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Should I Save Pennies Or Give Them Away? Mint Answers

Pinching pennies: We’ve all been there, whether it’s a temporary cash flow setback, a not-so-recent layoff, spiraling debt — or all of the above.

And when you’re cash-strapped, you often find yourself wondering: When the cashier owes you a few pennies in change, should you bother keeping it? What is cheaper over the long run: clipping coupons or buying in bulk? Is there a way to save money without falling into the temptation of spending it? And when you do spend, how do you control impulse purchases?

In this week’s round-up of Q&A activity on Mint Answers, we feature these questions, along with some of the suggestions shared by the Mint community.

To read more answers or to chime in with your response, click on the links below.

Should I save pennies?

The few times I use cash I almost always end up with a few pennies in change. Should I bother saving them since I don’t use cash often or should I just give them away?

Answer: Just think about it, though. If you save three pennies every day and put them into a total stock market index fund that earns a real return of 4.5%, in thirty years you’ll have $687! All you have to do is, at the end of each month, take your 90 cents in pennies, put them in an envelope, and send them to Vanguard. Er, except 90 pennies weighs half a pound, which costs $2.07 to mail. Oh, and Vanguard’s total market fund has a minimum opening balance of $3000.

I just use mine (along with the nickels, dimes, quarters, and the occasional Millard Fillmore dollar) for barista tips and put any leftovers in a jar. We go out for dinner a couple times a year when the jar is full.

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What is cheaper in the long run: clipping coupons or buying in bulk?

Which is cheaper in the long run: clipping coupons or buying in bulk?

Answer: It all depends on the pricing for both situations. This is more of an individual basis problem rather than a broad overall answer. It might be a good idea to bring a calculator next time you shop and compare the pricing.

Also, some coupons encourage bulk buying.

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Is there a way to save money without falling into the temptation of spending it?

I am in my late 20′s and I barely have a dime to my name. I have tried over the years throughout my life to save money, but every time I get to a point that there is something worth saving I give into the temptation and spend it, forcing myself to start the process all over again.

Answer: Set up a bank account that is not viewable through your Online Banking.  This way, you can set up an auto-transfer as a % of your paycheck to move there each month, and it will virtually go “unnoticed” as you save money on the side.  Without access to this account anywhere but walking into a bank, you will not be tempted to touch it, and you will make do with the money that remains in your checking account.

This is similar to retirement and 401(k) saving with automatic paycheck deductions

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How can I control impulse spending?

Answer: I stopped impulse buying when I realized how much my credit card debt was hurting me. Not financially, but physically. I was anxious, not sleeping, and letting it creep into my daily life in the form of crankiness!

I used the Mint budgeting system religiously.  If there’s money in the budget, I can consider a purchase, but first I have to check and make sure there will still be money at the end of the month for cat food or gas.

And at that point, it’s no longer an impulse purchase. I’ve had to consider it. Weigh it against the other things I could spend the money on. Do I need it? Sure. Do I need it RIGHT NOW? Probably not. It can wait until next month, when it can be planned around. 

The other thing I do is I don’t go into stores until I’ve planned what I’m getting there for several days. I have a shopping list, I go and get those items, and don’t stop anywhere else. I found that I’ll fill time when I’m bored and lonely with shopping, but am replacing that time with free or less expensive pursuits: gardening, walking the dog, online crossword puzzles, blog reading (sooo much cheaper than magazines!), yoga, gourmet cooking…

There is one type of impulse buying that I allow, and that is on food. If you don’t spend money on high quality food that you really enjoy, one of three things will happen:
1) you will eat a lot of food you don’t enjoy and gain weight
2) you will eat no food you do or don’t enjoy and get cranky
3) you will look in the cupboard, not like what you see, and end up eating out – which is expensive.

Besides, if your body is asking for a particular food, it probably needs it!

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Do you have a money question that you feel has no black-or-white answer? Go to Mint Answers and ask away! While you’re there, feel free to answer questions from other community members. Come back often, as we introduce new enhancements to this feature.