How a Money Jar Helped Me Save $400 Without Even Trying

Money jar
Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Hi, my name is Kaitlyn, and I’m an impulse shopper.

I continuously fall victim to deals and coupons. I’d like to pretend a sale would never tempt me to buy yet another pair of sunglasses I don’t need, but the truth is, my impressive collection would put Kim Kardashian-West to shame.

But here’s the thing: I’m not a Kardashian and I don’t have money to blow. I’m a recent college graduate with a waitressing job, plenty of bills and a looming mountain of student loan debt.

Living paycheck-to-paycheck and having an empty savings account was my norm…. until this past year, when I managed to save more than $400 almost accidentally.

How I Saved $400 Without Even Thinking About It

As most people know, working as a server means a good deal of your income comes from tips.

But while many servers earn a little over $2 an hour and the majority of their income is in individual tips, my work starts servers at minimum wage, and we pool our tips and divide them based on the number of hours we worked.

This in-between type of pay means that about 50% of my income comes from hourly wages deposited directly into my bank account, and the rest is in cash I take home each day.

Having to constantly go to the bank to deposit cash is downright inconvenient; my busy work schedule just doesn’t allow it. Plus, I’ve been known to be pretty lazy on my days off…

This inspired a solution so simple, it’s almost comical: I put a jar on my kitchen counter, and threw my cash in it at the end of each day.

I know, a money jar. It sounds cheesy and cliche, but stay with me.

After a few weeks, I started to notice my money jar was looking a little full. I decided to count how much I had squirrelled away, not thinking too much of it. To my surprise, it was more than $400. Four hundred dollars, y’all!

At first, I was confused. How did I have a spare $400 just lying around? I had never been able to save so much before.

After some reflection, I realized: Without that cash in my bank account, I thought I had less money than I really did.

Every time I opened an email about 30% off sports bras or buy-one, get-one-free tank tops, I would check my bank statement and think “No way, I don’t have the money for that right now,” and call it a day.

I had found a way to cut back on impulse shopping without even trying! And managed to save $400 to boot.

So I wondered: If I could save $400 without even meaning to, how much could I save if I actually tried?

Using My Money Jar to Save Even More

I decided to continue this “laissez faire” method of saving money. I kept throwing my tips in the jar at the end of the day, and didn’t obsess over how much I added each time.

I also didn’t stress if I had to remove any cash from the jar. If I needed a little extra money for my cell phone bill, or had to cough up a couple hundred for my dog’s yearly vet visit, I would take only what I needed.

Not knowing the total amount of cash in the money jar helped alleviate some of the anxiety of removing money. I saved what I saved, and spent only what I needed to.

Months went by, the amount in the jar kept growing, and I had to upgrade to a bigger jar to hold it all. After a while, my boyfriend started pestering me to take it to the bank, saying it didn’t make sense to have that much cash just lying around.

I knew he was right, but I was nervous about emptying my money jar. This method of keeping my own money from myself had worked out so well, and I was worried that the moment I saw my new bank balance, I would morph back into the impulse shopper I knew lurked inside me.

Eventually I took the plunge and deposited it into my savings account, rather than my checking account, so I wouldn’t be as tempted by the available money.

I started off this unintentional project as the type of person who was accustomed to having an empty savings account, and by the end, I had managed to save $1,200 in roughly eight months.

What I Learned From a Money Jar

Seeing how much money I had saved was inspiring. I finally realized I was capable of saving money, and I didn’t need to keep spending my hard-earned cash on unnecessary items.

The accomplishment helped me swap online sales for experiences and plans for my future.

For the first time in my life, I had the money to attend a College Football National Championship, which I never thought I would be able to do. And even after treating myself to that experience of a lifetime, I still have the majority of my savings left over, and they are in the process of growing again.

Plus, now that I know what I’m capable of, paying off my student loans doesn’t seem entirely impossible.

But let’s be honest, I’m still going to treat myself to a new pair of sunglasses every once in a while. After all, I’ll always love a good deal and pretty things, and I can’t let Kim K’s collection outdo mine.

Your Turn: Have you ever seen great results from a simple saving strategy?

Kaitlyn Blount is a recent college grad composed of 90% caffeine, 5% Southern accent, and 5% sarcasm. She’s rarely seen in the same pair of sunglasses twice.