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,





To Save Money Fast, Do This

At what point should a couple nearing retirement worry they haven’t saved enough to stop working? This is one question I asked myself recently after reading that the median savings among households nearing retirement is just $14,500, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security.


As my Grampy used to say back in the early 1960s when he handed me a $1 bill to spend as I pleased. “Now don’t go spend it all in one store.”

Let’s put it this way. I’m happy I’ve got more than $14,500 as I get closer to my retirement, and here’s the kicker. In addition to two employer-funded retirement accounts and social security, I’ve also saved almost $40,000 to use in retirement in one cash reserve, all saved in $5 bills! In around 12 years. Painlessly.

So, what’s one thing you can do to begin saving money fast, regardless of your age or how many years you have until retirement? Start saving every $5 bill you get back as change in a cash transaction. The best thing about saving $5 bills is that you can begin this practice at any stage in life. Of course the earlier you commit to it, the bigger your nest egg when you do retire.

Save $2000 a year in $5s (approximately $5/day) starting at age 50 and you’ll have $30,000 by the time you turn 65. Save $4000 a year (approximately $11 a day, or put another way, around two $5s a day) starting at age 35 and you’ll have $120,000 by the time you’re 65. Begin the practice when you’re 21 years of age and save just $3600 a year in $5s (approximately two $5s a day) and you’ll have a whopping $158,400, just in $5s, by the time you turn 65.

Stop worrying about saving for retirement now. Commit to one small practice like saving every $5 bill received as change in a cash transaction and watch your overall nest egg—and your sense of abundance—grow.

Yours in Fives,




What’s Climate Change Got To Do With Saving Money?

Everyone is talking about climate change and pending meteorological and natural disasters. Especially since 45 took office, some days it seems like the world is divided into two groups around climate change: the believers and the disbelievers.

I’m a believer which is why I try to reduce my carbon footprint, recycle and reuse whenever I can. I believe that small steps, with intention, leads to big gains. This applies not only to avoiding a cataclysmic meteorological event but a financial meltdown as well.

The examples are everywhere—from the stock market crash of the 1920s—to subsequent crashes in 1987 and 2008-2009; to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who declare bankruptcy every year; to the personal stories of unpaid credit card balances or school loans crippling a generation’s ability to buy a home.

How much better would you have fared in any of these situations if you had a little nest egg set aside? A nest egg of $5 bills, built over time, can add up to a sizeable sum of money. (I’ve saved almost $40,000 in $5s in just over 12 years!)

The threat of climate change and a financial disaster are more connected than you might first assume. Imagine if every living being on the planet adjusted their carbon footprint, recycled and reused? We’d be headed towards a much healthier planet. Ditto for saving money, especially as an alternative to spending money you don’t have on credit or by taking out a loan.

Caring for the planet assures a healthier Earth tomorrow. Saving for the future assures a happier, more secure and independent life to come. Not a bad thought as we head into the long 4th of July weekend.

Yours in $5s,




5 Ways Saving Makes You Feel Better

You know how secretly bad you feel when you spend money you don’t have? I’ll take your word for it. We don’t have to talk about it. But I read recently in Bloomberg that Americans’ household debt has reached a level similar to what it was before the lingering recession that began in 2008. What if you don’t have to be part of that trend? What if you saved your $5s, and other money, instead?

Here’s five ways that saving money—instead of spending money you don’t have—will make you feel better.

  1. Hello to a brighter future

How great would it be to wake up in the morning with a sense of optimism about your financial future? Studies show that people who have money in the bank generally feel better about facing each new day.  The easiest way to get a brighter perspective on tomorrow is to take positive steps today.

  1. Less debt and more savings helps you focus on the future

Back when I carried credit card debt, it was hard to plan my next vacation.  Now that I set aside some cash every week in a jar I use to save money for future trips, I can book airfare more easily knowing I’ve already saved some, or all of the funds, to pay for it. Phew, since travel is my guilty pleasure.

