Find a Penny, Pick it Up?

By: Chuck Kuster

Main Message All money – even pennies – is valuable and should be saved. Use picking up lost coins yourself as a way to discuss the merits of saving.

Call me cheap. Call me frugal. But I’m one of those people who will pick up a penny in a parking lot. And, I think all parents ought to encourage their children to do the same. It’s the principle. And  it can lead to some good discussions.

You can make the coin pickup into a game. It provides cash to stuff into piggy banks and opportunities for money mentors to provide accolades.

Picking up a penny

A child who considers a found penny a treasure has a good money attitude.

Where are some best places to find coins?

  • Under couch cushions
  • Around and under vending machines
  • Look down when at checkout lines
  • Near parking meters
  • At the car wash

It can be tougher to convince teens to take time to pick up a penny. “It’s not worth it. What can a penny buy?” Incidentally, experiments in shopping malls reveal that few teens and adults will stoop to pick up dimes, nickels or quarters.

For those who don’t think it’s worth the effort, try the logical approach. Ask your child how long it takes to pick up a penny. If they say two seconds, do the following math:

At two seconds per penny, they could harvest 30 pennies in a minute. The hourly rate would be 30 pennies x 60 = 1,800 pennies or $18 per hour. Not too bad!

The hourly equivalent to pick up a nickel is 5x that or whopping $90/hour.

It is quite common for committed change pickers to gather $100 – $200 annually.

Expect some justifiable pushback on this time-value argument. But the dialog is what is important. After all, if you place value on a lowly penny, saving a dollar is really important.   And that’s a hundred times better. You can even talk about how to use the saved money. Perhaps you want to contribute found coins to charity, which can evolve into additional Money Moments.


Money MomentA child ignoring a coin on the sidewalk creates an opportunity to discuss the value of money. Pick it up yourself and talk about why saving even a penny is important.



About Chuck

Chuck is a publisher of financial education materials, an entrepreneur, and journalist.
This entry was posted in Saving and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s