A little over two years ago, the Macy’s in Missoula went out of business. The downtown store hosted a clearance sale and towards the last official day of business, the prices of many items were dramatically slashed. People roamed through the store like scavengers, snatching up all the off-shoot sized clothing items and pieces of household junk that they could find. The store had been picked apart, it was going out of business and no one, including employees, cared about the shabby condition it was in.
In more of just a “farewell gesture” by myself to say goodbye to an iconic business in the Missoula downtown landscape, I went down during the last days to stroll through the store one final time. Feeling a little disgusted by the zoo-like conditions inside the store I planned to make it a quick trip. Pretty much none of the passed over merchandise remotely interested me except for one item: a change counter/holder! Located on one of the shelves, it was a large plastic tub with an intricate top. The top enabled you to drop loose change through a slit and the slit had a sensor that would register the type of coin entered. The sensor would determine the type of coin and add its value to the total amount inside the jar. Desperately needing a way to organize the large amount of loose change that dominated my dresser and filled up random cups, I bought the item for $15, saving 75% off the retail price.
The coin counter was one of the best investments I had ever made. It immediately cleaned up my room, it made me value change more, and it gave me a fun little hobby. No longer would I just throw my change on my dresser, or in some cases, throw it away in the garbage. Now I actually looked forward just a little bit to getting home and depositing coin by coin my accumulation from that day. I watched as the jar started to fill and the weight of it get heavier and heavier.
Ask any person who collects loose change why they don’t redeem it for cash and they will tell you it is just a hard thing to do. Just like when you collect anything of value such as baseball cards or stamps, folks will hold off onto the monetary reward just so they can hold onto the item. It is just hard to let go of something. About fifteen months after first purchasing my money container I went back and forth on whether to cash in on my large sea of loose change. As someone who rarely throws away anything, the notion of parting ways with my shiny collection of copper and silver currency did bring me some uneasiness. But hey, I was going to Vegas and wanted to supplement my spending money fund. It was time to go to Coinstar!
I made the mistake of going to Albertsons to use the Coinstar machine during peak hour for the grocery store. No, this was not a mistake because the Coinstar machine had a line trailing from it (in fact, not one person was within five feet of it) but rather it was an ill-advised decision on my part because of the attention I drew from it. When you pour change into the Coinstar cage, it is very LOUD. The combination of the money the hitting metal cage in conjunction with the annoying sound effects the system uses when coins are fed into the machine results in a loud and head-turning noise. As the kiosk stands just beyond the checkout lines, everyone purchasing their groceries, checkers included, were treated to this cacophony for about ten minutes as I dumped my change into the cage and fed it into the counting slot.
When I had finally emptied all of my coins into the cage and after the Coinstar machine counted each one up, the counter on my jar proved spot on accurate. Coinstar was within one dollar of what my coin counter had registered. The discrepancy of the dollar were a few Canadian coins that I had mistakenly entered into the counter. My grand total? $133 (give or take a few cents). The final payout? $122 (once again give or take a few cents). Coinstar takes a counting/service fee out of all sessions so that is why I did not get equal value for my change. Before I cashed out I was given the option to redeem my change via a gift card and not suffer the service fee but I declined. I also declined the option Coinstar gives you to donate your coin savings to charity…heartless bastard. I took my receipt voucher and redeemed it at the customer service counter. The lady made some remark about all the commotion I had made but then laid off a little by noting that my receipt was impressive, by far the highest one she had ever paid out. I took that money she gave me and promptly blew it all in Vegas the next day.
Yesterday I cashed in on my coins once again. This time around it was the product of ten months of saving. Only this time the final amount I was to receive was a bit of a mystery to me. My constant use of my change counter has produced some wear and tear. No longer does it display the total amount on the top of the jar anymore. However, by looking at how far the change went up on the jar combined with the ratio of big and small coins and silver and copper coins, I had an estimate on how much I had saved. And you know what?! My estimate was pretty spot on. I fed the Coinstar at Safeway $78, taking home $70.55. Time to start from ground zero again!
I encourage everyone to save their change. It is a good practice of discipline and it is fun to see your quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies build up. Also, if you have a soul unlike me, you can actually donate it towards a good cause. What really opened my eyes the most about saving is that coins actually are money. Instead of tossing it out, throwing it in your car cup holder, or giving it to a bum who is only going to waste it on booze, you can actually use it for the greater good. Go ahead, start saving your change today. You and I can race to see who can accumulate the most money! Let’s check back in a year. Don’t Blink.