  1. Saving will make you happier

A recent story in Business Insider said that even though money can’t buy happiness, saving it might. According to a survey of more than 1000 people in the sample, 38 percent of the respondents with savings accounts reported being happy compared to 29 percent of those without savings accounts.

  1. Emergencies won’t seem so dire

Unexpected financial circumstances happen to all of us. The car repair. The co-payment on a medical procedure. The washing machine that konks out and needs to be replaced. We hope they won’t happen, but they do. This is just another example of a time when it would make you feel better to have a savings account to draw on to face the unexpected instead of having to use a credit card, or get a loan, and spend money you don’t have.

  1. Saving makes you more self sufficient

Having a nest egg means you won’t have to go to a relative or a friend, or maybe the local banker, for a loan. Maybe it feels like playing Monopoly alone, but I much prefer only having to consult with myself (ok, my husband too) when I want to make a big financial purchase.

These are just a handful of ways in which saving money might make you feel better than using a credit card to pay for something you can’t afford. Readers, if you can add other advantages to the list, leave a comment and share your ideas with us.

Happy summer solstice!

Yours in Fives,















5 Tips to Jump Start Your Nest Egg Now


I’m close to reaching a pretty big milestone in my fives account. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment to have saved almost $40,000, all in $5 bills. I expect to achieve this by late Fall of 2017….heck, the account now stands at $38,700 so I’m not far away.

Looking for ways to jump start your $5 savings plan? Here are five ideas so simple to put into practice that you’ll be back on track saving your nest egg of $5s in no time.

  1. Use cash

            You can’t save $5 bills unless you spend with cash. Credit and debit cards, store accounts, cashing in reward points and so on are all cashless, financial transactions. Sure, you can buy a lot of things with a Visa or a Mastercard but the only way to get a $5 back as change is to pay to purchase something with cash. Withdrawing a sum of money in cash from your bank every week (after estimating the funds you’ll need for the week’s expenses: groceries, gas and transportation costs, lunches, etc). is the easiest way to keep your spending under control while living mostly on cash. The side benefit is getting $5s as change that you can save.

  1. Buy on demand

If you’re like most people, you spend money every time you walk into a store, especially say a supermarket or a retail health and beauty aid store. Restricting your retail visits to times when you need a particular item (shampoo, razor blades, a greeting card) not only helps keep your spending in check but increases your chances of getting a $5 back as change.

  1. Pay with $20s

There are four $5 bills in every $20, which is just another way to look at your money. Spend less than $5 on a transaction, pay with a $20, and bada-bing, a $5, or maybe three $5s will come back as change. Buy something that costs $9.50, pay with a $20 and there’s a good chance you’ll get two $5s back. Bada-bing.

  1. Touch your stash

When you think about it, money is a kind of energy, a sense of abundance or lack thereof that radiates from your inner you to the outside world. You’ve heard the theory that says what we put out into the universe is what we’ll get back. It’s the same with money which is what I suggest you really connect with, and touch your money, from time to time. I let my loose $5s accumulate until the wad hits $100. And then I deposit them in the bank. But during a typical week, I touch my stash of $5s every time I add one to the pile. I count it every few days, let the energy of the bills rub off and me…and bring more abundance.

  1. Reward yourself

Imagine walking 10,000 steps a day (and having proof of this on your FitBit), and then, at the end of a successful day of movement, going out and eating three hot fun sundaes as a reward. Not a good way to trim down. For the same reason, if you save, say $60 a week or $240 in $5s in a month, it won’t help you grow your nest egg if you spent all of the $240 at month’s end. But how about banking $180 and using the remaining $60 to pay for something you really, really want, desire or need. An occasional reward for a job well done is a psychological tool that you don’t want to overlook. If the shoe fits, wear it.

Yours in Fives,












Why winter is the season to save $5s

It’s hard to think about saving for a rainy day when, like me, you live in New England and are buried under two feet of the white stuff. So, I give up. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…in $5 bills!

