It’s all about the Lincolns

Last December, I read about the five-dollar savings plan. It goes like this: Every time you find yourself with a five-dollar bill in your possession, you set it aside instead of spending it. At the end of the year, you use the money you’ve saved for either a big purchase or to do something you wouldn’t normally spend the money to do.

I was skeptical as to whether or not this would work for me, mainly because I hardly ever use cash. I pay with credit or debit cards for everything from groceries to gasoline. I go to the ATM for pocket money only once or twice a month. And yet. . .I was curious.

So, starting at the beginning of January, I started putting aside (almost) every five-dollar bill I acquired. And my pile started to grow.

In one year, with no help from my husband or my kids, I saved 70 five-dollar bills.


Yup, that is $350 right there. Not bad, eh?

I love that this didn’t feel like a “savings plan” at all (and, don’t get me wrong, this is NOT a financially sound way to really save money as there is no interest earned when the money is just kept in an envelope!).  

To make this an even bigger deal, I could get the whole family involved and put any Lincolns saved each week into an interest-earning savings account. If we had a big goal that was worth saving for a few years, we might end up with a good chunk of it paid for without really trying.

So, yeah, I was skeptical at the start of 2011. But when we surprise our kids with a special weekend excursion this winter, I think we’ll all feel like this was a worthwhile experiment.

Update: this post still gets  a ton of traffic (hi Pinterest people!), so I thought I’d update where we ended up. In May 2013, we took a cruise, and I counted up the $5 bills I’d saved. Keep in mind that I’d gotten very lazy about saving every $5 bill, often using my stash when I needed a little cash quickly. But, even with that, I had almost $500 in “extra money” to spend. It was definitely a nice little surprise and didn’t hurt to save it at all. I have a good friend who also did this for only a year and saved over $1,100 toward their family vacation!


  1. While it doesn't add up as quickly, we have a giant jar of change. I never dig for exact change – I round and the change goes to the savings jar.

  2. that is so cool! maybe I'll try the same thing but with $100 bills. Oh.

  3. Nice!

  4. Dang it, I use my debit card way too much. But when I do have cash, I immediately put it into our "vacation bag." A bag of coins, bills, gift cards I've won that we used in 2010 when I decided we were going to Disneyland for my 30th birthday.

    We all started throwing money in the bag, even the kids & I was amazed at how quickly we earned the money for the trip. Oddly, it held it's appeal for all of 2011, too & I've deposited it in the bank several times.

    We forget that the little bills add up. Hope you guys have a great time wherever you go!

  5. Cool! I need to try that, although I think I would save more with the swear jar!

  6. @SierraSez says

    Ralph started a year ago too and has $400…so where are you and he taking Reff and I for vacation?

  7. Issas Crazy World says

    I'm going to try this. I am curious to see how it adds up. I tend to use mostly cash these days, so it could be interesting.

    Thanks for the idea.

  8. catbird365 says

    I've heard about this but didn't try it for the same reason: I don't seem to use cash all that much. Seeing your awesome stash has made me decide to try it this year.

  9. What an awesome idea! We may try this!

  10. true story. my only uncle had a massive stroke. after 2 weeks he tried his best to tell his wife and kids something. they couldn't get it. took days and all they got was black box. he passed away. about a month later my uncles dear friend and accountant, called my aunt. he said it's been rough on him, and sorry it took so long to call. then he mentioned did you ever find the black box? and then they remembered, oh yeah. he was trying to tell us something.. no why? he said well he always told me he was saving money in the house. they shredded the house, finally found it, hidden in a trunk in the attic, in the bottom, was a black metal box. with 100 dollar bills in it. 16,000 in hundreds. at first my aunt was really angry, then she started to laugh, she didnt know her husband had a hobby of collecting hundreds. she later found 7 100's in a shoe in his closet. guess he didnt' make it to the attic yet. lol so since he passed, i picked it up, and i decided to save 10's. as i am not as welathy. and have only told two people about it, not family, in ccase i should die suddently.

  11. I saved random $20's, $10's or $5's, whatever I found in my wallet this past year…quickly had around $200 saved. Was a great help for extra spending at christmas this year. Plan to do it again this year!

