Wisdom is oft times nearer when we stoop than when we soar”  ~William Wordsworth (poet)

I just find it amazing how some people can walk by 1 cent on the ground and not see it as money.

The guy in my building; two floors up used to toss his pennies over the banister of his patio onto my driveway below. One day I found 17¢, in pennies, that he had thrown away, and I picked up every one.

Now I told this to a friend of mine and she said, “I wouldn’t stoop down for anything less than 25 cents”. I reminded her that over the course of the last couple of days, I had picked up at least 25 cents in pennies, she still thought it wasn’t worth the time to bend down for them.

The most I have found is a $20 bill, once while walking to school and another time while standing in line at the grocery store and seeing it wedged between two magazine. But I always keep my eyes out for the penny, nickel or dime as well. I figure it all adds up, and I have my coin jar as my evidence.

I wonder if there is any correlation between those who don't stoop for pennies and those who don't use coupons. Any ideas?

flickr/cc by Lawrence in Houston
Would you pick up a penny and what is your reasoning? 

 ⟺⟺ ⟺⟺ ⟺⟺ ⟺⟺

⟺⟺ The Simpler Living Blog had 10 lessons learned for yard sales:
"Make sure you check the contents of things your selling"

⟺⟺ Ken Rockwell's article on how to afford anything was a good read through. His main goal in life it to make sure he can afford photography equipment.
"Sorry if this article starts to read like a self-help video, but honestly, if you can't afford these things today, you're going to have to make some changes in your life if you want to. It doesn't take money. It takes the guts to be a cheapskate."

Some of the suggestions Ken has may be the equivalent to picking up pennies, "why sweat the small stuff." But for some, the small stuff adds up to something bigger for them.

⟺⟺ I was recently listening to Tom and Flexo's Consumerism Commentary Podcast with Donna Freedman who spoke about micro-saving and even picking up pennies as a way to save for an emergency fund.

I'm a big fan of Donna's from SmartSpending and her new blog, Surviving and Thriving and have recently enjoyed her daughter Abigail's blog, I Pick Up Pennies. I hope that doesn't sound stalker-ish! They are both just really enjoyable to read.


  1. Mrs. Modern Tightwad // Monday, June 14, 2010 8:54:00 AM  

    When my husband and I were dating I walked in his room and saw him throwing away pennies! It honestly freaked me out. He explained that he hated pennies and threw them away for the homeless people to find. I appreciated the kindness in the thought, but we had a discussion on better ways to do that. He hasn't thrown a penny away since; he just puts them in the change jar and waits for me to have a "rolling day."

  2. Donna Freedman // Monday, June 14, 2010 10:20:00 AM  

    Thanks for the link love!
    I picked up two pennies yesterday. That makes 38 pennis, two dimes and one quarter since arriving in Anchorage, Alaska, at the end of May. (I'm house-sitting.)
    Last year I found more than $34, which I rounded up to $50 and sent to the food bank. Since the food bank buys in bulk, $34 goes a *long* way.
    It's a question of personal choice. I choose to pick them up.

  3. Lori // Monday, June 14, 2010 10:23:00 AM  

    My family says "every mickle make a muckle" (we are Jamaican). Anyways, it basically means "every little bit helps". So yes, I stoop for pennies and I get very excited about them. They go right into my penny jar, where they sit until they are redeemed one day for dollar bills.

  4. Anonymous // Monday, June 14, 2010 11:16:00 AM  

    Every day walking the streets of New York, I find at least 2-3 pennies. My biggest disappointment is when they're someplace where it would be dangerous to stop and pick them up (like the top of an escalator or something). Hey, its free money, and it adds up. We too have a change jar, a big jug like they use in water coolers, and after 3 years of picking up coins, it's only 1/4 full!

  5. Dawn // Monday, June 14, 2010 11:35:00 AM  

    @Mrs Tightwad
    Ugh... I think I would throw myself at that trash to dig them out. Good to hear that he was willing to listen and try something new.

