I'm not as good at budgeting as I suspect I should be. I feel like I should know exactly how much to spend per week on each thing and then, responsibly, clock, pre-purchase. "No. I mustn't have a second glass of wine because I am only spending $20 each week on going out and I'm already at $19." I wish I was but I'm not.
Last year I read this New York Times piece on "Your Best Tips for Saving a Few Bucks" and decided to give this tip from Margaret Ryan a try:
I save $5 bills. Never spend them. Just put them away in my drawer. When I have 20, I take them to the bank and exchange them for a $100 bill. By years' end I usually have about a grand, which I use for Christmas tips and gifts -- and not running up my credit cards.
I liked this method because it sounded very simple and a little random, almost like a game. I sent myself an email with this tip and every day saw a reminder to purge my wallet of any $5s I had in there.
I'm not sure how to explain the discrepancy between the number of $5s that pass between Margaret Ryan vs me but I accumulated way less than a grand--I came up with almost $400 this way. Which is nothing to sneeze at! I do too much online ordering to turn cash into Christmas presents but it is great for the tips. We hire a housecleaner who comes every other week and I give her a big tip at the holidays to say "Thank you and I'm sorry" so it's nice to just have the money at home instead of feeling the pinch of taking out out of the ATM.
So yeah, I'm a middle aged lady now telling you to save your small bills because you never know someday. But if you, like me, have major budgeting dreams but can't seem to pull them off, try this instead.
Also I will not be trying this in 2019 so please don't break into my house looking for my wad of $5 bills.