  12. A*Designed says

    I'm going to try it! I wait tables so I should come home with $5's regularly! 🙂 Cross your fingers — now off to go and look at this afternoon's tips. Hey – maybe my hubby will even get on board!

  13. Pam Marquie says

    I have a friend who does this with every type of dollar bill that has the letter "F" in the serial number for "fun" money.

  14. Great idea!! I'm going to do it!

  15. awesome! Fun idea. I would have to do $1 … i actually rarely have $5 bills!

  16. kellybmomof3 says

    LOVE this idea! I, like you, don't use much cash at all…but I DO have a $5 bill in my wallet right now! No time like the present to start!

  17. Try saving dimes, they are really small and they add up quickly. Only dimes. Another way to save is to save only one dollar bills but only save the ones that have your initials on them. Say your name is Fred only save the ones with the F on it. Have fun saving.

  18. Ariane @ Bitchetarian says

    This is a great idea! I would think the same thing, "I never use cash," but when I really think about it I guess I do.

    Done and done – thanks!

  19. SexiGelRox says


  20. I know a man who saved only quarters in one I those big water jugs…. $5000 later…. Yeah, I'll be trying both! My husband actually bought me diamond earrings with loose change once… 🙂

  21. Gonna try it, starting today, have 2 $5 bills in my wallet, now going into my drawer, see what happens!! Thanks for the idea!

  22. Kaci * Little Piles Everywhere says

    We save all our change for a year. We usually end up with $300 or so. I might start throwing five's in too. That's a good idea!

  23. I have/doing this…. I want to suprise my hubby with a trip for our 20th anniv. I started saving almost two years ago…. my "shoebox" has grown to a little under $5000…. yes, FIVE THOUSAND dollars…One more year to go… and we will be off to our 2 week vacation to New Zealand. It will be completly paid for, nothing out of the household budget. Shhhh don't tell him :o)

  24. Fairly Odd Mother says

    Deaner911, WHOA! That is incredible. Congratulations and have a wonderful trip!

    I LOVE reading these stories. You guys have inspired me to keep going this year too. $15 so far. . .

  25. Started yesterday 1/25/12. got my husband on board too. $20.00 so far!

  26. I save whatever change I have. All of it.

  27. I quit smoking and decided to put the $5 a day i would spend on cigs into a savings account that draws directly from my paycheck. that's $152 a month. go me.

  28. That's a great idea about the money you save on cigarettes! Plus it gives you an insentive not to start back, cuz you have money to spend! I am a hair stylist so the $5 bill thing would not work for me. I have LOTS and if I put them all back I'd never have any money, but I could do one a day. Great idea! Thanks!

  29. I read that same post and saved over $500 in 2011. Woohoo!

  30. When my boys were little I was a waitress and we decided to save all my loose change that people tipped me for one year and at the end of the year we would spend it on a vacation. At the end of the year my boys and I hauled all the jars of change to the bank to the change counter. When it was all done counting we had $1500.00 cash. We bought a new couch and went to Sea World for the weekend.

  31. I have a different version of this. All our bills are paid with checks. I enter each check in the register, but I round the amount up to the nearest dollar when I subtract the amount from the total and make a note of it each month when balancing the checkbook. It's been a very painless way to create an emergency cushion.

  32. We do the same sort of thing electronically. When we get paid we "zero" out our checking account into our savings account. Some months we are able to squirrel away only a few dollars, but some months we are several hundred dollars ahead. We don't really use cash so this is what works for us.

  33. Nice One!
    It would be hard for me to not grab the saved money in a pinh

  34. Random.Autumn says

    Maybe I should try this. I work in a restaurant, and during the winter we dont make much, and i have a hard time buying things i need. maybe if i save any 10's i come across, i can save enough to buy a used car so i dont have to rely on my parents all the time, to go places 🙂

  35. One of the things I have started doing to save is,when I use a coupon to save n groceries,I ut that amount into a cookie jar.If the store doubles the coupons I put double.This has made me take the time to clip coupons so I can save more money.It adds up fast.

