MONEY Counting change can be lucrative
Saving coins can lead to large returns.
By JAKE GROVE
Can there really be $10.5 billion in loose change floating around the country today?
That's a monumental total, but some experts figure that's how much is sitting in forgotten pockets, under couch cushions and lodged under the seats of cars right now.
The question is, then, what is being done with this absurd amount of money, and how can we get our hands on it?
Saving loose change has become one of the most popular ways to save for the average American. For every story about a man who collected pennies for 40 years and just got to a million, there are stories of everyday people throwing their loose change in a jar for a rainy day.
Harriet Blume, of Greenville, S. C., recently cashed in on a year's worth of constant collecting.
"I've always had a change jar on my dresser or a jug in my office," Blume said. "I save it up for a year and then cash it in when the bottle gets full. I get some extra money after the holidays and feel like I'm doing something good for myself."
It adds up
According to Cleveland Saves (www.clevelandsaves.org), an organization that works with non-profit, corporate, and government groups to offer advice on saving and building wealth, saving 50 cents a day in loose change adds up to $15 per month.
In a year, that's about $180. Double it to a dollar a day and you're looking at about $360 of practically free money each year.
Coinstar is one of the country's largest self-service coin counting companies, and it has machines in more than 10,000 supermarkets. Since 1992, those machines have turned more than $7 billion of coins into cash and made a great deal of money in the process. Coinstar's profit comes from the 9 percent surcharge it costs you to have the machines count your coins and push cash out to you.
Coinstar is for those who have saved a great deal of coins -- in excess of $150 -- that are extremely time-consuming for a person to count.
In November, an Ohio man cashed in 1,048,013 pennies valued at $10,480.13, a national Coinstar record. Eugene Sukie, 78, a retired glass plant supervisor from Barberton, Ohio, had been saving the pennies -- which weighed 3.5 tons -- for 40 years. He cashed them in after prodding from his wife who wanted him to enjoy the money it would bring while he still could. It became a national story and triggered a wave of popularity for saving coins.
Self-serve coin counters aren't the only way to convert coins to cash. Many banks provide a counting and rolling service for a small fee (a few are free), provided the amount is not too much.
But no matter how the coins are counted, saving change for a rainy day seems worth the effort.
Marian Marshall of Anderson, S.C., said she started saving her change because of an example set by her aunt. When the aunt died, she left three water bottles full of change to her nieces and nephews and it turned out to be quite a lot of money.
"There was more than a thousand dollars in those jugs," Marshall said. "It took a while to count, but it was worth it in the end."