What Does $1 Mean To You?

What Does $1 Mean To You?

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How many of these are wasted each month?

Do you remember the first time you held a $1 bill? Do you remember when you owned your first $1 bill? I remember for me it was trading in my saved up change for $1, which I stuck in my change jar at my grandpa’s lake cabin. It was an awesome feeling to have real buying power outside of trading my fish sticks for half a tombstone deep dish pizza (remember those?). Having $1 gave me endless choices about what I could buy, whether it be a handful of candy, a pack of baseball cards or some candy (did I mention candy?!). But I chose to save it, because if I spent that money, my endless possibilities disappeared. It was enough for me to just think about all the wonderful things I could do with $1, so I kept the dream alive by sealing it in a jar.

More Money

As I grew up, I received an allowance (whether or not I agree with giving an allowance is another topic for another time). It was something like $10 a week or so (it seemed to fluctuate), but I remember when I got that money, the first thing I would do is pull out my savings and count it all up. From an early age, I loved getting as many $1 bills as I could because then my “stack o’ cash” (that’s what I named it) would get bigger and bigger, making me feel like I had saved up thousands (thousands = about $47). I would specifically ask for $1’s in change back when making a purchase.

I’m not sure where the motivation came from, but I felt like saving money was WAY more fun than spending it. This motivation carried into getting my first job. I had a small box where I kept all of my cash after getting paid. I saved up $1,600 in less than a year working part time at minimum wage and bought myself a car. I still valued a dollar, and tried to save every one of them that passed through my hands.

Too Much Money

I know, I know, such a thing doesn’t exist. But at age 18, I don’t recommend handing over $100,000 to your kid and letting him have card blanche on where it goes. Suffice to say, having my bank account balance over 6-digits helped completely ruin the value of a dollar, and I blew Every. Single. One. Dollars no longer held any value to me, as I could easily go to the mall and drop $500 on clothes without batting an eye (not that I regularly bat my eyes…I mean….I blink, but it’s more of a manly “I’m re-hydrating my eyeball” than a “batting of the eye”). I had too much money for my own good, and burnt through the money faster than MC Hammer at a pants store (I’m sure there are stores dedicated to only pants…somewhere……just go with it, it’s a great punchline 🙂 ).

How I Regained My Appreciation For A Dollar

Having had a ridiculous amount of cash at my disposal for a few years caused me to overlook all the small places my money would disappear. Teriyaki every day, gas money, beer money, clothing, CD’s and movies, video games and stereo equipment, I didn’t think twice when spending on these things day after day after day. Then one day, it was all gone. ALL MY MONEY WAS GONE! And I still had rent and bills to pay, no job and a quarter left in college. I had to sell my pimpin’ truck to pay rent, ended up moving home with my parents and luckily got a job right out of school.

But I still didn’t care. I spent as much as I pleased and didn’t care about paying off debt or savings anything. Luckily, I didn’t get into things like gambling or small cash loans, but I still had no regard for my financial future. Then it happened. The girl I loved and enjoyed dating for the past 3 years suddenly become my fiancé. Marriage was no longer something we talked and dreamed about, it was a reality that was heading my way. FAST! It was then that I realized that I needed to know where EVERY DOLLAR WAS GOING! Now every dollar that I forgot about was a dollar less going towards our wedding, our honeymoon, our home together and our future. So those little expenses that I couldn’t care less about became VERY IMPORTANT to me. I started to track where every dollar went, and eventually made a budget and told every dollar where to go. And I’ve kept that same motivation ever since.

What Does $1 Mean To You?

It’s a simple question that can have a million different answers. Instead of telling you what it SHOULD mean to you (heck, who am I to tell you what money means to you), I want to give you a list of a few things that $1 means to my family and I:

  • A fun toy for our son
  • A book from goodwill
  • If I daily contribute $1 to my 401k, I get a $126 match every year. After 30 years, that’s a total of over $60,000 (averaging 8% return).
  • Extra money to gift to church
  • A dog treat for our awesome chocolate lab

Just look at that sweet puppy face! LOOK AT IT!

  • A small step toward saving for our son’s college
  • Each dollar NOT spent on junk that doesn’t matter helps keep my wife at home with our son.

Comments: So, how about you? Do you value $1 at all? What are some things that $1 means to YOU?


  1. A dollar is a lot of money to some people and was to me when I was young. I would save all my money from my paper route as I loved to see it grow. I really learned the value of a dollar in October this year when I played The Welfare Food Challenge in Canada. I had $26 to spend, an empty pantry, refrigerator and had to buy food for one week with that money. It never occurred to me how important every dollar was to one person who didn’t have the luxury of an emergency savings like we do. So $1 can go far even if you can save it day after day and invest it like you mention. Great post Jacob! MR.CBB
    Canadian Budget Binder recently posted..The Grocery Game Challenge Dec 10-16, 2012 -2 Weeks Until Christmas!My Profile

  2. A single dollar doesn’t mean much to me anymore. It is sad to say that, but also releiving at the same time. I have my budget, I stick to it 99% of the time, but it is comforting to know I don’t have to worry about every dollar. I also don’t see many dollars since I almost never have cash on me (I do have an emergency stash in case I really need it and ATMs are broken), but if I do have a dollar on me, I will donate it, especially this time of year.

