Saving $5s is a Habit Like Others

My habit of saving $5 bills is so old now (13 years) that stopping would be like breaking any habit.

There are those bad habits, like smoking or overeating, where health benefits are obvious as soon as someone stops. Then there are the good habits, like saving five dollar bills, or taking a little time every day to be thankful for what we have. They too would be hard to stop. But why would I?

For many people, the ability to save money begins with a commitment to do that. Save, Regulary. With the purpose of setting aside money for the future. It’s no different than the commitment we make to our family and friends to set aside time at Thanksgiving—even if only once  a year—-to come together, to celebrate all that we have and to be thankful for all the blessings to come in the future.

So, once you tuck away the first $5 bill you get back as change in a cash transaction, you’ve begun a new habit. Researchers say it takes around 66 days to be rooted in any new habit. So decide this week, as part of your Thanksgiving ritual, that you’ll try to save $5 a day for the next 66 days and reassess from there. That commitment alone will find you $330 richer in the same time that your new habit will be formed.

During this week of national thanksgiving, I wish all my readers who celebrate, a most wonderful Thanksgiving and health and abundance in the coming year.


Yours in Fives,











How Yankee Swap Paid off in $5s

I am so laser-focused on my $5 bill savings habit that I gave five $5 bills in a recent Yankee Swap with old college friends, hoping I’d get them back before the game was over.

Here’s the kicker: I did. Get my five $5 bills back. Bingo!

The bottom line is that I generally don’t enjoy Yankee Swap. My women’s group does one every year, and in years past, so did my book group, and as much as others in my various circles enjoyed Yankee Swap, I did not. What could I give that would be so popular others would fight over? What to do about the cheapskate or two who spent less on their gifts than the suggested amount? Who makes up all the Yankee Swap rules anyway, and why are the rules always changing depending on whose doing the swapping?

The recent swap happened in lovely Quebec City where my college girlfriends and I were celebrating our 65th birthdays together. 65! Imagine. And imagine how much money I’d have saved in $5s by now if I’d started back in college. (By the way, I’ve saved around $41,500 in around 13 years, all in $5s!) The group had decided as part of our trip planning to do a Yankee Swap ($25 limit suggested). We’re off!

For almost a month, I debated and almost bought several gifts for the swap: a scarf with a nautical motif; a fun wall plaque with slogans about grandmothering; a bracelet; a T-shirt from our alma mater. The more choices before me, the more I couldn’t decide.

Until I remembered by friend Maureen’s advice…..when in doubt on choosing a Yankee Swap gift, give something you’d like to get back yourself. Ta-da! I decided to give five $5 bills.

How I got the five $5s back is in itself another story, but suffice it to say, that after two friends took away from me the lovely bracelet and picture frame I had won earlier in the game, I was finally allowed to take back something someone else had claimed. Hello, Celeste, old buddy, old pal….can I have my $5s back, please? And thanks.

Yankee Swap complete, Laser-focus continues. Sock away those $5s, one at a time.

Yours in Five,




Even millionaires worry about money

In a recent Michelle Singletary column, the personal finance writer hooked the reader with this shocking headline, ‘To be a millionaire and still feel broke.” She also convinced me it wasn’t bizarre after all for people to worry about outliving their money, even when they had a million or more dollars socked away.  With life expectancies on the rise, and unforeseen medical costs often a companion to old age, Singletary touts the benefits of working as long as you can, and paying off your debt and getting on a budget before you retire.

Contrast the above mentioned millionaire to the average American who, according to a survey, has $14,000 or less saved for retirement. About 14 percent of those surveyed say they haven’t saved anything for when their working years end.

Who remembers Alfred E. Neuman and Mad? What me, worry?

So here, in no particular order, are five ways to stop worrying about money and to start saving more.

