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,







5 Signs You’re Ready to Save Your $5s

I’ve tapped into my inner saver to come up with a list of five reasons to begin saving your $5s. For me, it’s close to a 13-year habit so it’s solidly part of my DNA. And for you, here are some reasons you might be inspired to start.

     #1. You rarely have any money left over at the end of the month, no matter how much you earn. Admit it. You don’t know where your money goes. Don’t beat yourself up any longer. Start spending cash on your every day needs—from groceries to gas for your car, to lunches in the workplaces. Not only will you have a better sense of what you’re spending money on, but think of all the $5s you’ll get back as change, to save.

    # 2. You’ve been reading my blog or other online sites about saving money for some time. The five most common words you do a Google search on are: How To Save Money Fast. So, time to stop Googling and begin saving. As my old friend Razz used to say, “Doing does it!”

    #3.  The holidays are coming and you don’t want to go into debt again this year. Spending cash on gifts for family and friends is the only way to assure you won’t wrack up holiday debt. Start saving your $5s today (Oct. 3), and you might even save enough money between now and December to buy some of your holiday gifts.

    #4.  You’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. If you’re like me, when there’s something I really want to do and I don’t, I get even more frustrated than if I’d tried something new. So, what better time to start saving money than right now?

     #5. You happen to have two or three $5s in your wallet right now. That’s a sign that it’s time. That’s how it started for me, driving to work one day and I noticed a few straggler $5 bills. I put them aside. The rest is history. I’ve now saved close to $38,000, all in $5 bills.

Yours in Fives,



Why Saving $5s Is Better Than Not Having Kids (If You Want Them)


Having a baby before you can afford one is a bad idea. They need clothes and food. They cost you dozens and dozens of diapers. They grow up and want to go to college, and hold on, mom and dad. Next thing you know, your offspring is spending your retirement money on tuition, room and board, and fees.

Unless you’re like a growing number of American women who are delaying motherhood for economic reasons.

Or unless you save your $5s because a fives nest egg accumulated over time could ease the financial tensions of raising a child.

But back to delaying children. Recent federal data points to a plummeting US fertility rate—half of what it was in the late 1950s and the peak of the Baby Boom. Forty years ago, an American woman typically had her first child at age 21, compared to 26.3 today, according to the study recently published in The Boston Globe.

Perhaps more revealing, the same study claims that 40 percent of women ages 40-55 say they wish they had more children than they do.

Birth control, education, and feminism are some of the reasons for the birthrate decline, according to the study. So too is the fear that many harbor—that they can’t afford to have children.

Putting the study aside for a minute, let’s break this down into the most simplistic of terms. If a 21-year-old decided today that she wanted to have a child in five years, and began saving two $5 bills a day until the baby’s birth, $17,600 would already be set aside to help with the child’s expenses. Save two more $5s a day until this baby is 18 and ready for college, and the amount saved would have grown to $63, 360. Get super extravagant and put aside three $5 bills a day for 23 years and the nest egg (352 days X $15/a day=$5280/year by 23 years) for a grand total of $121,440.

At the very least, you’ve got the cost of diapers covered!

Yours in Fives,






The Ugly Truth About Unexpected Expenses

When it comes to handling unexpected expenses—the old appliance that finally goes kaput, the big car repair, the emergency visit to the dentist—most people are unprepared.

In fact, a recent article that I read in a respected business journal reported one poll where more than 75 percent of Americans said they would be unprepared for an unexpected $400 expense. The same article said most of these people would charge the expense on a credit card and pay it off—or not—with interest over time.

In other words, they would have to go into debt (or more debt) to finance the unexpected $400 bill. Ugh. Still, it shocks me that three-quarters of those polled would be badly shaken by a $400 expense.

Not to minimize the personal finance challenges many people face, and clearly there have been times in my life when a blown out carburetor sent me into a financial tailspin. But $400, if you save your $5 bills, can be accumulated in a relatively short period of time. Even if you only save $20 a week in $5s (I typically save between $35-$60/week), you’d have $1049 saved in a year, or enough saved to face two and a half of those $400 emergencies a year.

Just saying. Happy Monday, everyone!

Yours in Fives,