Countdown to a Frugal Holiday: Spare Change

December 7, 2009
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Let me ask you a question: how much spare change do you have lying around your house? What are you planning to do with it? Have you ever stopped to consider how that spare change might help to take the edge off holiday shopping?

Ever since our family became suddenly frugal, we have gathered up our spare change whenever we needed some extra dough. This usually occurred before going on a vacation or to an event. We figured if we could use “found money” to supplement our spending, we wouldn’t end up in the red. In most instances our spare change gave us $50 or $60 to add to our wallet.

Spare change on the coffee table.

Just yesterday I decided to do another spare-change hunt around my house. I gathered up all the loose change that I’d found in the bottom of the washer or dryer, on my nightstand, or in rolls that I’d intended to take to the bank but never did.

I went on this spare-change hunt now for two reasons: one, I had a few more things I wanted to get for the holidays and didn’t want to go to the ATM if I didn’t have to. And two, I’d heard how Coinstar was having a special with free coin counting. If you brought in at least $40 in spare change to a Coinstar machine and selected that your money be put towards a gift card, Coinstar would add $10 to your total. (I was kind of hoping that if I did this, I would get $10 at every $40 increment, but alas you could get $10 only once. Sadly, the promotion ended yesterday.)

We ended up finding so much spare change that I needed my teenager to come with me. We filled two bags, and they were too heavy for one person to carry. In fact, we had to get a shopping cart in the parking lot and wheel our cash in.

Coins in the Coinstar machine.

It took me about 30 minutes to get all of our coins in the Coinstar machine. I have to admit that it got kind of embarrassing that I was standing there for so long–and making so much noise; coin-counting is loud. The worst part was ripping open those rolls of coins. I had about 100 that needed opening–no kidding.

Eventually, I got all the coins in the machine, with only a few rejected. (We discovered the machine wouldn’t take the Sacagawea gold dollars, and it spit out a wheat penny and a Euro–can’t blame it on the latter monetary unit!)

The grand total: $281.75

The best part was seeing how much money we’d actually dumped into the machine–and would be getting in a Lowe’s e-certificate. (This machine did not dispense traditional plastic gift cards.)

All told we’d cashed in $281.75. Unbelievable. That’s going to buy a lot of home-improvement items at Lowe’s–or at least some nifty Christmas gifts for my husband!

Bottom line: if you’re looking to supplement your frugal holiday shopping, consider gathering up your spare change and seeing if you can eek out a few extra dollars to help get your shopping done.

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11 Responses to Countdown to a Frugal Holiday: Spare Change

  1. [...] been awhile since I last did a hunt around my house for spare change. I know this because yesterday I began noticing how many coins have been piling up in various [...]

  2. Christine on December 9, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Great idea – taking change to the coinstar to be put on gift certificates! I will definitely have to give that a try! Thanks for sharing the info!

  3. leahingram on December 8, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Glad you liked the article. I’m off to check out your website!

  4. Mrs Miser - the meanest woman on the planet - on December 8, 2009 at 7:55 am

    I love this article. To me, small change is big news! And it really is surprising how much of it escapes and ends up down the back of the sofa alongside hair bands you’d forgotten you had, combs, lighters and the like. In my household I consider the sofa a veritable treasure trove. It is my box of delights and does work time and time again as sort of cozy cash machine. I’m not saying fortunes are procured from its plump upholstered bowels but any money is money, isn’t it? And as you so rightly point out, when you gather it all together it can make for a lot of change. Great to read a blog from a likeminded frugalist.

  5. Leslie (snaphappy) on December 7, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    When we’ve collected a huge tin of change, I bring it to the bank (Chevy Chase Bank) where they let you use the coin counting machine for free if you have an account there. I stopped using the Coinstar machine at the supermarket because (1) they charge a fee, and (2) I felt like there were neon arrows pointing to me, saying “This woman is going to walk out of here with cash!!!”

    But, back to the point of your post, I agree — “coin collecting” is a great way to find some extra cash!

  6. Lmo on December 7, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    TD Bank (at least, the ones that used to be Commerce branches) all have free “penny arcades.” You don’t have to have an account.

  7. leahingram on December 7, 2009 at 10:16 am

    I should add that we had our daughters pool their piggy banks with our change–we paid them in cash–which helped to up our total.

  8. Babette on December 7, 2009 at 9:00 am

    Okay. That’s a lot of change…when I finally cashed in my bowl of coins…I got $25 and I was thrilled…I don’t think I would have qualified for the $10 for $40 of change no matter how hard I tried…I tend to spend change…But fun idea…

  9. Jennifer on December 7, 2009 at 8:12 am

    Wow. This IS a lot of coins.

  10. leahingram on December 7, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Good to know. Thanks!

  11. Mrs Miser - the meanest woman on the planet - on December 10, 2009 at 10:47 am

    I like, nay ‘love’ anything to do with being resourceful. It’s a kind of addiction! My site is as yet in its infancy but I just included some info from Chef Paul Warburton about frugal but decadent Christmas Dinners on the Economy Gastronomy page. And that time is upon us now, isn’t it. :-0

    Mrs Miser

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