  1. Never again spend a five dollar bill. Vow now to use more cash in your daily transactions and save every $5 bill you get back in change. You’ll be surprised how fast the next egg grows. I’ve been doing this for more than 13 years and have saved just over $40,000, in fives.
  2. Pay off your debt. Nothing sucks the energy out of our financial security more than debt. Money that you owe someone else is money you can’t save for yourself.
  3. Join your company savings and retirement plan if you have one on the first day you are eligible. Nothing beats building a nest egg faster than starting to save early in your career.
  4. Live within your means. This doesn’t mean you can never indulge your fantasies because self extravagance has its own reward. But if you spend money you don’t have or buy something you don’t need, the chances of you adding to your savings go down.
  5. Turn a hobby into a revenue stream. Like to drive? Ubber part-time and save what you earn. Love food? Pick up a few shifts as a food server and sock away the tips. Years from now, when you’re ready to retire from your full time job, keep the part-time gig going as well as your income stream.

Finally, for those who want more, here’s a link to the Singletary column I referenced.

Yours in Fives,



Debt up, savings down

You know what they say about history. Those who don’t know it are doomed to repeat it. And it looks like this is the case with Americans and debt.

According to a recent article published in The Boston Globe, personal savings has declined by half since 2015, with the average family saving only three percent of their income compared to six percent three years before.

The recession of 2006, which caused so much pain for so many, has become a distant memory. Credit card debt is up, savings is down, but spending is up so it all looks like the economy is humming along and everything is fine.

Until the next downturn. Until the creditors come calling. Until the school loans come due, or the baby is born, or it’s time to pay for college or a wedding.

Until it’s time to retire and the social security check isn’t enough to pay the bills.

Count me among those whose happiness index rises each time I put aside some money for the future. Add me to the list of people who’d rather not charge something on a credit card, especially if it’s a purchase I’m not sure how I’m going to pay.

Last week I flew home from a week’s vacation in the Dominican Republic, happy as a clam, not only because I missed another nor-easter in New England, but also because I didn’t spend all the money I brought for my trip to the sun. Just a little bit of cash to put aside as I begin saving for my next trip.

Which brings me back to the point of history and not being doomed to repeat it. Thirteen years ago, when I started saving my $5 bills (I’m just over 40K in fives now), I was an active credit card user who worried a fair amount about money. I had two kids in college, a couple of mortgages, and not always enough money in the checking account to pay all the bills.

All that’s changed, but so too has my mindset. Money in the bank is an investment in my future. Every $5 saved is a little more towards that goal. Debt serves no purpose, while a savings account gives me the freedom to explore my purpose.

Undoubtedly, there will be another recession. No one knows when or how long it will last if it comes. When and if it does, I hope I won’t be the only person who rests a little easier because they’ve put away a little (in $5s!) for when the downturn comes again.

Yours in Fives,





Doing Does it This New Year

When I make a resolution to do something—to accomplish something I perceive as challenging—I immediately worry I won’t be successful. But the times when I feel most passionate about my goal, I feel an incredible drive inside of me that quiets the doubt.

And I do it anyway because doing does it, as my old personal growth coach Raz used to say. That’s right, doing does it.

So too with beginning this new year with a plan to save more, a goal to improve your financial situation by prioritizing on saving more money in 2018. If it’s something you really want to do, you will find a way. When the going gets tough, just keep doing it because, remember, doing does it.

Enter, once again, the concept of saving $5 bills.

Making the decision to tuck away the first five dollar bill you get back as change with the intention of NOT spending it ever, but saving it instead, might be challenging. But do it anyway. And then do it again and again and again, and every time you get back a $5 bill as change, and your stash will grow, one five at a time. For me, it’s been 13 years since I started this practice and by doing it each and every time I could, I’ve saved close to $40,000, one $5 at a time.

Happy New Year. Doing does it!

Yours in Fives,



How Saving $5 Bills Made Me Famous

Remember Andy Warhol’s iconic quote: “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes?”

I had my four minutes and 29 seconds of fame last week when I appeared as a guest on the Today Show in Australia. The topic, you guessed it, my habit of saving five dollar bills. Here’s a link to the interview, which was taped in Boston and aired live in Australia.

What surprised me most about the experience is that even though I was nervous all day going into the local TV studio to tape, once the interview began and I started talking about my $5 savings hack (as the Aussies call it), I was completely relaxed. It was no different than telling a colleague, or the cashier in the supermarket, or students in my classroom, about the habit. Saving $5 bills (it’s been 13 years now and I’ve amassed close to $40,000), is second nature to me.

So, what were the highlights gleaned from the on camera interview?

How did I start this brilliant idea?