    @Donna, Lori and Anon-1
    Thanks for your stories of picking up pennies and why. I love to find a lost penny. One less I have to work for.

  6. Penniless Parenting // Monday, June 14, 2010 1:16:00 PM  

    I pick up pennies, but not always for myself. My son likes to play with money; I'd rather give him pennies than dimes or quarters. I pick up those pennies to give to him so I don't need to empty out my supply.

  7. Donna Freedman // Monday, June 14, 2010 1:44:00 PM  

    @Penniless Parenting: When my niece brought her two boys to visit for a week, I set the older boy to counting and wrapping the change from the piggy bank that sits on the counter. He really liked doing that. I remember liking it as a kid, too. When your boy gets old enough, give him the important "job" of counting and wrapping.
    P.S. Don't pay for coin wrappers. Your bank will give you a handful for free. (And if it won't, ask WHY it won't...)

  8. jskell911 // Monday, June 14, 2010 8:15:00 PM  

    Funny, I have a very similar post in my blog notebook! I always pick up change- hey it all adds up

  9. debt advice agency // Tuesday, June 15, 2010 3:56:00 AM  

    it's so strange that people actually throw pennies away! It seems mad but I know it does happen. Interesting post.

  10. Chris at yardsalequeen.com // Tuesday, June 15, 2010 5:17:00 AM  

    I think, in general, people who read a Frugal For Life type blog would be more likely to pick up pennies than if you were to take a random poll of "regular" people on the street.

    The only time I'm glad I didn't pick up money off the ground was at a gas station/convenience store somewhere in the south. Employees had superglued coins to the floor as entertainment to watch unsuspecting customers try to pick them up.

    p.s. I pick up pennies and I do couponing.

  11. Anonymous // Tuesday, June 15, 2010 7:52:00 AM  

    There are a group of senior walkers in my community that always pick up change as they walk. They donate it annually to the local university for scholarships. Through the years they have donated thousands of dollars for students in need. Now there's a reason to stoop!

  12. April // Tuesday, June 15, 2010 8:27:00 AM  

    I stoop for pennies (and other coinage) but I rarely use coupons (because we just buy store brand basics and there are rarely coupons for those items)!

  13. Celeste Nelson // Tuesday, June 15, 2010 8:52:00 AM  

    I read the other day that it actually costs us 1.23 cents to make every penny. The Mint says it will lose $45 million this year on pennies and nickels alone. So, when bending over to pick - maybe we can all try to figure out how to make pennies worth less.

  14. Donna Freedman // Tuesday, June 15, 2010 4:20:00 PM  

    @April: Sometimes coupons make name-brand items much cheaper than store brands. Free, even. This is especially true for toiletries.
    If it's kosher to post URLs, here's a link to my MSN Money article on using coupons and rebates (in-store or mail-in) to get free toiletries:
    I found two cents yesterday. :-)

  15. Jerry // Wednesday, June 16, 2010 4:04:00 AM  

    I absolutely stoop to pick up pennies because it's money! And, it leads to more pennies! I don't get it either that people don't see it as money. Each penny builds upon the next. And, I believe in energy, karma, whatever you want to call it. If you are open to it, it's like insurance for always having money in your life.

  16. Parag // Wednesday, June 16, 2010 4:50:00 AM  

    Small things add huge benefits in life. Collecting pennies is a good hobby actually and its has been my personal experience too. I too used to collect it in my school days and one day I was just counting and couldn't imagine how much I collected. It was a whooping $257.
    Personal finance

  17. Catherine // Wednesday, June 16, 2010 10:11:00 AM  

    When I was in high school, the "cool kids" used to pitch pennies, dimes, nickles and the occasional quarter at people. One of my friends picked up every coin she saw and was able to buy herself lunch more than once a month with that money. She always said thank you if someone threw a coin at her.

  18. Dawn // Wednesday, June 16, 2010 10:16:00 AM  

    @ ALL
    Thank you for your stories and reasons.. always nice to hear feedback.

