November 19, 2010

Is it Worth It To Pick Up a Penny?

Little while back Dough Roller had an article When Does Frugality Turn Into Cheapness? and they gave an example of bending down to pick up a penny.    That got me thinking about picking up lost pennies. 

Several years ago I was in a bar in Ireland and I dropped a 1 cent Euro coin.  One of the patrons at the bar joked something along the lines "nigh we' see how taght 'e ess".   Thats my bad impression of writing an Irish accent.  Translation : "now we'll see how tight he is" meaning that if I pick up the penny then they'd know I'm a tight wad.   I believe I did pick up that penny.   (at the time Euro pennies were worth about 1.1¢ US)

Lately though I've been finding myself too lazy to pick up a mere penny.   I fully admit that sometimes I'm lazy as lazy can be.   Anymore a single penny will buy you nothing.   All my pennies just get thrown into a jar which sits on the counter.   So it is easy to think that picking up a single penny to throw into my jar would not get me anywhere.  I just can't be bothered to take 1 second to bend down.   Is it worth the time?   I assume many people quickly answer with a positive.  But to me sometimes it just doesn't seem like its worth it. 

Hows the math work?   Is the Time worth the 1¢?

It takes 1 second to bend down and pick up a penny.

There are 60 seconds in a minute.   There are 60 minutes in an hour.   There are 3,600 seconds in an hour.

Making 1¢ in one second is equivalent to making 3,600¢ per hour.   Thats an hourly wage of $36.00 tax free.

Bottom Line:   Yes you should bend down to pick up a penny.   Its equivalent to $36/hr.

Photo by stevendepolo


  1. Unless they look too gross (i.e. have grease or mud on them), I always pick up pennies and other small change. I throw it in my jar of change which eventually goes to the savings account. I may as well--it's free money.

  2. I'm a penny picker-upper too, although I have similarly wondered if its worth it. When I run, I'm amazed at how much loose change is on the roads -- and not just pennies. Because its disruptive to my cadence, I've decided that while running, its not worth stopping for a penny......only anything "silver."

    The question I'd love to survey millionaires on is "what is the minimum US coinage/cash that you'd bend over to pick up on the street?" Would Gates bend over to pick up a 5-er.......I bet that Buffett would!

  3. I have a new appreciation for picking up pennies.


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