Seriously, the dead of winter is actually a terrific time to focus on that one big thing you want to do or experience or maybe buy before the end of next summer passes by. And what better time than now to start saving your $5s with that particular goal or focus in mind.

When my children were young and money was tighter than it is today, I saved for our annual winter vacation in the sun by putting aside a little money at a time. Twenty dollars slipped into the envelope one day, fifty dollars the next, and before you knew it, I’d saved enough to book our flights just by cashing in petty savings.

What do you want to do or buy next summer? Rent a little cottage on the lake? Buy a Kayak or a Sailfish boat or a new set of golf clubs? Or maybe you want to pay off the credit card debt from the winter holidays by the Fourth of July. How much would you need to save between now and then to make that possible? Give or take a few days, by the way, it’s around 20 weeks between now and Independence Day, or July 4.

So what’s the goal, $500 for a top notch set of golf clubs? $750 to pay off the debt? $1000 for a week on the lake?

If it’s $500 you wish to put aside, that’s as simple as five $5 bills saved a week. $750 is the goal? That’s eight $5s saved a week between now and July 4. $1000? Ten $5s socked away a week. After twelve years of saving each and every $5 bill I get back as change in a cash transaction, I know that saving $5s has been the easiest and most powerful tool I’ve used to jump start my savings.

Here’s to an early spring in New England, and a flurry of $5 bills coming back at you and into your savings fund for that special thing you want to do or buy this summer.

Yours in Fives,




The $5 Challenge Grant

It’s only fitting that my job as a college professor and my habit of saving $5 bills should merge. My two daughters were both in college 13 years ago when I started my practice of saving $5s. It was, simply, the only way I could manage to save even a small amount of money while shouldering, along with my husband, the responsibility of financing their college educations.

Segue to 2016. Both daughters are college grads and well on their way to mid-level career success and I’m teaching the next generation of college students struggling to pay for school. Many of my best and brightest students at Lasell College in Newton, MA are benefiting from full or partial scholarships, which is one reason I donate regularly to the college’s annual fundraising efforts.

This year, I decided to do something different. Instead of just writing out a donation check, I issued a challenge grant to recent graduates of Lasell. I offered to match every donation of $5 or more (up to $3000) And in less than one week, more than four dozen first-time givers have stepped forward with another 100 alum promising to do the same before the challenge expires on New Years Eve. The way it looks now, I’ll be reaching my giving limit because of the generosity of others.

I thought the readers of my blog would enjoy seeing the $5 savings habit in its latest incarnation. The following video leads the way.

Yours in Five,









Why I’m Not Moving To Sweden

Post presidential election, only one thing is certain for me. I am not moving to Sweden. Er, um, what? Didn’t I mean to say Canada? No. Sweden.

And my not moving to Sweden has nothing to do with Donald Trump, or Hilary Clinton, or Barack or Michelle Obama, or any other president-elect, hopeful, or ‘been there done that’ we can name. For me, it’s all about Abe Lincoln, all about saving my $5s!

But back to Sweden where a popular movement extols a cash-free nation, according to a recent column in The Boston Globe. Similar proposals have been made in the United States and several nations abroad. A cashless society (or krona-free as they say in Sweden) offers many benefits, including: at end to illegal black markets, larger tax collections if all purchases are made under government scrutiny, and the ease of not carrying cash.

Again, I say NO. A cashless country is #Notmycountry!

Like many Americans, I have many reasons for feeling unsettled these days as we move towards inaugurating a President who alienated, humiliated, and divided so much of our country. And while I have looked at real estate on the Internet in many places other than The U.S. in the past few months, I’m not moving to Sweden or any other cashless society anytime soon.

As long as I have to spend money on the every day purchases such as groceries, household goods, personal treats, gifts, or other things that get me through a week, I’m not giving up the pleasure of getting $5 bills back as change.

Yours in Five,