Ask LH: What Should I Do With All These Spare Coins?

Dear Lifehacker, Despite my yearning for an electronic, cashless society, it still seems that for most of us, cash is still necessary to get by in this society. In particular, I seem to get home with a few coins in my pocket most days — this quickly builds up into small piles of coins around the house, occasionally consolidated into a larger pile, then jar. I don’t seem to ever have time to actually get to a bank to do anything with this money, and whenever I grab a handful of coins to take out with me, it just seems to multiply in my pocket by the day’s end. What tips do you have for dealing with this growing mound of metal in my house? Yours, Coining It In

Picture by Ben Hosking

Dear Coining,

I share your pain. A couple of years ago, I actually collected together all the coins in my house and took them to the bank. I had to place them in a very large suitcase, and drag them to the nearest branch with an automated counting machine, which was no mean feat using public transport. It took me the better part of an hour to feed them into the machine — the staff had to empty it out twice — and at the end of the process, I had $1200, with about a third of it in five cent pieces. That was a welcome boost to my finances, but also proof that accumulating coins around the house can very easily get out of control.

I don’t like carrying large volumes of coins in my wallet, since they cause unsightly bulges and ultimately tend to wear out the wallet faster, even when there’s a dedicated pocket for them, so like you I nearly always dump them every time they get full. My personal strategy now is to make sure I hit a nearby bank whenever I’ve got more than an ice-cream container full (and even that weighs enough to require a bit of planning). But if you don’t fancy going to a bank, then there are a few other options:

  • Grab a handful of coins every day to pay for small purchases. Shops can refuse to accept small change if you’re spending more than $5 and not using any coin larger than a 50 cent piece, but you can easily grab your daily coffee with that kind of money.
  • In a similar vein, when buying railway tickets, I always research the price in advance and make sure I have the right cents amount to minimise the small change I get. (I appreciate not everyone wants to work at that amount of detail and that I might be accused of being obsessive.)
  • Invest in a digital coin-counting money box. If you know how much money is actually in the box, you might be more inspired to head to the bank.
  • Hand over all the coins whenever the Red Shield Appeal (or whatever charity you feel like supporting) comes to the door seeking money. It might not be a good idea to demand a receipt, though.
  • Most fast food outlets (and many other stores) have charity donation tins chained near the cash register. Dump your spare coins in one every time you walk past.
  • Bury it in the backyard and create an unexpected moment of excitement when someone digs a garden half a century from now, a moment that will only be slightly tempered by the realisation that inflation means the stash is worthless.

I’m sure readers will have more ideas on dealing with spare coinage for us in the comments.


Lifehacker’s weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.

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