Found money in 2016.

I waited a little longer than usual to count my found money. For those unfamiliar with the concept: All year long I pick up coins from lots of places: stores, sidewalks, parks, the return bins of Coinstar machines.

Usually I add up my found money around Thanksgiving, then add some more and donate it to the Food Bank of Alaska. This year I decided that the holidays are when people most like to donate to food banks, so why not wait a while?

Here’s what I found this year:


One $20 bill

10 quarters

33 dimes

14 nickels

120 pennies

I’ll round up that $27.70 total to $40.


Found money, NYC-style

While in New Jersey for my dad’s 80th birthday party, I made a side trip to New York. During my very pleasant stroll along the High Line, I found the $20 bill in the middle of the path. Best found money ever!

Much of the rest came from the sources noted earlier. The most productive is the Coinstar machine, aka “that place you like.” DF calls it that, and he’s most indulgent about waiting for me to check it.

Then again, he also picks up coins he sees and adds them to the cause. DF is at least as frugal as I am, and he’s the kind of guy who regularly donates to charity.

I’m not going to hand the money over just yet, though. That’s because I’m hoping someone will put up a donation match. If an individual or a company wants to pony up $40 to add to mine, then that’s when I’ll write the check.

Readers: Do you pick up found money, too? If so, what do you do with it?


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  1. Practical Parsimony

    I do pick up found money. However, once it goes into my pocket or purse, it never gets to a container to save it. I have good intentions but a short memory!

  2. I pick up found money. It goes into a ceramic 3 layer wedding cake shaped bank for my daughter (not a wedding fund). It is getting very heavy.

  3. I do pick up “found money”, but I’m not as generous as you. Will tell you my favorite place for finding money is the rentals. About a month ago went to our very first rental home we ever bought to clean trash and debris out of the yard that blows over from the adjacent grocery store parking lot. And I no sooner arrive and pick up two pieces of litter that I see a $20 bill tangled in the lilac bush. I’d been there 2 minutes! Made my day! I have found a lot of money at that property over the years but never a $20. Aaand our Coinstar locations NEVER have stray coins…sign of the times?

  4. I do the same! Pick up any and all
    Found money from my travel, walks, runs, and errands -and collect in a bank, at the end of the year I deposit and add to the principal of my mortgage! This years total was my best yet, $68! ALL coinage!

  5. Hi Donna,

    I’ll see your $40 and raise you $10 – you in for the Food Bank $50? Tell me how to get you the money and I’ll put a check in the mail. Safe travels!


    I’ll add another $20 to your found money, just let me know how to get it to you.

  7. I went to an interview for an entry-level part-time position, but is relatively close and flexible with hours. I was really hehawing whether it was a good move.

    Then I re-read this:

    Surviving (and thriving) on $12k a year: The reboot.

    The call came offering me the job. I’m rebooting.

    I’ll send $20!

    • I pick up money, but this year in my travels, I only picked up maybe 5-7 cents. Either people aren’t dropping, or other people are picking up. I never found a $20. One time I picked up a $10 many, many years ago. I did pick up a bank envelope with a lot of money in the store on the floor. It also had the slip in it from the mac machine, but no name. I didn’t trust to take it to customer service at that store, so took it to the bank next door and they phoned the person.

    • Donna Freedman

      Congratulations! And remember: You were looking for a job when you found that one. So if you find another, better proposition later on, you can always reconsider.

      And: Please send the $20 to FoodBankofAlaska.org.

      • Sent!

        • As the ex always said, its easier to find a job when you have a job. THe lady said I’m over qualified…but that there probably are things that I am able to help with that the usual worker cannot….It just might go someplace. And I get to wear jeans. lol

          • Donna Freedman

            Don’t underestimate the money you’ll save not having to dress up! I haven’t worn nylons for probably 15 years now. Never worry about a company dress code, either.

            Now all you have to do is be so amazing at your job that they start promoting you and giving you raises.

        • Donna Freedman

          You are a good person. So is everyone who decides to give to the Alaska food bank — the population here is so small that there are fewer dollars to be donated. And, lately, more and more people lining up both there and at soup kitchens.

          • You know what? It occurred to me I just got a really good new job–3x what I was making before. (Although the expectations are fairly terrifying…) While I am literally almost broke, it’s just crazy not to share a little as Donna has shown us throughout the years. $35 from me to Alaska Food Bank. Thanks, Donna.

