Coinstar is for wimps. Count your own change.

Okay cadets, get in formation! We’ve got work to do.

Fallllll in! Graaaaaab rolls! Coooooount coins!

Sorry, I was just having fun for a change. (Sorry about that too.)

Pointless change

Change, the coins that we use in our currency, has pretty much never been less useful or less worthwhile ever.

When the half-penny, the last small-denomination coin to be retired in the U.S. was phased out, it was worth the equivalent of almost $0.15 today. See how much whinging goes on at the thought of phasing out the penny today, when it costs more to make than it’s worth? Imagine if we suggested phasing out the nickel and dime too!

Change used to be meaningful. Now it’s just a nuisance, with articles asking whether it really makes sense, financially, to pick up a penny off the ground.

But, for better or for worse, we still have change, and unless you use cards for everything, you’re going to acquire it. What to do with it?

For years, I’ve employed a tactic of using my change cup as a secret savings fund. While change isn’t worth much in small amounts, over time it can make a serious difference.

Right before I left on my most recent trip to Europe, I went to cash in my change for bills (which is where I found the saddest money withdrawal ever) and received $73.50. That’s not nothing!

(Well, in Iceland, that’s pretty much nothing, but I digress.)

How did I get my change together? I put them into rolls, and brought a bag of rolled coins over to the bank.

Coinstar explained

Coinstar is a device, most often found in grocery stores, that counts your change for you. You dump you change into its hopper, it counts it for you, and then gives you a receipt which you can exchange for cash.

Coinstar
Photo courtesy of Mike Mozart

By default, it takes cut of your action, as much as 11.9% in some places. In some locations, that fee can be waived if you redeem your money for a gift card, but the options are limited, as this couple humorously found out.

I don’t want a gift card. I want cash. And I don’t want 12% to be taken off the top.

So I roll my coins.

It’s a meditation. It’s soothing. It’s fun in a low-key way. It gives me a chance to reconnect with an interesting, yet often unexamined piece of our every day lives: the coin.

And our coins have never been more interesting and varied than today. While a quarter used to just be a quarter (except for the rare “bicentennial” variant) now there are over a hundred different variations as part of the state quarters programs. Learning about state natural treasures, they are, one could say, educational.

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Forget the time value of money. You’re not going to be making money in the time you would be counting coins.

And it doesn’t take all that long. I can knock out a cup in less than a half hour. You could even make it go faster if did it with someone. Make it a date night. Why not?

Going from jar to rolls is quite satisfying. Dumping a jar into a hopper might make a noise, but it doesn’t have the same feeling.

And besides, who’s to say that Coinstar is even counting correctly? Whose interest does it serve to get it right?

You’re better than that. Roll your own. It’s way more satisfying.

Then drop and give me 20.

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