Where growing, making & good living come together

Ponderings #1 – on pennies

Posted by on Thursday 24 November 2011 in frugal | 15 comments

This was originally going to be a much longer post on two vaguely connected things but I think it confused the issue lumping them together, so I’ve split it up – pennies today, the other thing tomorrow.

A few weeks ago, there was an interesting article on Get Rich Slowly about picking up pennies. (I’ve linked to GRS a few times recently – the US-centric investment/credit card advice and similar that was very common when I started reading it has recently dropped off and now it’s mostly just good frugal living advice.)

So this article was about why the author Donna Freedman picks up pennies from she sees them on the ground. She talks about why the “ewww, it’s dirty” argument is just silly and the best places to look for spare coins, but the most interesting thing for me was when she talks about what she does with them: she saves them up in a jar and donates them to a food bank –

according to the hunger-relief charity Feeding America, $1 provides the makings for eight meals. I keep that in mind every time I pick up a penny: Another 99 of these and eight people get to have supper.

I used to pick up pennies all the time. I think I probably stopped about six years ago now, when I was still in full time employment and those pennies didn’t mean that much to me any more – or rather, I knew that they’d mean more to other people. We lived in a poor estate in a poor area so it seemed to be rude for me to take them when they could make more of a difference to someone on a tight budget. I still think this is a valid point but I do like Donna’s idea too – she collected $44.58 last year, which she rounded up to $50, and that provided food for 400 people: who knows how much of that money would have been picked up by someone who needed it, instead of being picked up by someone who didn’t really need it, or possibly getting washed or swept away and be lost to everyone forever?

Changing the topic slightly, we’ve always had penny pots at home – silver ones which are plundered for bus fare all the time, copper ones that are filled and counted while watching a film on a wintery afternoon – and it surprises me when I hear that other people don’t have them. At the far end of the scale, a friend of a friend THROWS AWAY ALL HIS CHANGE, as he puts it in the BIN, not in a jar for counting later or a charity bucket. He’s successful in business and I imagine his reckoning is that it’s not worth his time to find a jar, drop the coins in there every day and take it to his bank/Coinstar/a charity collection once a year. If he wanted to give the equivalent money to charity, he could argue that he would be better spending his time – those seconds that add up – adding value to his business, because that would probably mean he was able to donate more money in the long run. Since finding out about that, I’ve heard of examples of at least two people who do the same – and it had never occurred to one of them that he could collect them up rather than just THROWING MONEY AWAY. I think my capital letters show how aghast I am about this idea!

Do you pick up pennies on the street for yourself or for charity, or do you leave them where they are? Do you have a penny jar at home? Are you as shocked as I am about the people throwing money in the bin?! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this :)


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Attila

    FLABBERGASTED! And is it legal to throw away coins of the Realm?? Not sure, about that, but surely it’s not too much to ask to give it to charity, is it?

  2. datacreata

    Absolutely disgusting. To me it’s as big a sin as throwing away food. Someone, somewhere is starving. They should be made to live on the streets (for charity) for a week and see what 1p means to them then. They should be ashamed of themselves.

  3. Maria

    Completely shocked! but I have heard it before, so I’m not as shocked as the first time I heard it, if that makes sense.
    I pick up pennies – not always, but not never either. We have copper/silver jars/pots too, which I plunder for newspaper / milk buying from the corner shop etc…

  4. Lynsey aka Swirlyarts

    People throw away money??????? How odd/scary/selfish is that? I always pick up coins and t=have trained the girls to as well. We don’t find many but they always come home and go into either the change pot or the old pepsi bottle we have for loose change. We also have a terimundi pot for collecting £2 coins – it’s amazing how quickly they add up for bigger purchases. The terrimundi pot means we can’t get at them easily :)

  5. Rachel

    I can’t believe people throw away money! Even if they’re so rich that small change is worthless, how hard is it to put it in a pot rather than in the bin? It would be just like putting the recycling in a different bin, then if they can’t be bothered to count it, they could ‘recycle’ it into a charity collecting tin. I don’t know why I’m bothering to say this – it’s not like anyone here would disagree!

    I don’t collect pennies because I never see them (I do pick them up when I do). I think the reason I never see them is that I don’t like looking at the ground when I walk along. Apart from anything else, it gives me a stiff neck.

