EVERYDAY CHEAPSKATE: Why 15 cents matter

I used to think that small amounts of money didn’t matter. What difference could $5 here or $10 there make when we were more than $100,000 in debt (not counting the house and cars)? So what if I increased our debt by such a small amount? It wouldn’t really matter because we already owed so much. I used the same argument for only paying the minimum monthly payment on our credit cards, because that, too, would make no difference.

Boy, did I have a lot to learn. The truth is that we five-and-10-dollared ourselves to death. It was the little things that added up to create a huge monster. Thinking that the little things didn’t matter freed us to believe $2, $5 or $20 didn’t matter. And, eventually, $50 didn’t matter, and on and on it went.

Ironically, it was the little things that turned us around, too. Sending an extra $2, $5 or $20 every month to repay the debt we were targeting helped us find a way to make the standard payment $22, then $35 and soon $100. I’ve had people look at me like I was a little weird when I suggest they should not use a first-class stamp on a postcard. I mean, does 15 cents really matter? I think it does — not so much for the dime and nickel but for the attitude. You see, if you casually throw 15 cents away when it comes to a postage stamp, it’s much easier to begin thinking that slightly larger sums don’t matter either. And soon you’ll be on your way to thinking $20 is not a big deal. Then you’ll be headed for trouble.

Yes, my friends, 15 cents does matter. If you understand that, then you understand that $1.50 matters; $15 will matter even more; and on and on it goes right up to $15,000.

Some wise person once said, “Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.” I have proven that to be true, and I hope you can, too.

Here are three easy ways to stash cash:

COINS. Don’t spend them. Save them. Every evening, empty your pockets, purse and wallet of all coins. Even if the bill comes to $4.05, hand the clerk a $5 bill and stash the difference. When you accumulate $25 or so, roll, wrap and send the coins off to your savings account.

WINDFALLS. No matter how small, make it a habit to bank all coupon savings, rebate checks, refunds and other found money.

SAVE AN EXTRA 10 PERCENT. Stash 10 percent of your pocket money, grocery money and any other walk-around funds you control in your secret savings spot. Chances are you won’t even miss it. And soon you’ll discover that $2 here and $4 there really adds up.

Mary invites questions, comments and tips at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of “Debt-Proof Living,” released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.