It’s Just a Drop in the Bucket

I study a martial art.  Occasionally after class my Sensei will tell us

What you learned tonight is just a tiny drop in the bucket.  In the grand scheme of this art tonight wasn’t much.  But one day you’ll look at your bucket and see it’s filled up.  What you are learning will start to accumulate and you’ll need a new, bigger bucket.

Know what?  He’s right.

When I started taking classes I felt like I would never “get” this art.  But with persistence and patience it all started to take hold.  I’m no longer the green student I was on that first day about a decade ago.  Now I’m a black belt.  My bucket filled up but I have a new, bigger one to fill up now.

Great story right?

“What’s that have to do with us” you may ask.

Saving is the same way.  When you have no savings it can seem almost impossible to imagine having a lot saved up.  I’ve been there.  I remember days thinking “why bother?”  But it is possible to save even if it’s just small amounts.  Let me give you an example:

When I come home from work I empty my change into a small dish on my night table.  It’s never much.  Fifty cents here.  Twenty two cents there.  When the dish fills up I move the change to a bigger jar we have.  When I make that first drop into the big jar it’s hard to imagine how much it would take to fill it up.  But I keep at it.  It usually takes about a year to fill that jar up.  My wife and I look at that jar salivating at the prospect of cashing it in.  We cash it in just before our yearly vacation so we have some extra money for food and such.  The last time we cashed in our jar at the bank it yielded around $150.

You see that?  Emptying the change in my pocket yielded $150 in a year.  Those pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters finally added up to something more substantial.

This is something anyone can do!  Take a look around you and ask yourself what little things you can do to save money.


  1. Tycoon Dreamer:

    I absolutely love this idea. I tried one time to fill up a 5 gallon jug of water — you know, the big blue jug that goes upside down over the water dispenser — with change. I quit after a week and used a small container instead. LOL!!!! The 5 gallon jug was just so depressing cuz the coins would be so lonely on the bottom. :)

  2. Kate:

    nice little story and so very true. If only i could stop myself dipping into my jar. I think I will have to put my jar out of eyes view so tha i don’t remember it everytime i am looking for some change.

  3. hank:

    I remember my folks having Ritz crackers tubs to do the same thing, and the kid that would count it out, got 5% of it. :) Very good motivator!

  4. FFB:

    Thanks so much for the opportunity to write an article for your site!

    And great comments everyone!

  5. Marci:

    Great analogy. Good way to save up… but if possible, every time you get $5 or $10 in the jar, you could put it in a dedicated savings account and be getting some interest on it – It might only raise an additional $5 or $10 for the year, but that’s still more $$ for your vacation or special treat! Then keep track of it on a thermometer gauge or a colored in picture of the money jug?

  6. Zach Younkin:

    Great thought!

    Then you can visibly see the savings!

  7. Dawn:

    I feel that way about personal finance education – over the last year I keep learning little things here and there hopefully filling up that bucket.

  8. Mo Money:

    Great post! This is a good idea, especially for those who think they cannot save any money!

  9. Great post! I do the same with my change and have over $200 in a few months. I put anything under $5 in.

  10. I like this drop in the bucket analogy. Very appropriate and so true. I also saved my pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters for about 1 and a half years and ended up with $260 in cash. Took this on my honeymoon and was so thankful I had saved that money.

    Another way to visualize this drop in the bucket is by what I call a “Fund- Raiser”. I wrote about this over at my site, but will not promote further than that. It is basically a piece of paper with a large thermometer on it that starts at “zero” at the bottom of the thermometer. As you put money away for the savings goal, debt repayment, or whatever, you color in the thermometer. This is a great way to see how all those small payments add up and get you places!

    great post, thanks for sharing!!


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