  3. Great post Jacob! I remember when I was a kid and my grandfather sent me $5 for no reason, I thought I had hit the lottery. I think I had that thing spent 1,000 different ways in about three seconds flat. Having a $1 does still mean something to us and in many of the ways you mentioned. We also view it a way to teach our kids about the power of money and what we can do with it if we think wisely.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..A Frugal Person’s View on Holiday TippingMy Profile

    • I’m excited to teach my kids the value of a dollar. Also, the value of a DIGITAL dollar as well.

    • MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

      What is the deal with grandparents and $5?! My husband’s grandma sends our daughters $5 bills (cash) for Every. Single. Holiday. Each in a separate card addressed just to them. They love it. When m sister was little she had an obsession with $5 bills too. Every time she got checks in the mail, we made my mom cash them in for $5 bills.

      I actually still find much value in a penny. If I ever see one lying around, I pick it up. Every bit of change I ever get goes in ther piggy banks. When all the banks are full I empty them out and deposit to their savings accounts 50/50. 3years in a row this has meant depositing an extra $150 to each of them twice a year. (That petty change adds up to $600 EACH YEAR!!!)

  4. a dollar certainly means more to me today than it did a year ago.. but it can sometimes be hard to see the forest from the trees.. that said, the “dollar saved is a dollar earned” saying has some truth, and when i do make the effort to avoid waste, i notice a big difference in our overall budget.
    jefferson @SeeDebtRun recently posted..Five Ways to Drastically Improve Your Cash Flow TodayMy Profile

  5. I always forget that you managed to blow through 100K at such a young age!

    Honestly, I am fiercely protective of every single dollar that I make. I work so hard for every penny that I earn. I don’t waste even a dollar if I can help it.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..Guarding Your Personal Information from Corporate InterestsMy Profile

  6. I value each dollar. I definitely value actual cash more, so when I have a dollar, I SAVE it like crazy haha.
    Michelle recently posted..Our Vacation Plans for the Next 12 MonthsMy Profile

  7. One dollar sounds much more impressive as one hundred pennies… also makes it seem like it is worth less haha.

    One dollar can still get you some good stuff though. I got 2 bags of candy corn for a dollar at Walmart the other week. It was awesome!
    Lance @ Money Life and More recently posted..Debt Pay Off Update – December 2012My Profile

    • LoL! Now, pennies are definitely something I don’t care about. Heck, even the government doesn’t care about them on your tax return!

      Candy, the main reason for today’s dollar bill!

      • MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

        Read my other reply above! Especially true if you are using the envelope system. I never put the change back in the envelope goes to those piggy’s!

        Each girl has one we made for them before they were born and be that was a gift. The oldest’s (just weeks away from being five) are large and small. She named the large one the mommy piggy (when she was 2) and she always puts the “mommy money” (quarters) in the mommy piggy. All the other money is “baby money” and goes in the baby piggy! The 3yo has no organizational thoughts and just puts her money in whatever pug is closest!

  8. Awww. Cute doggie !! MC Hammer also became used to blowing through money like it was nothing. For me a dollar doesn’t mean too much to me, but I still try to save them as much as I can. I NEVER stop for a coffee or tea because I feel like it’s such a waste of $1.50 or whatever!
    Gillian @ Money After Graduation recently posted..How to make the most of LinkedInMy Profile

  9. Every dollar that I receive reminds me that I worked hard for it. No matter how many dollars are in my paycheck, I worked for every one of them. That makes me appreciate them a little more than I used to. I am working on getting my wife on board with valuing a dollar and thinking about it a little more. Maybe the baby will help here jump on board.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted..Free Shipping Day Is December 17My Profile

  10. Cute dog! I’ve got to admit that I don’t give a dollar the respect that it deserves. On paper, it is simply a rounding error. But in real life, there’s nothing like getting cold hard cash to know that a dollar is real and it still has power.
    My Money Design recently posted..Retirement Saving Starts Now! Where to BeginMy Profile

  11. What I am learning is that it is all about priorities\goals, which when I earned $80,000 a year meant very little to me. Money flowed into my life easily and went out just as easily. Quite similar to your story. I had never ever been without money, so in my mind it was always going to be there, no big deal. But then the day came where I made rash decisions again without considering priorities or goals, and due to those rash decisions the flow of money slowed to a trickle and eventually stopped all together.

    Today when I go to buy something I first say to myself how long did it take me to earn that dollar. A huge change in my thought process and the way I spend money.

