My mother’s father was a gambler and a party animal. While he was fun to be around there were times when he would just disapear and the family would have to move in the middle of the night to avoid the landlord. My mom can recall 17 moves before high school. Thus she was raised to squeeze every drop of copper that was in a penny.
Growing up this way has instilled some strange habits- some of which have trickled down to me. Here is where it all started. In the early 1980s my father started a business only to have his partner run up high debts and steal all the money- leaving us with over $100,000 in bills. With three kids under 12, one who was severely disabled, this could have spelled disaster.
Instead my mother’s training kicked in. Every coin we found on the ground was picked up, every vending machine & pay phones were checked and the coins went in a jar. Every day, unless it was raining we went for three mile walks around town. And at the end of the week we would roll the coins in the bank wrappers and my mother would hide them under her bed. At the start of the month she would take the rolls out and that would be our grocery money. At one point we all got paper routes and the 3 mile walks became 6 and we put the paper money in the jars as well. This went on for four years. At that point my father had managed to get a better paying job and things were easier. But we still went on walks and collected coins.
Those coins would go into jars, along with any coins in our pockets at the end of the day. Up through high school I never saw that jar get filled and never really thought much about it until last year.
In the twenty years between my High School graduation and now, my mother has moved three times and has been widowed. She now lives on her SS & what is left of my father’s pension. In these twenty years I have collected coins that I have found on the ground and in my pocket and at the end of each year I’ve used that money to fund short visits to other states or to pay off a small bill or two. Last spring I used a jar’s worth to drive down and spend a week with her. While on our walk I found my 2 yr old daughter picking up a coin saying “found a penny grandma.” We laughed, thanked her & put it in her pocket for her piggy jar.
My mother said that she needed some help with her coin rolls so when we got back I expected to have a jar to sort. My mom had me sit at the table, handed me a calculator and started telling me how she had been wanting to go to the Virgin Islands for years now, but wasn’t sure if she had enough. She then pulled out a carton and started to unload 52 48oz pasta jars of coins onto the table. Apparently she had put the jars aside when full to sort “later” and never got around to it or would just forget where she had put the jars in the first place and after the moves, some had not even been unpacked until lately. I spent the next four hours sorting coins. After counting and recounting I told her it was enough and this past Easter she took her dream trip to to the Virgin Islands.
The expression on the bank teller’s face when we handed over the rolls was priceless.
The grand total: $75 in Canadian pennies, $959 in Italian Lira and $12642.71 in US.
The moral: A penny may just be a penny, but they can add up over time.
Submitted by: Liz
Wow! What an awesome story of extreme frugality and savings. I thought me finding $175 in change around my house was a big deal, but this is amazing. Reminds me of a story my dad told me of a friend of his that has an entire dresser with four drawers filled with pennies.
I don’t know that I’d have the patience for saving up this many coins, or eventually counting them, but it does show that every penny counts.