Can You Retire on Spare Change?


We all understand that terms like “pocket money” and “spare change” can be a bit relative. After all, a Rupert Murdoch or Elon Musk might think of pocket money in terms you think of weekly paycheck or annual salary. Yet, it pocket change can make a substantial difference in anyone’s bottom line. Ask any kid who has ever cracked open a piggy bank if they were surprised at how much they had managed to accumulate, and you’ll see that loose change, pocket money or spare change matters.

It is why so many people who insist that they cannot afford to send any money over into a regular savings account are sadly mistaken. In fact, it is easier than ever to convert the “everyday man or woman’s” idea of spare change into substantial sums using these interesting apps, tips and approaches.

Think Small

To kick things off, let’s start small. In fact, let’s start with a single dollar.

Would you accept a definition of “spare change” as the amount of money between the price of something and the next whole dollar up? For example, a product costs $3.35 and the spare change on that purchase would then be $.65. If that definition of spare change works for you, then the Acorns app is an ideal choice.

Operating on the idea that anyone can grow wealth, the app allows you to link your debit card to it, and for a single $1 monthly service fee (for accounts less than $5k) it invests whatever funds you have in a range of customized portfolios.

Your investing is done daily, weekly or monthly. Every single purchase made with the debit card can become an investment thanks to the “Round Ups” function that uses that spare change between the purchase price and the next dollar up. You can also make direct purchases from the Acorns partners and these retailers add a percentage of the sale to your account, too. Some of the current partners include Dollar Shave Club, Jet and Apple, among others.

They have also paired with a group known as Clarity Money which provides a free budgeting tool that helps you see where you are wasting even the smallest sums of money. It offers an independent savings app that can work well with your Acorns account. Running it lets you identify accounts (fee-based) that are a waste of money, or by looking at all of your bills to uncover better deals. The best thing about it is that it is entirely free, and if you take the time to use it, you will see a lot of returns on the time investment.

Try to remember that all of your real world spare change ends up in your pocket, typically, so why not just turn it into an actual investment fund rather than tossing it into a jar or drawer where it sits forgotten. While you can head to your nearest Coinstar machine to turn in all of your spare change, this could be a more productive answer.

Of course, we cannot just skip a look at the Coinstar option.

Head to Coinstar

Almost every grocery store now has a Coinstar machine available and it is more than just a device for turning spare change into paper bills. It can actually be used to convert unwanted gift cards into cash, as well.

Now, while it is fast and easy to turn jars and cans full of spare change into paper money using a Coinstar machine, you need to ask yourself if it is a wise approach. The machines have a nearly 11% service charge for doing so. If you are opting to get a gift card, the fee is waived (they create cards for Amazon, iTunes and others). It is also waived for charitable donations you make with your change.

However, if the point is to find a way to make that spare change work for you, then the Coinstar option may not be so effective. Even most banks are not ideal as they too will charge fees for the use of their coin counters. A good route is to explore any local credit unions. These are usually great resources for those in need of such unique options as fee-less coin counting and conversion. You will need an account to do it, but if you have kids with piggy banks, this is a way to help them cash in without facing the disappointing reality that saving their money ends up costing them a bit just to turn it into bills.

It is also a great way to turn your spare change into cash, but if your goal is to spend it without saving anything, you are missing the point. We recommended the Acorns app because it uses money that you won’t really miss as it is the amount you would normally get back in change from a real-world vendor.

Another, similar way to use spare change in this way is the Digit app. This is a fee-based service (it asks for roughly $3 per month) and it uses a customized algorithm to remove a small amount (one you won’t usually notice) from your account. It puts this amount into savings and constantly revises the amounts taken based on your deposits and withdrawals.

As one expert says of it, “Digit can save more than the other apps because it’s not based on transactions but on your balance and spending habits.”

If the calculations reveal that you cannot spare any funds at the time, there are no withdrawals made. And if you need some cash back? Just text the word “withdraw” and the amount, and the app sends it to your account within one business day!

If you are eager to get a bit more of a nudge towards saving for retirement, or any other goals, then the Chime bank may appeal to you. It can work as a replacement for your current bank, providing savings, checking and debit card accounts. It does exactly as Acorns does, rounding up each purchase to the next whole dollar and depositing that spare change into your savings. However, it also serves as the location for direct deposits of your payroll and sends ten percent into savings, too. It does not offer higher than average interest rate, but is also a fee less service.

