It's easy to think of coins as a jingly hassle in your pants pocket or bottom of your handbag. Paper money and bank account balances seem easier to consider real money. Loose change can add up, though, as you'll discover if you keep a change jar.
1. My husband and I keep a Mason jar in the closet into which we drop our change at the end of the day. Then, over Thanksgiving weekend we cash in our change at the bank, split the funds down the middle, then use our halves to buy each other Christmas gifts. This has been a great way to set a strict budget for ourselves. Neither of us can go a little overboard on presents (because one or both of us always would) and we end up being far more creative in our gift giving.
2. In the past we used to keep a change jar as vacation savings. A few years ago when we were going to Las Vegas for a friend's wedding, we saved all of our change over a period of time then cashed it in and took it along as our gambling funds.
3. Earn some good karma by donating the contents of your change jar to a charity. The bell ringers will be out again this holiday season and they'd be delightfully surprised to see you dump a jar full of change into their bucket!
4. A full change jar can means hours of entertainment (and the potential of doubling your savings!) when you get your friends together for a game of poker. Word of warning: you may also end up with an empty jar if you don't play your cards right!
5. Pull out all the quarters and put them in a decorative container as an instant gift for someone who uses coin laundry machines or to the friend who parks at a meter to come visit you.
6. Turn your change jar into a party! Set a goal of filling a container and, with the proceeds, have a party. Use a vase or other decorative container in your kitchen and as your friends visit tell them about your party plan. As they chip in, make a mental note to invite them to your party too.
7. Set a how-much-change-can-I-save challenge. A fun (and distracting!) game for families — set aside a jar for money you find on the streets and see how much you collect. Or keep separate jars and see who can collect and save the most change.
8. Use your collected coins as a happy birthday fund. You may be surprised how much money you can collect in a year. Use the money to treat yourself like a king or queen on the anniversary of your birth.
9. As you've probably heard, we're living through a recession right now. Drop of a few dollar bills along with your change into a jar and use it as a rainy day fund. If it's already raining, consider it your OH-MY-GOD-IT'S-A-HURRICANE! fund.
10. Use your collected coins to make one of the wonderful craft projects we've seen here. How about a penny desk or a nickel floor? You could also use coins in any mosaic project. Imagine the 50 States quarters as a mosaic candle holder.
Image: Jason Loper