  8. Betsy Campbell

    I love finding money. I check vending machines, coinstar, the ground, etc. I found 40 cents in a vending machine yesterday and 79 cents last week. I tend to look at the ground when I walk because I’m clumsy and I am willing to pick up pennies. Once during a trip to Rome, Italy, I found a gold and diamond ring between cobblestones.

  9. I love found money!! My best and worst yet was a $100 bill I found by the trashcan at a Super WalMart while on vacation. Best amount found but worst because I worried and worried that it was someone’s grocery money and that was all they had. My husband and I went in the store that evening and twice the next day to ask manager if someone had reported losing a substantial amount of money but they said no. I had a hard time enjoying the thrill of that money!

  10. Besides grocery store parking lots, my most profitable source of found money is the gas station. I think coins fall out of people’s pockets when they pull out their wallets at the pump.

    When we visited the Smithsonian over Christmas break, my kids made some serious bank near the museum entrances. Everyone has to pass through a security clearance to get in, which includes an x-ray screening of purses and bags. The ground around the x-ray machines was littered with change, probably from people hastily grabbing their bags from the roller conveyors after their screening was finished.

    • Donna Freedman

      I remember reading a comment on someone else’s blog about a guy who used to work at a car wash. He volunteered to do the grotty job of emptying the vacuum cleaner — and rigged up a filter to screen out all the coins that had been sucked up.

  11. Another good spot to look is on the floor after you go through security at the airport…I really cleaned up there, one Christmas break. Picked up 50 cents or so in various coins.

    But lately…I’m finding very little. A couple of dimes in the house (does that count, if you know it came from you or Husband?), and two pennies — one at the airport, dropping someone off. And one in the Panera parking lot.

    We keep ours, then send someone who needs it, a secret ‘Christmas angel’ gift in December. Usually, combined with money I pull out of pants pockets, it adds up to around $30. I watch carefully, then mail a gift card to someone who’s hurting financially “with love from your friends.” We rarely hear back, of course — but at least once, I heard that the recipient was surprised and pleased to get this.

    • Donna Freedman

      What a kind gesture! Thanks for sharing it.

      Readers: If you want to do this, keep gasoline cards in mind for commuters on tight budgets. And, of course, grocery gift cards because we’ve all gotta eat.

      Frugal tip: Discounted gift cards make your money go even further. Compare prices at GiftCardGranny.com.

  12. Cathy in NJ


    I donated to the Alaska Food Bank. Thank you for your great writing:)

  13. All riiiiiight! Congrats on that found money! People always underestimate the power of a lone penny/nickel/dime/quarter on the sidewalk. Over time they really add up. I’d love to get a metal detector sometime to comb for little treasures and coins. Mr. Picky Pincher and I cash in our change once a year and usually come away with $50 or so. Not bad. 🙂

  14. I donated money to the Food Bank of Alaska in your honor. I have enjoyed your writing for a number of years!

  15. I donated money to the Food Bank of Alaska in your honor.

  16. Donna Freedman

    Thanks to all who donated! I have the best bunch of readers in the world.

  17. I’ve picked up anywhere from a penny to sixty dollars (!) on my runs, walks or bike rides (that $60.00 was in bills, BTW, not coins!). I donate some and save some at year’s end – I am a credit union member, so it gets counted in their machine with no penalty.

  18. What a great idea! I just looked them up on Charity Navigator and they are a 4 star charity with an overall rating of almost 96%. Wow!!! Here’s the link for your reference: https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=13419. I’ll definitely be donating as well! 🙂

  19. Also if you shop a lot on amazon like I do, you can contribute to the Food Bank through amazon smile. 🙂

  20. teinegurl

    this blog made me smile and so did all the comments!! WOW I think your originally amount was doubled or tripled! Amazing

  21. Yep….I like to put all my found money in a chocolate tin and count it up at the end of the year too. Usually it is about $10 of coins and then a few dollars in paper money found blowing around although once I did find $60. I call it my reward for walking because the more I walk, rather than drive to the supermarket and PO, the more coins I am likely to find while crossing the parking lot.

  22. Lake Livin'

    Just donated $50 in your honor!

  23. My teenage son and I were walking home one night (NYC) and he found a $100 bill. We were sure it wasn’t real so took it to the bank to have them check it — it was real. It was then we realized we found it right in front of a strip club! Best find ever!

  24. Donated in your honor. They even send you a thank you! Then donated to our local food bank, New Hope Ministries.

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