I have a jar of money. I started keeping it at some point about ten years ago. Everything in the jar consists of money I have found on the ground, with the exception of a few dollars from gifted scratch-off lottery tickets. Most of it came from pennies. When the jar gets too full, I cash in a dollar's worth of pennies, or trade singles for larger bills.
How many pennies can a person who walks a lot find over the course of ten years?
Five thousand, five hundred and ten.
There's also a wad of bills consisting of $84 that my husband found, but I feel superstitious about including that for some reason.
I call it "fairy money" because I like the idea that fairies reward people by leaving them coins. It pleases me. I mean it in the same way that some people refer to "Santa presents" as a special subset of Christmas gifts. Do they really think there's a Santa Claus? Mostly no. Do I really think there are fairies? Let's say it's a moot point. The point is that fairy money represents abundance.
I don't spend the fairy money because I don't need to. In my mind, though, it's a resource of last resort. When I started picking up coins, I used to deposit them in my savings account when I cashed my paycheck every week. I'd literally be like, "And six cents to Savings, please." After I got out of debt, I started putting them in the jar. At one point, there was enough for a city bus ticket. Then it was enough for a loaf of bread. It grew over time, until eventually it started to become substantial.
What can $55 buy in 2016?
A shiatsu massage
A bag of groceries
Costco membership for one year
Parrot chow for ten weeks
Set of new bath towels for four
Roughly 20 gallons of gasoline
A night in a cheap motel
Cab fare somewhere
A crock pot with $15 left over for soup ingredients
Entry fee to a 5k race with money left over for carb-loading
Who knows? $55 is right at the threshold of "enough to make a difference." In fact, as I skimmed through our expenses looking for things in that price range, I saw that most of our purchases are below that amount. $55 is more than our monthly internet bill or our gym membership. It's more than we spend dining out, on the rare occasions that we do. It's at the point where it could cover any of several necessities, and it's also enough to splurge on a true luxury or something really fun.
The story of my jar of fairy money is the story of my arduous climb out of poverty. I still pick up pennies off the ground, because I'm attuned to notice them. I still feel that a penny is valuable, just as I still feel that a dollar is worth a dollar no matter where you spend it. I'm still routinely gobsmacked by bizarrely useless yet expensive consumer items I never knew existed. I still remember how excited I was when my retirement savings finally reached three digits. I'll always be a frugalite at heart, even as I cast aside my former scarcity mentality.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.