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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CWITj937Lo&feature=youtu.be

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,








Summer of $5s, Saving Small to Save Big

We’re almost one-third through the Summer of $5s (in which I asked readers to send stories, photos or videos) about how your $5 savings plan is going. Thanks to everyone who emailed, especially to the reader from Singapore who sent me a photograph of the $5 note from the world’s only island city-state.


Here are some of the stories I heard and thought you would enjoy, too.

An American woman named Kathy went to Europe for the first time last year, paying for two airplane tickets with $5 bills. In a recent note, she wrote:  “My husband and I have talked/dreamed of a trip to Europe together for more than 15 years. We returned from that trip a week ago today. The airline tickets were paid for with $5 bills.”

Almost 10,000 miles away in Brisbane, Australia, a reader emailed saying she was always bad at saving, until she read a story on a local website about my SaveMoneyFastWithFives method.

“It immediately appealed to me and I thought, ‘how easy does that sound?’” She  started stashing away the $5s she got back as change, and viola, “I’ve had no trouble saving $100s in a short amount of time.”

The website where she learned about the $5 savings method is equally enthusiastic in its endorsement. Follow this link for the story, but I’m excited by the enthusiasm expressed in a recent post. http://www.mamamia.com.au/simple-saving-trick/

A third save your $5s devotee, a woman from Singapore, corresponded with me last Fall after she learned of my SaveMoneyFastWithFives blog. In less than two months, she socked away $285 in $5s. She’s also helping spread the word by taking photos of her collection of $5s and posting them online.  She wrote: “I’ve put a hashtag on my photographs on Instagram and I’ve tagged it “#savemoneyfastwithfives” (there isn’t any prior photographs with this hashtag). I hope this idea helps to propel the inspiration in saving small to save big. You might like to tell your fans about the hag tag idea, I think it’s already a movement.”

Quick favor, readers. Any time you write about your saving $5s method of saving money, consider adding the hashtag #savemoneyfastwithfives. It will help us all find each other faster. Keep your stories and photos coming! How has saving $5 bills changed/helped/inspired your life

Yours in Fives,



Let’s Celebrate The Summer of $5s

It’s just about a year ago that I began writing this blog. Save Money Fast With Fives grew out of my double desire to first, better understand the blogosphere, and second, to share my $5 savings plan with as many people as possible. It’s been a terrific year of learning, sharing, meeting new people, and most important, of continuing to save my $5s.

And the best news of all: it is almost summer (summer solstice in my neck of the woods here in New England arrives at 10:30 p.m. tonight, June 20), my favorite time of year!

I’d like to say thanks to all of the readers who have communicated with me about the blog. Thanks to those who have shared the blog with friends and family and through social media. At times, when the blog goes viral (which it does from time to time since one of my posts was featured on the Time/Money websites and Facebook pages), I get feedback from hundreds of people a day. Some think my idea is the best thing since sliced bread, while others (a minority but a vocal group) think I’m a savings fool, pointing out money lost to inflation or credit card points lost to cash transactions. Oh, phooey on them. I love saving my $5s and will continue to do so.

Share Your Story!

Now, as we enter the summer season across the country, I’d like to challenge my readers to get on board and share with readers of this blog how your $5 savings plan is going. There are so many ways in which you can participate. Readers, maybe a few of you want to write a guest post for Save Money Fast With Fives about how the savings plan works for you. Or, you could post a photo of you (getting a $5 back as change!). Or share a video of you talking about your savings habits. Or just post a comment or two about how saving $5s is going for you. I’m looking for any and all reader contributions about how saving $5 bills has impacted your life. Send me a private email or just use the comments section at the end of each post to talk to us.

OK, Ready. Set. Go. Let’s Celebrate! The Summer of $5s has begun.

Yours in Fives,





How Do I Feel When I Strike It Rich? Priceless!


You know the Mastercard ads that put a price tag on everything except the zinger at the end (the look on your ex-boyfriend’s face or the conversation between a father and son at a baseball game) because there are some things money can’t buy? That’s right, the Priceless ad campaign has been so successful Mastercard has used it for 20 years.

Well, priceless is how I feel when I get a windfall of $5s back in one cash transaction. It happened a few weeks ago when I got—are you ready for this—ten $5s back as change after using a $100 bill at my local CVS to pay for a purchase of $8.48.

I know. Using a C-note for something under $10 is a bit over the top but it was the start of a month and I’d just gone to the bank. You should have seen my face when the cashier counted out my change….two $20s, one $1, some change, and 10 $5s!  “Sorry for all the $5s,” she said having no idea she had just made my day.

The good news is if you start using more cash in your daily life the same will happen to you.

Assuming you start the week with the cash you’ll need for everyday expenses  (groceries, gasoline, purchases at the newsstand, pub or public transit station), here are a few things you can do to strike it rich (in $5s) more often.

Buy as you go….Most people only need a few things they don’t have each day, but we buy in bulk, often at one place. I buy only what I need each day, paying with smaller denominations increasing the odds I’ll get a $5 back.

Make more than one stop…On the way home from work, instead of buying everything at one megastore, make three stops to speciality shops increasing the odds of getting a $5 back.

Pay in bills of $10 or higher…..or add $1s to the mix if it’ll help you get a $5 back. If something costs $7, use a $10 and two $1s to pay. Good chance, a 5-spot’s coming your way.

Everyone needs to feel like they struck it rich once in a while. And while I wouldn’t want to get that many $5s back as often as happened recently (because obviously, I’d have to go to the bank to withdraw more money), it was priceless one recent morning.


Yours in Fives,






Graduation season: as good a time as any to start saving $5s


Last week, the college where I teach near Boston, graduated another class of seniors. In retrospect, I cried and clapped more in a three hour commencement ceremony than is normal even for me, an effervescent type who wears her heart on her sleeve. But why wouldn’t one be super excited for the bright futures these young graduates have ahead of them?

And when I look back on my own college graduation more than 41 years ago, and when I do the math, I realize that if I had started saving $5 bills back then in 1975, I’d have a heck of a lot more than $40,000 saved in $5 bills (which is approximately what I have put aside now after 12 years). So, for any recent grads reading (or any reader who knows a recent grad and wants to pass along this tip), why not commence now to never again spend a $5 bill and save them instead and see how fast your nest egg will grow?

The good news is that it’s a lot easier to part with $5 today than it was that summer when I rented my first apartment, a two bedroom that I shared with a college friend and each of us paid—are you ready for this—-$112.50 a month!

Which brings me to the point of this post. Whether you’re a recent college graduate, a senior citizen, or somewhere in between, make the month of May, the traditional season of graduations, or commencements, be the time you start saving your $5 bills.

As a personal training coach I used to work with always said about the power of forming an intention and then focusing on it—-Doing Does It! Save one $5 bill a day for a month and you’ll sock away $150. Save two a day, and the stash grows to $300, a month, or $3600 a year, about what I average. Start today. No crying from me this time. I’ll be clapping instead. Congratulations on making a commitment to your financial future. #SaveMoneyFastWithFives


Yours in Fives,