See a penny? Pick it up!
Truly "found money," those stray pennies and dimes will add up -- if you save them.
I'm superannuated enough to remember penny candy. Finding a cent was
cause for celebration, because it would buy Squirrel Nut Zippers (the
candy, not the band), Smarties, Pixy Stix or a host of other treats.
I still pick up pennies. Also nickels, dimes and any other American
paper or specie I see on sidewalks, in parking lots or pooled in the
rejected-change bin of those Coinstar change-counting machines.
All "found" money goes into a vase my daughter gave me when she was
about 8 years old. (She got the vase from the "free" box at a yard
sale. That's my girl!) Each December, I donate my finds. This year,
$24.14 will go to PetSmart Charities.
Ain't too proud to bend
Some of you are probably thinking, "Eeewww, pick up dirty coins off a dirty street? Who'd do a thing like that?" A whole lot of Smart Spending message board readers, that's who.
In a thread called "Do you pick up pennies?,"
readers wrote about how and where they find funds. Some real hot spots:
near parking meters, in vending machines, under fast-food drive-through
windows and in parking lots (especially tavern parking lots, the
morning after). Also check college campuses, amusement parks and the
area around the self-service vacuum at car washes.
Bing: Do you save change?
A reader posting as "retireddad" scores paper money in a brambly lot
near an ATM: "The most I have found at one time is three twenties." He
gets free blackberries there, too. (Note, however, that some states
have laws requiring those who find more than $10 or $20 to advertise
the lost cash or turn it over to the police.)
"Sunset Hiker" has fond childhood memories of the ball-crawl play area at Chuck E. Cheese. "The bottom was always loaded with money ... a few dollars' worth of change and several bills every time."
"Thrifty in ATL" and her boyfriend look for coins while they walk
their dog. They're trying to train the pooch to become the pecuniary
equivalent of a truffle hound. "If successful," she writes, "we would
have three sets of eyes and one nose searching (for coins) on our
And yeah, some families and friends are completely embarrassed by
such behavior. "Suzeeque" says her teens consider coin retrieval as
more proof "that their mother is an embarrassing dork."
But "drkonijn" did the math -- one second to pick up a penny -- and
now has a snappy comeback. "I tell them I make $36 an hour picking up
pennies. Since there are a lot of people who would jump at $36 an hour,
why not bend down for it?"
What they do with what they find
Many readers give it away: school "penny drives," donation jars, organized charities. Reader "Toy Maker" lets the kids pick the charity; in addition, the family matches whatever is found that year.
Some set up funds for their kids or other young relatives.
"Waslostnowfound," saving since the birth of a now 13-year-old son, has
accumulated nearly $1,600 "for his first car." Reader "decayschampion"
calls spare change a "college fund" for a couple of nephews.
Others save it for themselves. "Sangria" opened an investment
account just for found money; after five years, the account is worth
nearly $650. "Johnny Walker" and his wife call dropped coins their
"retirement fund," even though they’re already retired.
And some people spend the money outright. "ItsEasyOnceYouStart" will
put nearly $50 toward this year's Christmas presents. "Ponophob" uses
it for movies or other entertainment, "things that I wouldn't have done
had it not been for the extra money." And "PensionPete" dines out on
As a struggling single mother, "Emilysmom128" once dined in
on found funds. At a financial low point, that's how she paid for a jar
of cheap spaghetti sauce and some noodles, which stretched for several
days. "Thank God for dropped (coins)," she writes. "Every penny
Take the dropped-coin challenge
Maybe these stories will encourage you not to walk by that nickel in the parking lot.
Or maybe you're more like "flygrl7112003," who claims to have passed
at least a dozen $1 bills in the past year. "My motto is, 'If it's less
than $5, I won't waste my time on it'," she writes, adding that "maybe
when I get older, I might consider picking up a dollar."
I'm already older, and I won't pass up even a penny. That’s just how
I roll, so to speak. And I'd like to propose a challenge to those of
you who aren’t germphobic or proud: Start picking up any money you find.
Save it in a coffee can or a mayonnaise jar, and count it every few
months. Put it against credit card debt, if you have any, and in your emergency fund if you don't.
So what if it's only $5 or $10? Baby steps, people, baby steps.
Hint: Don’t forget to look under the couch cushions.
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