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What do financially savvy people do with their spare change?
In an increasingly cashless society, people rarely worry about losing track of their spare change. But financially savvy spenders say that's the wrong attitude to have. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
It's easy to lose track of spare change, as National Building Museum volunteers in Washington, D.C., learned this week. While cleaning up an exhibit that included an adult-friendly ball pit, they collected $433.24 in lost coins, The Washington Post reported.

The discovery illustrated what financial experts call a valuable lesson about the often unwanted coins that collect in people's pockets and car cup holders: They add up quickly.

Saving spare change was listed as one of the "nine basic pieces of money-saving advice no one follows but should" by U.S. News & World Report earlier this year.

"We all have loose change filling our pockets or strewn on our bedside tables. Start banking that change, and you could put a serious dent in your savings goals," the article noted. "For example, putting just 50 cents a day in a jar can help you save nearly $200 over the course of a year."

Spare change can also be spent in meaningful ways, according to financial writer Donna Freedman at Money Talks News. In her list of "33 ways to make your loose change really count," she notes that leftover coins are perfect for bus fares, highway tolls, parking or a weekly Starbucks treat.

People should start collecting their spare change in a jar or bottle at home, and then exchange it for cash when the container is full, she said.

"If you're broke, the cash can get you through a minor emergency. If you're fairly solvent it might pay for a small luxury. And if you're forward-thinking, it can make your future a little brighter," Freedman wrote.

People can also find creative uses for spare change, like saving for a pair of new shoes or dinner at a fancy restaurant, according to financial experts. The goal is to transform spare change into something more desirable, rather than, for example, losing it in a ball pit.

This advice might feel like it's coming about a decade too late because America is an increasingly cashless society.

"In 2011, 27 percent of all point-of-sale purchases were made with cash and that number is expected to drop to 23 percent by 2017," The Huffington Post reported.

But even credit card users can save 'spare change' with the smartphone application Acorns, which rounds up credit card purchases to the nearest dollar, "takes the difference from your checking account, and plunks it in a solid, no-frills investment portfolio," Time reported last year.