What Do You Do With Your Pennies?

Written By Jeff Hindenach
Last updated November 8, 2017

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Home + Family
July 7, 2017

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

It’s never been a secret that the lowly penny costs more to manufacture than it’s worth. For the last few years the cost of producing a coin has hovered around one-and-a-half cents – an investment that hardly seems worth the trouble when you think about how fiddly and difficult to spend pennies can be. If you’re like most people, you have a jar of copper currency sitting on your shelf, taking up space and gathering dust. But pennies aren’t completely useless. Here are four things you can do with that collection of one cent coins…

The pennies in that jar might be worth more than you would think. Until recently the only way to find out was to laboriously count them out, bag them up and take them to the bank. Now, however, you can cut out all that hard work by using a change-counting machine; these will often be available at your local supermarket. Just tip in the contents of your jar and wait while it tots up your total. Of course, the machine takes a small chunk of your savings as payment for its hard work, but for anyone who doesn’t have the time to count pennies, it’s a quick and clever solution.

There are charity collection boxes everywhere, and more often than not you can get rid of your change the very moment you receive it simply by dropping it in the nearest one. A penny might not seem like a meaningful contribution, but donated pennies make a huge difference to charities all over the world – a survey of collection boxes in 7-11 convenience stores found that over the course of a year pennies accounted for almost a million dollars in donations!

There’s a long tradition of using pennies to protest against fines and other mandatory payments. They’re legal tender, and so can’t easily be refused. You will, of course, need to spend a fair chunk of time counting out your coinage, and it’s also questionable how effective a protest it is when your actions only really inconvenience the poor clerk who has to count your coins all over again. That said, it certainly is satisfying – one to think about, perhaps, if you’re really not pleased about a particular charge or fee.

There are a multitude of artistic and creative uses for pennies, from decorating a floor or jazzing up a coffee table to creating a sculpture or crafting some unique and funky jewelry. Many people mistakenly believe it is illegal to use coins in this way, but the law actually only prohibits defacing pennies if you plan to continue using them as currency – if you simply want to liven up your lounge you’re in the clear. Their aesthetic value aside, coin art can end up being more valuable than the pennies alone were, so why not think of it as an artistic investment?

Of course, all of these options require a great deal of fussing with coins. You have to count, weigh, transport and arrange them… and you might ultimately decide that doing so just isn’t worth the time and energy. If you did, you wouldn’t be alone. Australia eliminated the penny altogether in 1992, and hasn’t looked back since. It could be years or it could be decades before other countries follow suit – so make use of your pennies while you still can.

About the Author

Jeff Hindenach

Jeff Hindenach is the co-founder of Simple. Thrifty. Living. He graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He has a long history of financial journalism, with a background writing for newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Examiner, as well as writing on personal finance for The Huffington Post, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, Newsday and The Street. He believes in giving readers the tools they need to get out of debt.

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