  36. I heard of this before, but wasn't so sure about the $5's, so I started with ones and change. It is hard sometimes. When I run more than one errand and the bill at the second place comes to a number that I could use the singles it is tempting, but I dont do it. I have saved over $1000 in about 9 months! And I am not rich – I am a single mother and I work as a preschool teacher! I can't wait for our trip to see family this summer!

  37. Fairly Odd Mother says

    Yay! I love reading these stories! I am so inspired by those of you who have saved big amounts of money with just a little foresight and sacrifice. Anon, I hope you have an amazing summer vacation!

  38. Years ago I saw a special with Susie Orman and she said the easiest way to save is to always pay with bills, never pay with exact change. I've been doing this for years and twice a year I take my jar of coins to the automated coin counter at my bank (FREE) and get anywhere between $250 and $300 which I use for a weekend away. Like the poster, this is an easy way to save without really putting anything away.

  39. I do the same thing but with $20, I am saving for a trip to Hawaii!!

  40. I may be a buz kill here but that doesn't seem like a whole lot for a year? Maybe because we basically live off of a cash in envelope system. So monthly blow money and meal money is set aside. So I'm thinking you could even save more if you were using cash and setting aside a percentage of the meal and blow money for savings. One thing that I heard that we also have done is if you are thinking of buying a coffee or meal that you find yourself talking you into then don't spend it but set it aside. I do like the 5$ idea as inspiration and a start however for those that are not use to always using cash. With our blow money,meal money, and grocery money(factoring in that usually I have left over from budgeted) I will try this and maybe work myself up to a 20 as well though!

  41. I also agree with paying in bills. We do this as well! Boy does it make a difference saving that change! I'm not always the cashiers favorite though when I give bills instead of giving the penny in change! Sometimes I do give the penny! Lol!

  42. Continue doing it for 10 years, keep adding in the $350 per year and 10% compound interest and your future value is one very nice payday in 10 years!

    Keep those Lincolns!

    Great job

  43. Keep saving that $350 every year, add in 10% compounding interest and you will have one NICE BIG pay day in 10 years!

    Congrats on keeping your Lincolns!


  44. Amanda Stephan says

    What an absolutely fabulous idea! Thank you for sharing this. 🙂

  45. Anonymous says

    I have an "instead" fund. When I eat out, I usually drink water, and notice what tea or coffee would cost. I put that amount in my "instead" fund. Same with coupons, unexpected savings, windfalls, etc. Or, if I am tempted to buy something that I truly don't need, I ask myself if I would rather save it "instead." Usually the answer is "yes" – this could work if you either have a big goal you are saving for, or if you are just committed to saving more.

  46. i found an easy way to save. i used to cash my checks from the bills.keep about 100 dollars for gas. eatouts etc, if i still had money left by the next time i got paid i put that money away in a drawer. i saved close to 4,000 dollars in 2 years. but i come from a time of no creditcards.greenmoney is so much more personal afterall it is yours!!!! i have a credit card but i much prefer money.

  47. I’d been looking for this original post to share! I’ve been doing it since 2012. Tips I give people: #1 Put the money in a jar that you cannot see into. Mine is a pretty metal jar with a lid. #2 Don’t count your money until you are ready to spend it. That way you aren’t always wondering how much money is in the jar. #3 ONLY SPEND THE MONEY ON SOMETHING YOU WOULD NEVER EVER BUY FOR YOURSELF. This money isn’t for new tires. #4 Every time you get a small refund check (insurance company send a check for $22 as a rebate or a friend writes a check for their half of lunch that you put on your credit card), take it to the bank and cash it in $5 bills for your jar. I’ve cashed in my $5 jar a few times – it paid for a pair of Italian hand-made “rich lady” boots, a short road trip to California, a fancy pair of expensive tap shoes (I dance) and an upgrade to a fancier kitchen stove than we planned. This is the BEST IDEA EVER. Thank you.


  1. […] money, nor do we plan to mortgage the house to do this. But, if the comments I read to my “five-dollar savings plan” post are true, I believe that almost anyone can save a significant amount of money with […]

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