First, it’s not brilliant at all, in fact it’s really a very simple way to save money, regardless of your age or financial circumstances. I started the practice at a time in my life when our finances were strained. With two daughters in private colleges at the same time, I worried I was unable to save any money….until a toll collector handed me back three fives as change from the $20 I used to pay my toll. I started socking away $5s that day, which is not to say it was easy to keep the girls in college, but saving every five I got back as change sure was an easy way to save money, however small the amount.

Have I ever been tempted to sneak money from my stash of $5s?

The answer is a simple no. From the moment I began, it was fun, it was a game, and I’ve never spent a five since. I think it’s my steadfast commitment to the practice that has guided my success.

Does the math add up?

The TV hosts asked me to do some math. How much can a person save using this method? Without getting too wrapped up in numbers, I offered this. Save one $5 bill a day and you’ll have $1,825 at the end of the year. Save two $5s a day and it turns into $3,650 by year’s end. Even better. If a person saves one $5 bill a day from the time they are 25 years of age until they reach 75, they will have saved $91,250! Just in five dollar bills.

What am I going to do with all this money?

I’m asked this question all the time, and the simple answer is that I don’t know. The daughters who were in college when I started saving my fives are now married and even while we were planning and paying for their weddings, we didn’t use any of the money in the $5s account. It’s become an abundance magnet for me in other areas of my life, such as health, relationships, work. The one time I might spend the money is when my husband and I retire. We love to travel and I have a fantasy that when we do, we’ll take my $5s account and travel around the world, and not come home until we’ve run out of money. Then, (or maybe before!), I’ll write a book and its title will be “Around the World on $5 a Day.”

In conclusion, I’m still waiting for 11 minutes and 71 seconds more of fame. Because that first four minutes and 29 seconds sure was fun.


Yours in Fives,



Save Like You Believe You Can

I’m a big believer in the idea that in order to be successful at almost anything in life, we have to have an intention so strong that our desire for something drives its success. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s being offered a certain job, or finding that elusive soul mate, or getting out of debt, or saving money. Believing it will happen is half the battle to creating the event.

Years ago, I decided to stay in Boston after graduating college rather than return home to Rhode Island where my dad knew all sorts of people who could help me land my first teaching job because, well, I was utterly focused on staying in Boston. And even though I had almost no contacts who could help me find a teaching job, I knew it would all work out. I took a waitress job at night, signed a lease on an apartment, and started job hunting during the day. I was absolutely sure I’d find a day job, and by mid-August had two teaching job offers to consider. Why? Because I knew it would all work out.

Decades later, my husband and I got into a little bit of trouble with credit card debt. Once we realized the havoc it was wreaking on our lives, we vowed to pay it off as quickly as possible. It took two years but we did it, and have never had any debt—except our mortgage—since.

Still years later, I searched the real estate listings on Cape Cod as often as I could, looking for a little fix me upper by the water that I could afford. Fifteen years later, I’m almost done renovating the summer cottage we bought on an inlet of Nantucket Sound. Finally, the inside of the house is as beautiful as the water view out our window. But even when that wasn’t so, I always knew I’d have a little place on the water someday.

How does this relate to saving your $5’s as one path towards financial security? Wanting to have extra money isn’t enough. There’s no guarantee of financial security just because you want it. But believe that financial security will soon be yours, and then put a few new practices in places (such as saving your $5s, or setting aside 10 percent of your income every month, or wiping out credit card debt), and viola, in time, the intention for financial security becomes a reality.

Let me be clear. There’s no genius in any of this. There’s also no hocus-pocus. Decide you want to build a nest egg, and you will. Pay for everyday items with cash, and $5 bills will come back to you as change. Tuck those $5s away each and every time one is returned to you, and the stash will add up. Every five you save will bring you one step closer to financial security. Believe you can achieve a debt free lifestyle and you’re at least half way to achieving that.

Yours in Five,






This Woman Put Away Over $40,000 with This Cheap Savings Hack

This article originally appeared on Readers Digest.

Saving money can be tough, especially if you’re one of many Americans who’s getting bled dry by this common spending mistake. Sudden expenses come up out of nowhere, and whether it’s an unexpected medical bill, a sudden repair needed for your car, or a sudden need to buy a luxury dog seat cover for said car, you just might have to wipe away all your progress. (If that’s the case, better read up on these habits of people who are great at saving money.)

