From the Penny Challenge to the coffee jar, why not embrace an alternative way to save?

PUBLISHED: 09:28 03 January 2020 | UPDATED: 09:55 03 January 2020

Sticking 1p in a jar on January 1 and increasing the amount by an extra penny each day until December 31 will result in more than £650 in savings. Picture: Getty Images

Sticking 1p in a jar on January 1 and increasing the amount by an extra penny each day until December 31 will result in more than £650 in savings. Picture: Getty Images


Saving upwards of £700 is actually quite easy, says financial columnist Peter Sharkey.

From an early age, my parents encouraged my three siblings and I to save. How much we each saved didn't really matter because our folks knew it was more important we adopt the habit as soon as possible to "understand the value of a pound," a popular household mantra.

They made a big thing of us each having our own building society passbook, stamped and updated by hand whenever funds were deposited at Christmas, when a birthday was celebrated, or perhaps after a relative had been particularly generous towards all four of us, which didn't happen too often.

Leading by example, my Dad acquired a large (used!) whisky bottle and placed it in an alcove on one side of the living room chimney breast. It didn't take long before loose change thrown into the bottle by my parents began inching upwards. To prevent any of us helping ourselves to some loot when backs were turned, my Dad created a slot for coins in the bottle's screw top, securing it with a combination of glue and heavy duty industrial tape.

Each September, the whole family agreed that proceeds from 'The Jar' were to be used towards the following year's summer holidays, the destination of which remained a secret, a great way to involve and enthuse the children in a savings project from which they would directly benefit.

It was amazing how rapidly loose coins, 'shrapnel' to my Dad, mounted up; by summer, the contribution to holiday costs must have been significant.

No doubt there were plenty of times when, with so many mouths to feed, my parents could have done with borrowing from the jar, though given its prominent position and the impossibility of removing the screw top, this never happened. There was never any compulsion to contribute, although once my brother and I started our respective newspaper delivery rounds around the age of 14-15, we felt that boosting the jar's proceeds was the right thing to do - not as though we did so that often.

I cannot recall the amounts saved each year, (we're going back several decades) yet they always seemed impressive considering average contributions were probably very modest. But that's not the point: with very little effort over a long period, the family enjoyed a sizeable financial benefit at precisely the time it was required.

The start of the year is a time favoured by financial journalists to explain how easy it can be for readers to save; many suggestions are brilliant.

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I particularly like the Penny Challenge, a modern variation on 'The Jar' of my formative years and equally simple.

You start by saving a penny on day one and add an extra penny every day: 2p on day two, 3p on day three and so on. By the time you reach the year's final day, you contribute £3.65 and, assuming no petty pilfering, should end up with a welcome £667.95.

Some people, recognising that their enthusiasm for saving may diminish over 12 months, start with an initial £3.65 and reduce their contribution by a penny every day; the result, of course, is exactly the same.

Alternatively, there's the tea/coffee jar method of saving, perfect for those trying to kick an expensive caffeine habit or stop walking around town with a cardboard cup like some modern-day Kojak without realising that only Telly Savalas looked cool doing so.

How does it work? Easy. Instead of ordering your daily white mocha with toffee nut syrup and caramel, spending £3.25 for the pleasure of spilling half of it when removing the lid, simply save the money. That's £16.25 a week; even if you enjoy six weeks' annual leave, you'll have saved almost £750 in the space of 12 months.

Combining the benefits of a post-festive season diet and saving will appeal to many people at this time of the year. This too is easy.

In lieu of enjoying a second pint of beer or large glass of Pinot Grigio blush on the way home from work, let's say at a cost of £4.25 a time, save the cash (£21.25 a week) instead. Taking annual holiday allowance into account results in total savings of £977.50. Plus, you'll be much slimmer, a genuine win-win.

Whichever saving method you adopt, be tenacious. Happy New Year.

TAM Asset Management Ltd offer savers the opportunity to invest their savings, however accumulated, in Investment ISA portfolios comprising a variety of different funds pursuing cautious, balanced or adventurous strategies. For further details, please visit the MoneyMapp website.

For more financial advice, check out Peter Sharkey's regular column, The Week In Numbers.

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