Another online bank is Qapital that uses the same round up feature as Chime and Acorns. However, it also lets you enjoy a “rules based” banking experience. For instance, if you are a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, you can create a rule that the service sends a specific amount of money into your savings account every time they win. Other examples of rules include a spend less rule that lets you save for a car by creating a rule about expenditures at Starbucks. Spend less than $20 in a week, and the difference goes into savings towards a new car. Another suggestion they make is to create a guilty pleasure rule, such as saving a set amount towards a trip abroad every single time you order takeout.

The rules are 100% customizable and are a set and forget concept that makes it remarkably easy to turn what you consider “spare change” amounts into real savings. The interest rates vary, but the point is that you are actually saving and at a rate you can afford or which is based on your choices alone.

Finally, another great app that turns some of the money you might spend on lottery games is Long Game. Its slogan is that it makes “saving money as fun as playing the lottery.”

As it explains on the site for the app, users create Missions and set goals, and are then “rewarded for achieving these goals—with Coins to play mini-games, new levels unlocked, even chances to win up to $1,000,000!” However much fun it might be, though, the end result is that your savings efforts get positive reinforcement and you don’t end up with a bunch of lottery tickets or scratch off games to toss – you end up with savings.

Time As Money

Of course, it is not wise to ignore the fact that our time is also money. We exchange a lot of time each day at our jobs, and we do so for money. We work for money, but if you are someone eager to flip that scenario on its head and make money work for you, then you’ll want to consider a few of our favorite ways to earn income. They include:

  • Cash back programs
  • Loyalty programs
  • Affiliate marketing activities

Let’s consider some of the top cash back programs right now because, although they seem to reward you with amounts not much greater than your average spare change, these sums really add up.

As an example, two of the top cash back websites are Ibotta and Ebates. Just by registering through them and using their portals for shopping and seeking discounts or coupons, you can save anywhere from one to eight percent or more. Now, to say “save” is not precise. A site like Ebates actually maintains an account for you and whenever you take an action through the site, it puts the rebate, reward or cash back into your account. Once you hit a specific level, you can have that amount sent into your associated payment account.

It is essentially a way to get rewarded just for clicking through their link. They have a tool for your browser and it automatically alerts you to deals available. Click on the activate button and you will see those sums in your account a day or two later.

Other apps like Shopkick and SavingStar provide you with similar digital coupon or discount and rebate options.

They send small, pocket change sized sums into your account, but even if you are an infrequent shopper they will add up. As an example, you might find that you head into Target on a regular basis for a long list of items. Why not earn extra income for these purchases? With the cash back programs, you can do so very easily.

The same can be said of many of the loyalty programs. For your regular purchases, you might get small discounts, coupon codes or rewards. Though they might seem like small change, they add up to quite enormous amounts. Consider something like the Stop & Shop loyalty program. It is simply the card swiped as you checkout. It helps you get special deals, but it also rewards you with gas points. Spend $100 and you get ten cents off a gallon of gas.

It doesn’t seem like more than small or spare change, but just consider that you can stack up the savings and get up to $1.50 off each gallon of gas. That means you could, if in the right area, pay around $1 for a gallon of gas. That’s a huge savings on a tank full!

Lastly, but definitely not least, there is affiliate marketing. I add this here for a few reasons. One is that it is something anyone can do. It is a way to earn what is known as passive income by promoting a product or brand you are enthusiastic about. You promote it by creating an affiliate account with the company, writing blogs or social media posts about it, embedding your affiliate link in the text and encouraging others to learn about the product or service. When a sale is made, you get a nice percentage.

There are millions of men and women in all areas of the world making a full-time income from affiliate marketing. However, if you want to pick up a nice “side gig” that fills the car with gas, pays for pizza night or does whatever it is you do with your spare change, I strongly urge you to look into affiliate marketing options. We have written on it extensively, and you will definitely want to take some time to discover the sites we recommend for beginners.

Don’t keep asking how to exchange pennies for cash? Or how to turn your coins into paper currency? Instead, consider the more efficient ways to handle these funds. Your spare change (or spare time) can turn into real money if you use at least one or two of the tips here. None of them are difficult and all of them are rewarding.



Leave a Comment