The Pot System: How the UK’s Way of Saving Could Pad Your Accounts

Money jars filled with American currency.
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Looking to stash some extra cash? While you should definitely keep a hefty portion in a high yield savings account (HYSA) — especially now, with interest rates so high — there’s an additional interesting method to consider: the pot system.

Popular in the U.K., the pot system is a simple way of saving — luddites in particular will rejoice. As the name indicates, this method entails putting away cash in pots and other containers, including jam jars and envelopes. It’s sort of like a more detailed and efficient piggy bank system for grownups.

Here’s how to get started using the pot system.


Every money savings approach requires fastidious budgeting. There are a number of budgeting systems that can come in handy, including the 50/30/20 rule. With this approach, you divvy up your post-tax monthly income into three spending categories: 50% for needs, 30% for wants and 20% for savings and/or paying off debt. Be extra mindful about needs versus wants, and always aim to pare down the “wants” on your list so you have more money to push into savings.

It’s also helpful to keep a spreadsheet of your expenses, and check in with it frequently.

Pick a Jar, Any Jar

Once you have established clear spending boundaries and have a realistic budget in place, it’s time to get down to business with the pot system. This means selecting jars, envelopes or other containers where you deposit cash for each spending category.

Make Your Money Work for You

For example, you may have one jar where you keep your rent money, another where you keep money for your utility bills, another for your subscription services, yet another for your vacation fund and so on. The idea is to get extremely organized and to add to these jars every week, or as often as you get paid, if that’s easier.

Pro-tip: Get an extra big container for your holiday savings fund. The more you add to it, the more you’ll be able to see just how fat it can get. This could inspire you to keep dumping in dollars.

Organizing Your Jars

Though you can designate a jar for every spending category in your life, it can be easier to use just three jars: one for short-term goals; a second for medium-term goals and the third for long-term goals.

The Importance of a Physical Reminder

The beauty of the pot system is that you have a physical, daily reminder of how much money you really have available, so that you’re not deceived by a big flashy number in your checking or savings account.

This is incredibly useful if you have a history of overusing credit cards and need to wean off them and stick with a more cash-based approach to purchasing. You’ll be able to plainly see exactly how much money you have on hand for every spending need.

Be Safe and Look at Banking Options

When implementing the pot system, it’s important that you keep your money jars, envelopes or other containers in a safe space. It’s generally not recommended to keep more than, say, a week’s worth of cash in the home. So, if you’re not comfortable keeping a ton of cash in your abode, or if your home lacks security, look into banks that embrace the pot system. These banks let you allocate your money in different digital pots so that you always have a clear idea of how much you need and have to spend on every category.

Make Your Money Work for You

In the U.S., banks often call what are essentially pots or jam jars “buckets.” These are separate subsections of your account that enable you to save for individual goals, track your spending and saving, and more effectively manage your money.

If you’re saving for long-term goals and want to make your money make money, opt for an easy-to-access high yield savings account. These sport higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts and are most commonly offered by online-only banks that can afford to offer a higher interest rate because they don’t have the cumbersome costs of overhead.

This Can Be Fun and Informative for Kids

If using physical containers in the home, you have an opportunity to teach your kids the value of budgeting, organizing and saving your money. Lessons learned by the pot system could stay with your children well into their adult lives.

“I grew up with this system,” said Tori Bell, digital PR consultant at PR With Tori. “Mum always had jars for food, electricity, general expenses and holidays. The holiday pot was an enormous bottle, where all the odd coins would go. This system for budgeting has stayed with me through my life; only today I use digital pots instead of jars.”

This simple system has also empowered Bell to save during low income periods.

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