Today at Starbucks I ordered a grande regular coffee which came out to $2.01. As I reached for my cash, the barista quickly said, “Don’t worry, I’ve got a penny. You don’t want 99 cents and I don’t want to count it.” My immediate reply was, “Well thanks, but it’s all the same.”
I laughed to myself as I left and thought about this some more. Why do people truly hate getting change? If you think about it, 99 cents is just a penny less than a dollar bill. And what do you do with the change you get? Don’t most people collect it in a secure place (jar, jug, can, pouch, piggy bank, etc.) to grow and cash it in later? It’s a nice, indirect way to save money (see Bank of America’s “Keep the Change” program).
I started to really embrace coins about five years ago when i began putting every penny from my pocket, the floor, the couch, or the street, in an empty Carlo Rossi jug. I’d save up change from the entire year and put it toward groceries used for that year’s St. Calzone’s Day celebration (it’s averaged $50-250 per year).
And to this day, I still enjoy getting change. I like not only the compact weight, circular shape, grooved edges, pressed terrain, and aging color, but also the curiosity around a coin’s travels. Dollar bills seem to always be accounted for whereas it seems as though 10% of coins are lost at any moment in time.
I think that negativity around change exists mostly due to disorganization (people feel they will forget where they put it, will lose it in a couch, or are not good at collecting it) as well as due to psychological effects (people think that collectively it’s less valuable than any dollar bill equivalents). I wonder if people, when estimating the total value of coins in a jar/bottle, commonly undershoot the actual value?
There have been some interesting economical studies that suggest (and support) a related theory – that people are more inclined to spend coins rather than dollar bills. Called “The Denomination Effect”, it supports the idea that maybe people want a dollar bill because they’ll be more inclined to save it rather than immediately spend four quarters on some Fun Dip at the gas station. Interesting studies.
Regardless, my point is that we should all learn to love change. The concept itself is a universal framework for brewing mathematical juices and collecting change can provide both a direct and indirect mechanism for saving money.