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An Idea for Using Your Pennies to Make Others Happier

One of my library duties is working the cash register for library fines and used book purchases. If I’m on the lower level, I get a lot of the latter, since my desk is right across from the bookstore.

Last Saturday, a lady bought $3 worth of used books which, with MD sales tax comes to $3.18. Since she paid $3.20, I gave her back two pennies. She looked at them in her hand and said “Oh dear, what am I going to do with two cents?”

I told her that I had a coin jar myself, but added that pennies (or other change) can be used to make children happy. If she didn’t want them, I suggested that she drop them somewhere outside the library where a child might find them.

Do you remember the excitement of seeing a shiny penny lying on the ground? Did a quarter seem like a fortune to you? My littlest brother in law may be past the penny counting stage. After all, he’s a very mature 12. But when he was younger, I remember how excited he’d get about every cent he collected.

Leaving out pennies is an inexpensive way to bring joy to others, be they children or personal finance bloggers. (see here) (and here)

It’s a snowflake revolution out there, and coin jars can help you watch your money build for paying off debts or increasing savings. Here’s a great visual image of how pennies can accumulate. But even though I save most of mine or use them to check tires, I still like to drop or place the occasional penny and hope someone else gets joy out of it.

Do you pick up pennies? Do you drop them? Do you think pennies are a waste of time?


KMC January 11, 2008 at 6:01 am

This is truly a great idea. I wonder, though, if even little kids won’t just ignore a penny these days.

Alice January 11, 2008 at 8:37 am

At our previous church they had a huge penny jar. Once it got to a certain level, the pennies would be rolled and taken to the bank, and the money sent to a charity that provides eye operations in the developing world. The program was called “Cents for Sight”, ( and periodically we would get a card from the charity telling us the name, age and gender of the person who had received the gift of sight. Last I heard, it cost $30 to give one person an operation. That’s a lot of pennies, but it doesn’t take that long for a group to come up with them…and nobody misses their pennies!

Saving Freak January 11, 2008 at 9:53 am

I pick up pennies whenever I see them. I have a couple of friends who make fun of me for looking for change. Somehow the change I pick up still manages to spend like money.

MrsPillars January 11, 2008 at 10:01 am

I like your idea of imagining the pleasure they can give someone.
I know someone who picks them up for luck and when she has enough of them, buys a lottery ticket.

Early Retirement Extreme January 11, 2008 at 11:22 am

Aww.. somebody should start dropping $10 dollar bills where I might find them, although pennies will do just fine too. But does that mean that if I pick up pennies, I’m an inconsiderate person? 😎

mrsmicah January 11, 2008 at 11:24 am

“But does that mean that if I pick up pennies, I’m an inconsiderate person?”

No, because you’d be making the dropper happy or something. I’d be happy if you were happy.

CatherineL January 11, 2008 at 11:28 am

I pick up pennies – it’s meant to be lucky – at least here in the UK.

And that’s a great idea. My kids get really excited when they find pennies on the ground.

RacerX January 11, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Pennys send the same as dollars! Now I won’t go diving into muck for one, but I would pickup one laying there for sure.

Mrs. M – Maybe your library could have a change jar at the desk for donations. Even if you had to take it to Coinstar afterwards, I bet you would end up with a decent amount every month!

Becky January 11, 2008 at 1:24 pm

That’s a really neat idea! Maybe I’ll occasionally drop one on the sidewalk in front of the school I live near 🙂
My mom and youngest brother (he’s 15 now) have always made a game out of finding pennies, nickels, etc. on the ground.

Mrs Micah's Mom January 11, 2008 at 3:47 pm

I pick up coins and drop them outside houses where children live. A couple of months ago, I picked up a dime and dropped it. A few days later, I found it was still there and picked it up again. Is a dime too much to pick up? Will people come back looking for a dime? I have qualms about picking up quarters.

Pinyo January 11, 2008 at 4:15 pm

Oh dear, and I refused to take my 2 pennies from the bodega the other day.

Yeah, coins do ad up fast. I like my bank’s free coins counting machine.

thisisbeth January 12, 2008 at 1:08 pm

I love picking up coins including pennies, and still feel like I’ve won a lottery when I find up a quarter. If you drop a coin to make someone happy, know that even those over 30 can get excited to find money.

SavingDiva January 12, 2008 at 8:39 pm

I’ve recently started to collect pennies (I used to just toss them) since I noticed my local credit union has a complimentary coin counter. I haven’t used it yet, but I’m stock piling change!

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