But one college professor has come up with a genius trick which might just turn your savings woe into a savings “Woah! Look at all this money I have!” Marie Franklin simply takes every five dollar bill she encounters and puts it away.

In her blog post on the topic, Franklin explains that the simple trick helped her save “almost $40,000 since beginning the practice 13 years ago.” It all started when Franklin had to be a bit tighter with her cash when her daughters were going through college and opted to start sliding every Lincoln she encountered into a different pocket of her wallet.

Jo Kelly, the CMO of UBank, spoke to the New York Post about how this basic banking method could really simplify saving.

What makes it so achievable is the simplicity,” Kelly explains. “Anyone, anywhere can start building their savings using this trick. There’s no need to set up new accounts or develop complicated budgets—you can start with the money that is already in your wallet.”

So, for the retirement-fund challenged millennials, this may be a good reason to eschew Venmo for once and carry some cash.

Having fun sharing my story

I love to share my habit of saving $5 bills with people and I’m always amazed at how fascinated many people are by the habit.

There was the cashier at a local supermarket this summer who reacted like I had just handed her a winning lottery ticket the day I told her how much I’d saved putting away every $5 I got back in change. The woman all but stopped doing her job (bagging my groceries) as she listened to me ramble on about how I’d started when my daughters were in college and money was tight, to why I still do it today, to the fact that I’ve saved almost $40,000 since beginning the practice 13 years ago.

Then there were the two young professors who are my colleagues at a college outside Boston who showed so much enthusiasm for the idea that I gave them both a $5 bill last week at our back to school meetings (yup, they even do those in college, I’ve learned) to help jump start their practice.

These profs are dynamite individuals by the way, great at teaching their disciplines and loved by their students, but here’s the thing. Both admitted that while they love my idea and need to find a better way to save money themselves, that they may be hindered because they don’t use a lot of cash.

Yes, yes, and yes for emphasis. If you don’t use cash, this won’t work.

You may love the idea of saving your nest egg with $5 bills but unless you use cash on a regular basis for everyday purchases like groceries, food or coffee to go, even gas and other issues of commuting and transportation, it will be impossible to save a significant amount this way. Like I’ve said many times while writing my blog, you can’t get a $5 back as change if you pay with a debit or credit card. Only cash will do the trick. End of story.

So, if you like the idea, but haven’t started yet, and like many people I share the tip with, especially Millennials, have a mostly cashless existence, shake it up this week. Go to the ATM machine. Take out enough cash to cover the basic expenses you expect to face in the next seven days. Pay for as many things as you can in cash. Consume as you need, rather than simply buying out of habit. See how many $5s you get back in a week. If you like the number, repeat it into week two, then a third. At the end of the month, add it up.

Was it a good way to save a bit of money? Only you can decide. My hunch is, if you give it a try, you might get hooked. Because who doesn’t like to stash away a little money for a rainy day.


Yours in Fives,





Making a habit of saving

As the calendar gallops towards Labor Day and (yikes!) my 40th wedding anniversary, I’m reminded of the joint savings account Bill and I opened together after our marriage in 1977. It was with the Brookline Savings Bank in Brookline, MA, and our starting balance was somewhere around $700. Between the two of us, that was our net worth back then.

I still have a passbook savings account with Brookline Bank and the balance is considerable higher today. And that account represents a small portion of our net worth. But I hang onto the passbook and the habit of regular savings as much today as I did four decades ago. In fact, this is the account I use to accumulate my $5s, the stash of money I put away by saving every $5 that comes back to me as change in a cash transaction. Today, the amount of money saved in $5s is close to $40,000 (after about 13 years), coincidentally as I approach 40 years of marriage.

Some of you might say, OK, no big deal. Forty years of marriage or $40,000 saved in $5 bills. But I disagree. Imagine how big my nest egg would have grown if I’d saved my $5s back then when we said. ‘I do.’ By my rough calculations, I save approximately $3,076 a year in $5s. If I multiply that by 40 years of marriage, I’d add to my wedded bliss because besides decades filled with love, mutual respect and a whole lot of wonderful memories, I’d have $123,040. Imagine the kind of anniversary trip we could take with that!

Yours in Five,