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Everyday Cheapskate: The logistics of saving your coins can be a royal pain

I am not one to spend coins. And I don't like carrying them around in my wallet, either. Every night both my husband and I dump the day's accumulation into a container to save for a trip or to buy something special. One year we saved $1,100 in coins, but I have to admit the logistics can be a royal pain.

Banks and credit unions have strict rules about loose coins. Some require it to be rolled, wrapped and labeled before depositing. Others won't accept wrapped coins. Either way, most banks these days charge a fee.

I don't know what happened to me last weekend. I guess I was suffering from a severe case of TMC (too many coins). In a fit of frustration I dumped the jars into a big bag and drove to the supermarket. I knew it would cost me 10.9 percent to use the Coinstar machine, but it seemed reasonable. After a few minutes of shoveling, out popped a voucher for $383.52. My heart sunk once I realized that I'd walked in with $431.57. Big Green clobbered me with a $47.05 fee!

Karl Hartkopf, whose website -- theunderstory.com -- is devoted to coin rolling techniques, advocates cheap or free counting machines. But, he points out, it is not always possible. So, if you can't find a bank or credit to count your coins for free, should you pay the fee or should you wrap your own coins? Well, that all depends.

Breaking this down into hourly rates, Hartkopf says that I paid Coinstar an hourly rate of $26.70 to count my quarters ($.89 per $10 roll) because he says it takes less than two minutes for the average person to wrap a $10 roll of quarters. Pennies are another story. It takes the same amount of time to roll pennies, but Coinstar charges less than 5 cents per roll or $1.36 per hour to count pennies. Nickels work out to $5.34 an hour, dimes $13.35.

Most of us probably value our time at much more than $1.36 an hour. However, many of us do not even get paid as much as the hourly rate Coinstar charges to count quarters or dimes. Who among us wouldn't gladly "earn" a few extra dollars by rolling our own?

At first I scoffed at Harkopf's suggestion of two minutes per roll. No way, and I consider myself average. It takes me forever to roll and wrap coins. But then I read his method (look for "Counting-Rolling-Wrapping Your Coins" on his website). I tried it ... and wow, it is slick. With very little practice I'm under two minutes per roll already. Here's the key: Work on a "made bed." Hard surfaces make coin rolling nearly impossible. Hint: Spread an old sheet over that "made bed" first because money is very dirty. Then follow his detailed steps.

I'm still kicking myself over that $47.05 fee. At the very least I should have rolled the quarters and dimes myself and taken them into my bank, which will accept rolled coins from accountholders. Then I should have dumped only the pennies and maybe the nickels into Big Green.

Mary Hunt is founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com.

You can email her at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.

To find out more about Mary Hunt and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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