Why I Throw Away my Change

I throw away my change. Not all of it. Quarters of the lifeblood of laundry, and dimes have the best value to weight ratio, but I throw away all nickels and pennies.

If I’m at a store and I don’t accidentally autpilot pocket my change, I’ll leave the pennies and nickels on the counter. If I’m elsewhere I’ll put them on a ledge or on top of a trash can where someone else will find them. But if I’m in my house and they’re in my pocket, I just chuck them in the trash. I also do this for foreign currencies of similar denomination (Japanese one and five yen coins, for example).

Let’s say that I use cash one hundred times per year. Half the time I’m buying something that rounds out to a dollar amount, and change doesn’t factor into it. This is mostly street vendors which either don’t charge tax or roll it into the price.

So fifty times per year I’m getting change. It would be interesting to think about the distribution of the “cents amount”, but let’s just assume that it’s evenly distributed from 0 to 99 cents.

On average I will get back some amount of quarters and dimes, plus an average of five cents in nickels and pennies. I won’t explain the math on that, but it’s pretty intuitive if you think about it.

Assuming I throw all of those away, which I do, I’m losing five cents fifty times a year, costing me a total of $2.50.

What does that $2.50 buy me? Well, I never have to deal with nickels and pennies. That alone is worth $2.50 per year to me. Even better, it makes change way more usable for me. I don’t have to dig through a change dish to find all of the quarters to do laundry– all I have are quarters and dimes, and those are easy to separate. And if I have change in my pocket, as I always do in Japan, I’m far more likely to dig through it to pay for a purchase, because I know the coins are actually valuable.

Dimes are actually reasonable to toss as well. You get thirty-six dimes per every fifty transactions, meaning I’d only lose an additional $3.60 by completely throwing them out.

I think that a good dime policy would be to leave them in your car for parking meters, but to throw them away if you came across them in your house. You could keep them in your pocket throughout the day, but then throw away remainders at the end of the day.

Quarters, on the other hand, are directly useful, so I’ll always keep them.

Your numbers may be different, so it may make sense for you to save more change than me. Maybe you deal with cash every single day.

What’s interesting, I think, is to look at something that sounds barbaric and crazy, but is actually very logical. By giving up $2.50 per year, I get to make better use of quarters and reduce a tiny point of friction.


Photo is my poker chips at one point of the World Series of Poker this year.

If you read my latest book, Superhuman Social Skills, and liked it, PLEASE leave a review! Reviews have a huge impact on sales, especially when you have under 100 of them. I gave away the book for free this year hoping I’d get more reviews, but it didn’t work so I may not do it next time.

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