The Change Jar

Dollars and cents add up in importance.

It seems every household has a change jar. A Tupperware bowl, a tin canister, a flour jar, a piggy bank or, in our case, a 3-foot-high plastic container shaped like a beer bottle and decorated with a Philadelphia Flyers hockey logo.

Steadily, day by day, my husband Bob and I threw our spare quarters,  nickels and dimes into the change jar, until the sea of coins began to slowly ascend toward the rim.

We were saving for something . . . anything! A rainy day! A vacation! A new car! A new home! Retirement!

More change!  More change!  More change!

Bob even started to throw dollar bills into the change jar. Then $5 bills and (gasp!) he even parted with a $20 now and then.

Finally, last month, as a family vacation beckoned, we decided that the contents of the change jar could provide some much-needed financial assistance.

That is why, on a summer evening, the neighbors gave strange looks to Bob, my 16-year-old daughter Melissa and me as we struggled to carry the 3,964-pound change jar to our car and place it gently in the trunk. Onlookers continued to stare as we took our "treasure" out of the trunk and lugged it into the bank, where we exchanged enough coins to fill a baseball stadium ( or so it seemed) for crisp, clean paper money.

Yes, three years of emptying our wallets of coins had certainly paid off! We now had some unexpected cash that could surely be used to enhance our week-long stay in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

Thank you to the change jar!

It had not been the first time that Bob and I reaped the rewards of our "sophisticated" saving plan. As we left the bank, I thought back to a time, long ago, when the money in the change jar gave us a gift much more valuable than vacation spending money.

Toward the middle of a difficult pregnancy that left me confined to bed and quite ill for several weeks, I finally felt well enough to take a temporary job as a receptionist at a library at Princeton University. We had recently relocated to central New Jersey after spending 18 months living in Queens, NY. Bob, looking to reinvent himself, had changed his career and now worked in a sales job that had, as yet, failed to deliver on its promise of huge commissions.

Our income barely covered the rent, let alone car insurance, the electric bill, the phone bill, the water bill and a staggering amount of credit card debt that threatened to suffocate our future. Reluctantly, we traded in the car we loved to avoid the monthly payments. Week after week, we sat at the kitchen table, the stack of bills piled high, the checkbook in hand, as we determined which lucky utility or creditor would get paid that month.

Our financial situation reached its lowest point when Bob and I discovered we barely had enough for our next meal.

We had no choice but to turn to the change jar, which yielded a welcome $75. Certainly not a windfall, but enough for the basics: milk, bread, eggs, cereal and meat. In short . . . enough to get by.

Thank you to the change jar!

The lack of money caused worry and stress and, yes, of course, a few tears.

We were poor. Yet . . . we were happy.

We were young.  We were in love. We were waiting in anticipation for our baby Melissa to enter our lives.

We were happy.

Today, we're not quite so young anymore. Our "baby" is now in high school. Our two full-time jobs provide the financial security that allows us to use the coins from our change jar to fund a vacation instead of food.

But most important, we are still happy . . . 

And still very much in love!

Lisa Weinstein is a South Jersey mom who blogs about parenting a teen, coping with middle age and celebrating nearly two decades of marriage. This post was adapted from her blog, The Mixed Up Brains of Lisa Weinstein. 

Categories: MomSpeak