    Thanks for your suggestions for other readers as well.

  19. Matthew // Wednesday, June 16, 2010 2:57:00 PM  

    I don't pick up pennies, even if I'm the one who dropped them. That said, I don't throw them away for no reason. Of course they're money, but that doesn't make them sufficient money to bother with. My time is not worthless, even my free time is valuable to me.

    That said, if you believe that doing so is worth your time, then by all means do so.

    To help you answer your other question, I also do not clip coupons, but based on what I typically buy, that would also use a lot of my time for little gain.

  20. Dawn // Wednesday, June 16, 2010 2:58:00 PM  

    Thank you for the alternative view.
    I guess Time was the thread that connected those two together in my head but it wasn't coming to me.

  21. Anonymous // Wednesday, June 16, 2010 9:01:00 PM  

    I always pick up pennies! And other loose change, too. I once found a $20 bill, and my husband found another (separate occasion).

    We have a neighbour who regularly leaves things at the end of her property that she wants to get rid of for free. Once, she left a large jar filled with pennies! I took it home, and there was over $4 in it! Some of them are very old; I've no idea if they have any value for coin collectors.

    Periodically, I toss some in my wallet, and I'm gradually working my way through them....

  22. Anonymous // Thursday, June 17, 2010 7:01:00 AM  

    I pick up all change (and interesting objects) that I find. I walk around town quite a bit and find a lot of change. I treat the added bend and pick-up as an additional exercise on top of the walking.

    I collect the (many times damaged)change and and donate it to the local animal shelter about once a month or so. Actually I give it to a friend who collects the little coin donatation boxes for said shelter. He gets about a 'brick' of change monthly.

    Biggest bills I have found are 20’s. I have found many, many dollar bills.

    I have also found gold and silver jewelry and other valuable(ish) objects. I return cell phones, wallets and such (via calling numbers found on phones or ID--people are always suprized to get their wallets/purses back with their cash & cards) but for other items; well, those I re-sell and deposit the cash.

    Yay for high gold prices and intoxicated coed’s dropping their earrings!

  23. Just Jeff // Thursday, June 17, 2010 11:03:00 AM  

    How long does it take to bend over and pick up a penny? One second? Two? There are 3600 seconds in an hour, so even if it took you 2 seconds to pick up that penny, that is $18 an hour. Nickels would be $90, dimes $180 and
    quarters $450. Picking up lost change seems, to me at least, like good work, when you can get it.

  24. Anonymous // Thursday, June 17, 2010 3:08:00 PM  

    Thanks for linking to my yard sale post, Dawn. I appreciate it!

    I'll usually stop to pick up a penny. Mainly, it's because I never seem to have one when I need it, and as long as I'm not holding up a line, I prefer to pay with exact change.

    Naomi @ Simpler Living

  25. Heather // Friday, June 18, 2010 7:42:00 AM  

    I am a penny picker. Money is money, no matter what. I save up change and then roll it. Usually I take that money on vacation with me.

  26. Tyler // Saturday, June 19, 2010 11:10:00 PM  

    I don't pick up coins I find on the ground because I don't believe they necessarily belong to me. I'm in such a position as I don't need money other people have lost on the ground, and I'd rather leave them for someone else who needs them more than I do. Call it karma, but you never know when you might actually need those few cents. Since I don't, someone else can have them.

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  28. Apache Driver // Wednesday, February 09, 2011 10:09:00 AM  

    Picking up pennies is the right thing to do. Because of the rise in the cost of copper any penney that is dated 1982 or earlier, is actually worth 2 cents. I' ve be dropping my pennies in a coin jar, and when they get too heavy, I drop them off at the local recycler. Go right ahead and leave your pennies on the ground, I'll pick them up for you.

  29. Dawn // Saturday, February 12, 2011 4:53:00 PM  

    @ Apache Driver
    I noticed that coinflation.com has the pre-82 penny at a metal value of $0.0299075 - almost 3x now!