  6. bookstorebabe

    I do pick up change, I have a jar-I plunder it all the time for bus fare and such so it doesn’t get a chance to accumulate. But throwing away change shocks me! It doesn’t take any effort to toss it all in a box, and dump it on a charity later. Like the above poster said, certainly no more effort than tossing it in the recycling bin.
    If he despises change so much-then don’t accept it! When he buys something, just say-‘Oh, keep the change’, and walk away. Let the clerk keep it! Problem solved! Or anytime he stops for a coffee, empty the change in his pockets into the tip jar. Ride trains or buses? Leave it behind on the seat. trust me, someone will take it and be glad of it.
    Charities that help the neediest of us always run out of money before they run out of people in need. I don’t care how wealthy you are, throwing away money is the height of arrogance.

  7. Jo

    I can’t believe that anyone would throw money away. Why on earth doesn’t he put it in a pot instead of the bin and then give it away if he doesn’t want it. You don’t even have to count it yourself anymore, there’s those machines in supermarkets which count it for you and give you the value in vouchers to use in store. My daughter is eagle eyed, if there’s any money on the floor she’s the one who finds it. She keeps all the money she finds in a pot.

  8. PipneyJane

    I’m as stunned as the rest of your readers at the concept of “throwing money away”, even if it is just pennies. I work very hard for my money – a penny’s worth isn’t much time, but I’ll never get that time back. Ditto “free” money that I find lying around on the ground. (My best find ever was a £20 note.)

    Once upon a time, I was away with a group of people, one of whom “dropped” some change. Since I was walking behind him, I picked it up and handed it back to him. He told me he had deliberately thrown it away, since it just wore out his pockets and wasn’t enough to buy anything. I was gobsmacked then, too.

  9. Jan

    My teenagers weren’t keen on holding onto coppers as they never used purses/walletts, just pockets, so would often donate them to charity boxes on shop counters or say breezily ‘keep the change”! Then we discovered that our local sainsbury’s has a change machine-you pour in your loose change, they total it up and give you notes or £1 coins and keep a fraction for charity. We were too lazy to count it, but happy to keep the change in old demijohns, now we keep loose change for their children’s saving accounts.

  10. Millie

    I can’t believe that people literally throw money away!! And like another one of your commenters, I’m not sure it’s even legal! Isn’t there a rule about defacing the Queen’s face on coins (surely binning them is included in that!).

    It’s actually quite disgusting to think that there are people in the world who think it is easier to bin loose change than to chuck it in the next charity pot they see (they don’t even have to collect it in a pot in their own home! There are plenty of shops that have charity boxes at the counters.).

    When I was little we had a big money box that we collected £1 coins in (we being the whole family), and then in the winter my sister and I would get to count the money whilst watching a film. :)

  11. louisa

    I’m glad I’m not the only one in shock about the throwing away money thing! I know I’m a big nerd for actually enjoying counting out the pennies but it’s so easy these days to get it changed or just give it to charity as is that there’s really no excuse.

    On the where to keep it topic – we currently use Illy cans (which have removable lids) but when I was little, my dad got a big whisky bottle from a pub for collecting pennies in for holidays – it was such a pain to get the money out again but there was no temptation to dip into it.

  12. strowger

    we had giant-size whisky bottles too!

    a friend filled one was £2 coins – i think he said it was £3000 – anyway he bought a car with the money once the jar was filled.

    my first job was in a school, in quite a prosperous area. i was paid very little. the children used to throw small-denomination coins at each other & i used to pick them up and keep them. so little pay that it was a significant benefit of the job :-/

  13. Jean

    I have five porcelain piggy banks, one for each of my grandchildren. I fill them with money I find while walking or biking and have found over $250.00 that way. Down the road, they’ll get their “inheritance”.

  14. Kath Thomas

    Saving pennies and pounds.
    Dont buy toilet air freasheners, buy a box of matches. When you’ve used the toilet strike a match, the smell masks the “smell” then hold the match down the toilet bowl it burns off the methane. Save pounds.
    Dont buy generl air fresheners open a window and buy aquire a “spider plant” cleans the air. Saving pounds

  15. HouseCat

    Our house has a tub for loose change, pennies, tuppence, five pence pieces, etc. we dip into it for things like bus fare. I can’t believe anyone would throw money in the BIN. It seems so… wasteful and arrogant and just… ugh.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *