Money that would otherwise have been lost.

thAfter our Thanksgiving dinner one of my great-nephews counted up my found money. In the past year I found $13.81, considerably less than in 2012.

That doesn’t surprise me, since I spent a fair amount of 2012 traveling and moved to Alaska for the last three months of the year. I walk a lot less up here than I did in Seattle. That’s due in part to scary-icy conditions and also to the fact that I no longer live within strolling distance of shopping, banking and the like. While living down south I took a long walk most days, for health reasons but also to buy a bunch of bananas or take advantage of great deals on toiletries.

These days if I need to hit the library, the post office, the drugstore or the supermarket I either go with DF, borrow his car or take the bus. That means considerably fewer chances to find coins on sidewalks and in shopping centers.

Even so, I wound up with:

  • Four $1 bills
  • 16 quarters
  • 38 dimes
  • Seven nickels
  • 166 pennies

In 2012 I found $21.31, which I rounded up to $50 as a donation for a local food bank. Due to the late unpleasantness at Microsoft I can’t afford to be quite that generous in my math this year. Thus the $13.81 will become a $20 donation. But since I have an automatic monthly donation to the food bank I don’t feel too bad about the pinch.

Some people are entirely grossed out by my habit of picking up found coins. They’re entitled to their opinion, and entitled to leave dropped dough where it lies. I pick them up because doing so stretches my giving dollars.

Who deserves that dime?

If the Feeding America website is to be believed, a dollar will provide ingredients for six meals. That’s a good enough reason for me to stop, stoop and retrieve.

If that’s the sort of thing that doesn’t bother you, why not give it a try? Save all the money you find for a year and see how it adds up. Give it to a good cause or, if times are tight, let charity begin at home and use the money on yourself: building up your pantry, say, or tipping a few extra bucks into your emergency fund or, better, your retirement fund.

Would that money really otherwise have been lost? Maybe not. Maybe someone else would have picked it up, or maybe it ultimately would have been swept up with leaves and refuse and dumped in a landfill. Some people have chided me for picking up money, saying I should leave it for someone who “really needs it.”

Here’s what I think: The line at the food bank is made up mostly of people who really need it.

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  1. Sometimes, the people who really need it are too proud to bend down, fearing someone will see them and assume they need the money. Besides, if you pick up a dollar and give it to a food bank, your use of the money will be more profitable than an individual using it. $1 might buy one very cheap meal. You can turn one meal into six.

  2. It amazes me the amount of money you find. BUT I did find a $5 bill when I was picking up trash out of the yard of a rental while waiting for prospective tenants. CRAZY…$5 is a bit of money to me ….and these are tough times…

    • Donna Freedman

      Didn’t you also find pennies on the floor of your rental properties? I seem to recall your mentioning that in the past — and from a tenant who had trouble paying his rent on time?!?

      • Actually….I found almost $5 in loose change in that unit that barely fit into a VERY LARGE Dunkin Donuts cup that was left behind by the same tenant. That coffee in this neck of the woods goes for close to $2.50. Just holding the cup gave me heart palpitations…And this very nice gal….NEVER paid the rent on time….crazy. The truly crazy thing is finding $5 in with paer and trash blown over to my property’s yard. Some time ago I found a $20 bill…this time I only found $5…must be the Recession…

  3. i don’t care what people think. i pick up money from the floor all the time. from a penny to a one hundred dollar bill.

  4. Even if it is just a penny, I pick it up. My sister-in-law called them pennies from heaven. I like that thought. It goes in the piggy bank in which we put all our loose change and once or twice a year that goes into savings account. I like your practice of donating to the food pantry.

  5. All my “found” money goes into a tugboat bank that my late husband and I designated strictly for this purpose. Every few years after it was full we would splurge and either go out to dinner or buy a “want” item. I, too, have noticed a drop in seeing those shiny items on the ground this year! Have a wonderful holiday season!

    • Donna Freedman

      My found money goes into a vase my daughter gave me when she was a little shaver — a vase she found in the “free” box at a yard sale. Atta girl! 🙂
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  6. I am absolutely stunned at the amount of money you find. I have never passed up a found coin in my entire life. I always toss them in a small holder in my car. We recently cleaned out the holder after *eight years*. It was $1.74.

    Maybe because I live in the ‘burbs of So. Cal. and it’s car culture has nobody walking anywhere.

  7. This is the first Christmas in 5 years where we have 2 full time incomes in our home again and although it is not at the level before the recession it is no longer scary. For that reason I have been trying to donate small amounts in places where I see a need because I feel so blessed. I will give Northwest Harvest the donation you are not down here to make to a Seattle food bank this year. This is weird but it gives me the feeling that life is wonderful.

    • Donna Freedman

      I don’t think it’s weird at all — having two incomes after such a long period of uncertainty must feel like winning a prize.
      Thanks for giving to Northwest Harvest. My dollars are now heading toward the Food Bank of Alaska.
      Merry Christmas.

  8. My husband checks in rental cars when they are returned to the airport. People leave quite a bit of change (mainly pennies) behind in the cup holders. Have amassed about $78.00 in a year. I also add in any change I find – I’m not too proud to pick up pennies – after all 100 of them make a dollar! All found money will be donated. Last year’s findings went to buy gifts for Toys for Tots.

    • Donna Freedman

      I’ve never come close to $78. Then again, I don’t check rental cars.
      My favorite place to have found coins: Under the cushions of a couch set out on a Seattle sidewalk with a “free” sign.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  9. I too pick up coins. Drives my husband nuts when I do for some reason. In the last six months I found over $40 (got really lucky and found a ten a two fives). Rounding it up to $50 to give to the local animal shelter where I adopted two of my cats.

    • Donna Freedman

      Nice! Did your husband change his tune after you showed him the ten and the fivers?

      • You would think he would but nope. He still thinks I’m nuts. Oh well, his loss. 🙂

  10. I still pick up change but it does seem harder to come by these days. I think more and more people are using plastic. Soon it will be gone the wayside like pay phones.

  11. Once I found $100 on the floor of a hotel. I kept it in my wallet for years as my ‘lucky money’ 🙂

  12. Carolina Cooper

    I have a lovely friend who has 7 kids and has adopted 2 grand kids. I have each one of the little ones over from time to time to help her with their homeschooling. This week J. (who is 8 years old) got to learn about counting and adding using my stash of picked-up-from-the-sidewalk funds. I told her that when she could identify all of the coins, and could count them correctly in various combinations, she could “keep the change.” What a motivator! It took her about 1/2 hour to do the various math problems presented, but she DID get to take my stash home! Now I need to look for more found money, to work with her brothers, ages 6 & 7! This won’t be easy, after 2 big snow storms in NH this week, but I am determined!

  13. Cathy in NJ

    I flip pennies. Many people will not pick up a penny, or any coin for that matter, that is tails up because they believe it is bad luck. Since I have the power to make my own luck, I flip the penny to heads up, then pick it up. Next I look at the year on the penny and think about what made that year special or memorable to me.

  14. I’ve been saving all found money in bank that belongs to my grown daughter. Don’t know how much is in there; it is shaped like a three layer wedding cake, was initially used for her wedding fund and the bottom layer seems to be full.

  15. I have started a separate spare change collection for newborns. Throughout the year, I have coins with the current year for upcoming baby shower gifts. EX: save 2013 coins and place into a piggy bank or baby bank for the baby due to be born in 2013. I found lots of coins for the 2012 babies, but for 2013 only found 1 quarter – which I kept for myself.


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