Over the past few years, with the nation's economy so deeply depressed, it's an ongoing challenge for average folks to keep their heads above water. With the endless squeeze being felt on every facet of our lives, the struggle to save a bit of money has become the focus of everything from TV documentaries to best-selling books and countless magazine articles.
Unfortunately, the tips given in these instructions on "how-to-survive" are the kinds of activities most of us down here in the trenches have been using for years. Such obvious actions as "buy only what you really need" and "use cash rather than credit cards" or "consolidate your errands to save gas" and "re-purpose anything you can" are well-established habits for those of us who have long followed a frugal lifestyle.
But recently, I came across an article that had a unique suggestion, and one I had never considered.
The piece focused on the dollar bill. In order for me to share this clever saving concept with you, please get out a dollar bill and look it over with me.
You'll come to realize there is much more to this lowly piece of U.S. currency than just the portrait of founding father George Washington.
To the left of Washington's picture, you'll find a circle containing a letter. This circle is the Federal Reserve Seal. The letter inside the seal denotes the Federal Reserve District Number and also serves as the prefix of the bill's serial number.
Now, stay with me here, it gets more interesting as we go along.
The letters used go from A, for the Boston Reserve Bank, to L, the San Francisco Bank. In case you're interested, some of the other letters in the series include B for the New York Bank, F for Atlanta, H for St. Louis and K for Dallas. The rest are listed on the web site I've included below.
Here's where the saving idea comes in.
Select a letter between A and L. This can be your initial or even the first letter of something you want to save money for, like a "B"oat or an "I"phone.
Then, beginning today, every time a bill with that letter crosses your hand, put it aside. It's that simple.
Son Tim and I started this little saving trick last year in June. Our plan was to save all the one dollar bills we received with the letters "D," for Dad, or "G," for George. The idea was to make a packet of whatever dollars we managed to collect for our Christmas present to hubby - and father - George, a chronically difficult guy to buy for.
The process was almost painless and, actually, became more fun as time went by. Each week, both of us would contribute one - sometimes two - dollars to the pack. It was interesting to watch the little pile grow month by month.
By the time Christmas rolled around, we had a be-ribboned packet of more than $30 waiting under the tree for a surprised George. It was, by far, his favorite gift.
So give it a try. Select a letter that means something to you - or someone you want to surprise - and start stashing aside dollar bills bearing that letter. I guarantee you'll be amazed at what you will have saved by the end of the year.
If you'd like to learn more about the lowly dollar bill and all the information it holds, go to www.onedollarbill.org. It makes for some interesting reading.