Coinstar offer charity donations, although they still charge a fee so your actual donation to the charity will be 7% lower than the real value of change you poured into the machine. You could, however, put your small change into charity pots on till counters to ensure the causes receive all the money but if you want to think about saving, you could take it home first.

Perhaps you want to donate to charity regularly but are not comfortable with setting up a direct debit. Why not keep those random pennies you may put in different pots, count them up and give them all to your chosen charity or charities? Knowing the exact sum of money you’ll donate will help you better appreciate the potential of your donations. It’s also a good way of donating but controlling exactly how much you can afford to give.

Spend It

Spending your change might seem counter-intuitive advice for money saving but just think of all those times your bill has come to an odd amount – you probably have the exact money on you yet you still break into a brand new note and get even more loose change. If you keep a coin purse, you can always find a handy 5p when you forget to bring your Bag for Life.

If you’re not a fan of carrying coins around every day, at least don’t forget to take them with you to any trips to the seaside. The 2p slot games can keep you entertained for hours but as a warning, you could potentially come away with more change than you began with if you’re lucky.

What should I do with change that is no longer legal tender?

Many of us are guilty of leaving coins to fester at the bottom of our handbags, pockets of old coats or down the back of the sofa. If any of the change you’ve hoarded is £1 coins, you best find them soon and get spending as the £1 coin will no longer be legal tender by Autumn this year. Coinstar are already suggesting cashing in round pounds with them but there’s no need to be hasty. You still have plenty of time to spend them although their value is not guaranteed forever, unlike when notes leave circulation.

Some important dates to remember:

  • 28th March – 12-sided £1 coins will enter circulation
  • October 15th – The round £1 coin will no longer be legal tender
  • Beyond – Banks have said they will still exchange the coins for notes but only from their own customers and in bags of 20.

Bank of England notes always retain their face value and you can exchange them by post or in person in London – even if your own bank no longer accepts the notes.

If you want to avoid having to exchange your money this way, here are the dates that concern the ongoing transition to polymer notes:

  • 5th May – Paper £5 will no longer be legal tender
  • September 2017 – The polymer £10 note will enter circulation
  • 2020 – New polymer £20 will be introduced

More precise dates will be released near the time.

What about leftover change from your holidays?

There are some foreign money exchange machines, similar to Coinstar, but these are harder to find.

As long as your foreign coins are still in circulation, you can sell back your holiday coins and convert them back to pounds. Use an online comparison site to find out who is offering the best conversion rate. You could even monitor currency conversions with an app or your own research to ensure you are trading it in on the best day.

If you’ve found an old stash of out-of-date coins, it will be more difficult to regain any value. However, many coins and notes maintain some value to collectors although this may be much smaller than the original worth. Leftover Currency specialise in exchanging obsolete money.

If you find sorting through foreign coins one saving step too far, you can donate them all to a charity. Cash4Coins accept all foreign, British and Irish coins and notes including those that are pre-Euro, damaged or even those that are pre-decimal. You just need to drop off your coins at a collection point. If, however, you do decide to cash in some coins for yourself after all, you’ll need at least 5kg worth for any non-charitable exchanges.

Now that you know all the things you can do with your unloved coins, you hopefully realise how loose change can help you save. Just remember, if you look after the pennies then the pounds will look after themselves.

About the author

Josh Salvage

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