You may have noticed that we do an awful lot of talking about piggy banks here at Doc Frugal. There is a reason for it! Piggy banks are not only a symbol of saving, but we believe they are valuable real world teaching tools and saving tools, if not entertaining at times.
When somebody mentions a piggy bank most of us conjure up an image of a child, hammer in hand, ready to smash their way into new found wealth. Some of us may have even had our own piggy bank experiences as children or young adults. The fact is that piggy banks date back centuries and were originally called pygg pots, clay pots that families would use to store valuables and money. The photo to the left (wikimedia) is of a 13th century piggy bank. If you follow our Facebook page, we recently shared an article explaining the history of piggy banks; it is a good read!
A Learning Tool
Introducing a child to money and saving at a young age can help to instill the concepts of value and financial responsibility. The act of putting money into the piggy bank is an early saving cue that, with some thought, can be turned into a fun and rewarding activity. A plain old ceramic piggy bank is certainly a good start and what most of us grew up with in one form or another. There is not a lot of interaction and the reward is in the anticipation of opening it one day in some far off future. Making a game out of the activity is fun, as long as the distinction is that the savings and money are real.
Mechanical or interactive piggy banks can help to enhance the experience by providing an interactive or entertaining element to feeding the piggy bank. As children, some of us had the magical pleasure of feeding interactive antique cast iron banks and watching with glee as the bank’s mechanics ate coin after coin. These antiques (some of them extremely valuable) are still available and many replicas and new models can be had from numerous vendors. These mechanical banks are more than just entertaining toys; in many cases they are very valuable antiques from an era gone by. As rare and desirable antiques, many of these vintage banks are actually worth more than the money saved in them! Getting your hands on one of these vintage banks can be rather expensive, but they do make wonderful gifts. If you are looking for a vintage mechanical bank, then eBay is the place to go. Just be sure to deal with a vendor that has a 100% or near 100% rating, here in the United States.
A Wonderful Gift
If you have never had the pleasure of watching one of these banks work, then you are truly missing something simple, yet amazing! If an antique mechanical bank is out of your price range, don’t fret! Modern replicas of these old designs and many new designs that capture the feeling and artistry of the era can also by purchased. These new banks are inspired by their late 1800s and early 1900s counterparts. Most are hand painted with colors and a simple theme that harken back to the days an era gone by. If you are looking for these newer banks, we suggest Design Toscano as a trustworthy vendor. A mechanical bank makes a wonderful gift that can teach saving in a fun way. Not only that, if cared for and passed on, they too will become timeless antiques that grow in value with each generation they are willed to.
A more modern take on the mechanical banks has come in the form of electronic versions, many with coin counters. The benefit here is that the child can actually see how much money is being saved. Some of these banks are as simple as a jar with an electronic lid, while others are fully animated experiences. The animated “Cute Dog” piggy bank shown to the right is an extremely popular Amazon item. For around $12 your kids get to see the dog lap coins out of the bowl. While most of these banks will not become generation heirlooms or valuable antiques (you never know, though!) they are still wonderful and entertaining teaching tools.
An Award Winning Piggy Bank – Susan Beacham, CEO and cofounder of Money Savvy Generation, says that “A lot of times, piggy banks make kids very distrustful,” and she says “If kids can’t see through it, they don’t trust that the money is in there.” So, Beacham developed a see through piggy bank called the Money Savvy Pig that has four slots: save, spend, donate, and invest. The idea is to help teach children that money isn’t just accumulated to buy things. Whether you buy into the children being distrustful pitch or not, these banks are certainly
a modern touch for a centuries-old idea. They, like their ancient counterparts, convey a valuable message and learning experience.
These are available in six colors (blue, pink, green, purple, and platinum).
For Adults, Too!
We have talked a little bit about piggy banks being wonderful teaching tools for children. Have you considered using a piggy bank as a real world savings tool? Here in the Doc Frugal household we have several piggy banks. One of them is used to collect all pocket change. While the savings over a year are not a windfall, an extra $200-$300 goes a long way toward extra vacation spending money and it is also a good stash for emergencies. We have a second piggy bank that is used to store $5 bills. We have a simple system, if $5 bills come home in a purse or wallet, they immediately go into the bank. As we prefer to use cash in many situations, the $5 bills add up quickly. This money is reserved for investment and/or emergency cash.
Having a piggy bank near a desk or other frequently used area can serve as that gentle subliminal nudge that you need to be saving more. Putting the piggy bank on a dresser or in a laundry area can help to ensure that pocket change is saved instead of being spent. Mechanical or other entertaining banks can also actually be profitable. Placed in a common area, you would be surprised at how many friends and neighbors will empty their spare change into one, just for the pure entertainment of watching the bank operate.
Extreme Piggy Banks
Always wanted a slot machine, pinball machine, or other arcade game? Most folks set them for free or token play. Why not use the game the way the arcade does? Set gameplay at $0.25 and keep the machine locked. When the coin box is full, deposit the money or transfer it to another piggy bank. This is a great way save pocket change and have fun at the same time.
Have a home bar where you entertain often? Mechanical banks, or other extreme banks are sure to collect coins as fast as a mall fountain. We are not advocating charging your friends, but hey, if they want to part with their coins while enjoying your wine and beer, then let them! While some vintage slots can be very expensive and can often be an investment (in the sense that any antique may be a valuable investment), you can get some of the less rare models on eBay for as little as $200! Other used, vintage or retro video and pinball games are usually best found from local vendors who specialize in their sale and maintenance.
Note: If you do decide to invest in a real slot machine, please check the laws of your state. Some do allow them, and some do not.
Be Smart, Be Frugal!