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Why you should pick up that penny

Found coins add up slowly, but they DO add up.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 27, 2009 11:53AM
I'd planned to wait until mid-December to count my dropped change. By Nov. 18, the old vase in which I keep the coins was about to spill over. Eleven months' worth of found funds came to $34.54: a $5 bill, three $1 bills, 25 quarters, 117 dimes, 46 nickels and 629 pennies.

In the past week I've already found $1.05. Looks like it's going to be a good year for what blogger Candace Baltz-Smylie calls "Dirty Money."

She means that in a good way, of course.

Candace, who blogs at SugarMama Baking Company, also picks up dropped money -- about $30 worth in the past eight months. The funds paid for a recent shopping trip: a rotisserie chicken, six heads of romaine lettuce, six pounds of Bosc pears and a box of trash bags.

"It also could have added up to a whole month’s worth of school lunches for my son," she writes.

Like me, the blogger lives without a car. Walkers get lots of chances to pick up money. A few weeks ago I found a small pile of change in the middle of a city sidewalk: 99 cents, mostly pennies but also three dimes and a quarter. Not scattered, mind you, but heaped up. I wonder what the story was there?

Not far from my house is a corner where a woman often sits with a sign asking for help. Passing motorists sometimes hand money through their car windows. As I walked past one day I noticed a penny on the ground. Then another. And another. In all, I picked up 25 cents. Does she toss them aside at the end of the day? Do some mean-spirited drivers throw pennies as a sign of derision?
The original "See a penny? Pick it up!" post had more than 1.657 million views and more than 4,800 responses. Some readers thought it was smart to pick up Dirty Money. Other people thought it was, well, dirty. Eeewww, don't touch it!

I hate to burst your bubble, as it were, but all money is dirty. Recent research indicates that flu viruses can survive for a surprising amount of time on paper money. And I've personally seen adults removing cash from their bras and their shoes. Eeewww, indeed.

Candace's husband is one of those folks who thinks it's gross to pick up found coins. However, she notes, "he still eats the food I buy with the dirty money."

This year, I'm rounding my $34.54 find up to $50 and sending the check to a local food bank. I doubt they'll care where it came from. Dirty money or not, it'll still help buy some groceries. Just something to think about the next time you see a nickel on the sidewalk.

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