I don’t know about you, but I delight in seeing loose change on the pavement or outside somewhere. Like a gold miner, I get this thrill of excitement from picking up a penny from the ground.
Okay, maybe I don’t get that excited. Perhaps I’m overstating a bit there. That reaction would be more like the lady I discussed in Squirreling Gone Wild #12, who went wild over picking up a coin in a puddle of water. However, I do still get a very tiny, extra bit of happiness from picking up a coin. I think it’s a remnant emotion from childhood, where many of us got excited over finding a coin on the ground. It can be good to have a youthful spirit, right?
Well, I shared my own experiences picking up loose change in Squirreling Gone Wild #22. Here, it was a little more calculated on my part. You can read more about it in the link above, but essentially what I did was pick up loose change from under the payment window when getting coffee at the drive-thru. Not just once, mind you, but multiple times. I found that I managed to find something most every time, thus effectively giving me a little discount each time through.
I shared this story with someone recently who questioned if it’s worth the trouble of picking up loose change in the way I did at the drive-thru. Her thought was that it’s just a waste of effort to go through all that for a prize of a few cents, or even a nickel or dime.
My initial reaction to that statement was simple: she’s not being logical. After all, why would anyone just turn away free money that’s sitting around? For sake of argument here, let’s sidestep the issue of self-respect by opening a car door to pick up loose change 🙂
However, after thinking about it some more, maybe there is some logic there. Maybe it’s not exactly free money?
Let’s have some fun with this and illustrate (warning: personal finance geekdom ahead):
Pretend you’re a Squirreler. Let’s say you’re at the drive-thru, picking up coffee (or some junk food you probably shouldn’t be getting). After you order, as you turn toward the window, you spot a penny sitting underneath that same window where they take your money.
What do you do next? Well, first you open the car door and lunge for the penny (estimated time: 5 seconds). Next, you get back up and shut the door (estimated time: 3 seconds). Then, you look at the coin you just pick up, admiring your find (estimated time: 3 seconds). Then you regroup, put the coin away somewhere in your car, and move forward (estimated time: 4 seconds).
Total time: 15 seconds.
Thus, you’re earning 1 penny for 15 seconds of your time.
That’s $0.04 per minute, which comes out to a $2.40 hourly rate.
Does that seem worth it to you? Is your time worth more than that? Well, maybe it is. Maybe, just maybe, the person who I had this discussion with had a point!
Now, one could say that if you see a dime it would be worth 10 times as much. We’re talking a $24.00 hourly rate.
How about a quarter? Well, in this case we’re talking about an effective $60.00 per hour rate. That’s more like it!
Maybe, just maybe, if you speed up the whole process and cut your time down in half, you could double your hourly rate?
Alright, before you start to get worried – I’m not being too serious here. 🙂
By the way, I’m still going to pick up a penny if I see one:) How about you?