  12. A dollar to me is an instrument that can help me buy businesses!
    Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin recently posted..How A Single Person Should Live If They Want To Be RichMy Profile

  13. I had a very similar response to a sudden influx of money and had to relearn to value every dollar. I think the moment you realize that the money is not going to keep coming in forever is the moment you start to value the dollar again.
    Gen Y Finance Journey recently posted..Products for Lazy PeopleMy Profile

    • Yup, once I didn’t have enough for rent, I started to realize that the gravy train had ended, and I needed to figure some stuff out. Took a while, but I got there eventually!

  14. To me, a dollar is like a seed. Plant (put it away) it somewhere safe and take care of it, and in time it grows to something more than when you first got it. It’s all a mindset, really. Some people see it as a measurement of their time, others see it as a representation of what they can buy, and yet others view it as a way to determine status. I say to each their own, I like my way of looking at it!
    Eric J. Nisall – DollarVersity recently posted..Derek Jeter Teaches You To Be A Success In Any CareerMy Profile

  15. I valued $1 when I was a kid and hardly ever spent my money. Then I became a young adult, and all of that went out the window. Now that I am older, valuing a dollar means so much to me. When I think back on that time where I didn’t know where my money was going, I shudder…
    Mackenzie recently posted..Dear Santa…My Profile

  16. To me, $1 is the American dream! When I first held $1, I was 14 and travelling to New York for the first time! Here in Guatemala $1 buys a lot of things, a bus ride to the next city, two pounds of tomatoes, a beer in a bar, a hourly worker… So I still value small amounts.
    Pauline recently posted..How I helped my handyman get into debtMy Profile

  17. I absolutely value the dollar. Heck, I bend down to pick up change on the street. When I was younger we didn’t have a lot of money. We weren’t in a horrible financial situation (better then most in our area), but we definitely didn’t have a lot. I remember the first time I babysat and made $10 of my own money. I felt rich.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..Student Debt DenialMy Profile

  18. Great post and quite thought provoking. Simply put a $1 to me represents the result of hard work and a small step toward providing for my family.

  19. $1.00 was a months worth of allowance for me. It was more than I earned an hour at my first job. So, yes a dollar means a lot.
    Marie at Family Money Values recently posted..Alone and Loving It!My Profile

  20. Sadly, we don’t have dollar bills, just coins, so it looses some of that money feeling.
    Marissa @ Thirty Six Months recently posted..Why I love All Inclusive Vacations.My Profile

  21. There are pants stores. The last time we went to the mall in Denver, there were two stores that sold high end jeans only! I was blown away. You can tell I live in a small town. When I was a kid my Grandma gave all the grandkids ten ones for Christmas. We thought we were rich. You’re right about dollars, every one adds up to more dollars, and all savings or debt repayment starts with the first dollar.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..What Will the Fiscal Cliff Mean to Health Care?My Profile

  22. Beautiful dog! We plan on getting a dog but have been re-evaluating our finances to make sure that it makes sense for us right now. I learned the value of a dollar through my work at Pizza Hut. I worked hard for that money! I feel the value of a dollar erodes as you make more money per hour, but those days of making minimum wage will stick with me for some time now.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..Saving Money on Entertainment and HobbiesMy Profile

    • We love having the pup. Food costs are about it for the pat 2 years. Except when she ate a chocolate bar last week and had to take her to the vet….

      And I appluad you for working at Pizza Hut. Fast food is tough, though I never worked it, my friends did.

  23. I’m with Marissa, we don’t have dollar bills, but only coins – Loonies as we call em. 🙂
    Eddie recently posted..Responsible Holiday Party HostingMy Profile

  24. As a child, $1 is a ton of money! Now, I’m pretty protective over my money, even if it’s just $1. Because then it’s $1 + tax 🙂 And then we want to spend more than the $1. In some countries, $1 is what workers make in a day of hard work. It can mean a lot!
    Daisy @ Money Smart Guides recently posted..10 Ways to Save Money by Buying AlternativesMy Profile

  25. Whenever we feel like “It’s only a $1”, I remind myself (or Brian) that $1 is 4 bananas – enough fruit for 4 days of lunches. Sometimes, it helps to remember that even $1 can get you quite a bit.
    CF recently posted..My plan for early retirementMy Profile

  26. I value it a lot more today than I did “yesterday,” While I didn’t just blow through everything I have, I didn’t set up enough of a system and budget from an early age. The four years ago when I was laid off, I still didn’t do anything about it, until this past year when I realized I needed to get my ish together. I wish I had learned earlier in life!
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..Looking Back, Looking Forward: Part 1My Profile

    • I hear that all the time. And I say it all the time! I wish I knew about things when I had $100k in the bank and no liabilities!!!!! Oh well, live and learn and all that 🙂

  27. When I was younger, I remember my Dad would give me a dollar to buy to buy 6 McDonald’s hamburgers at 15 cents each.
    Terry recently posted..Follow Schwarzenegger’s Advice to Put Fuel on the FireMy Profile

  28. It’s taken me a long time but I really, honestly appreciate each dollar I’ve earned which I posted about recently as well (below link). Great post Jacob and cute puppy!
    Catherine recently posted..The Last Bobby Pin EffectMy Profile


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