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How to Take the Pain Out of Saving Loose Change

I am not one to spend coins. I prefer to save my pocket change. In fact, I go out of my way to make sure I get plenty of change so I have more to save! But I hate to carry loose change, and so does my husband.

Coin and Jar

We routinely 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 deposited. Others won’t accept wrapped coins. Either way, most 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 11.9% but at the time, it seemed reasonable. 

After a few minutes of shoveling coins into the Coinstar kiosk, out popped a voucher for $380.22. My heart sank once I realized that I’d walked in with $431.57. Big Green clobbered me with a $51.35 fee!

Karl Hartkopf whose website is devoted to coin rolling techniques (TheUnderStory.com) 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 union 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 workers do not even get paid as much as the hourly rate Coinstar charges to count quarters. Who wouldn’t gladly “earn” a few extra dollars by rolling their own?

A close up of a box

At first, I scoffed at Hartkopf’s suggestion of 2 minutes per roll. No way and I do 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 2 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. 

Look on Harkopf’s site for an extensive list of cheap or free coin counting machines in all 50 states, too. He’s adding new ones all the time.

I’m still kicking myself over that $51.35 fee. At the very least I should have rolled the quarters and dimes myself and dumped only the pennies and maybe the nickels into Big Green. Or opted for having the entire amount of $431.57 in an eGift Card—an option that has no fees.

*Note: Harkopf’s hourly rates are based on Coinstar’s old fee structure of 8.9%, and have not been adjusted upward for the increase to 11.9%, which makes the effective hourly rate of rolling your own even higher.

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  1. Theresa says:

    I use my coins to pay down my husband’s car loan at our bank. At the end of each month, I count and roll the coins, and bring them to my bank and make a principle only payment on the loan. I did this with my car payment years ago, and I shaved off two years off the loan. Also by doing it monthly, you don’t end up with an unmanageable amount of coins to roll. 😉 Also, always ask at your bank for coin wrappers. They are FREE, as are check book registers and check book covers, at least they are at my bank.

  2. Susie says:

    Even easier, I have a tube bank. It has a tube for each coin type that has an overflow slot to denote it’s ready to roll. Then when the tube is full I roll and put aside. The coin rolls actually slip right over the coins in the tube. It’s just as easy to put the coins in the tubes as to dump in a jar and saves a lot of time on the sort and roll.

  3. Birgit Nicolaisen says:

    We are lucky that our one credit union has a coin counting machine that does it for free. I have it deposit straight into my savings account so we can watching it grow. We use it for our vacation fund. We are hoping to go to Paris in 2021, so that’s a big goal to save for!!

  4. Sue in MN says:

    We save our change too. For half of each year, I wash my clothes in a coin laundry, so I remove all the quarters to a special coin purse just for laundry. When I do that, I “pay” myself for the quarters with bills. At the end of the year when I take the coins to our credit union to cash in, I have a nice stack of currency too. The saved money becomes our “play money” for special excursions that we make while at our winter home. By the way, our credit union doesn’t charge for counting if you deposit the money to an account.

  5. Sandra at Thistle Cove Farm says:

    A very good reason to roll your own coins is to take out the coins that are worth more than face value. For example, wheat pennies are worth more than a penny and a 1944 Lincoln penny is worth more than $400.00.

  6. Martha says:

    Unless something has changed recently you can select Amazon and some other vendors at certain Coinstar Kiosks and you are not charged the fee. Once I chose Amazon and something did not work so they gave me the full amount in cash. There are also charities, but they charge the fee on those. You have to be careful.

  7. Don says:

    My bank dumps my coins in their machine, and counts them for no fee, even if I get cash back. The bank has about a dozen branches. I avoid the larger, national, world banks because they tend to charge fees for everything.

  8. Kim says:

    Instead of one container for all my coins, I have four mugs and I just toss them into the proper mug. That way I don’t have to sort them later. I do like Kar’ls method of making piles, I’ll have to try that next time. Thanks for all the great advice, Mary!!!

  9. Paula J. Durrance says:

    This counting, rolling, and wrapping coins all sounds way too time consuming and complicated to me! This is an example of how I save my “change” vs “coins”…say something costs $12.16, and I happen to have $.16 in my pocket or wallet. I simply pay the change part with the $.16 I have on hand and then put a whole $1 bill away! So instead of having a total of $1 in change ($.16 + $.84), I now have a one dollar bill to put aside as savings (same amount of money only in a different form). This is so much easier than dealing with all those coins! Then when the one dollar bills begin to accumulate, I simply swap them out for higher denomination bills which I have in my wallet (i.e. I will swap out five $1 bills for one $5 bill). This works like a charm. Try it. You won’t be disappointed 🙂

  10. NF says:

    For about 20-25 dollars you can buy a decent coin counter. We bought one at WM many years ago and it’s paid for itself many times over. You can buy a bag of the tubes at the dollar store, WM or many office supply stores. They are very inexpensive. Dump your change in the hopper, turn it on and you’re done. When we get a decent amount of tubes, we take it to the bank, no issues. The one we purchased even keeps a running total on a display.

    • tboofy says:

      I bought a high-end coin counter for $200 on Amazon to use for our school fundraising activities. Worth every penny! It holds coin tubes and stops every time a roll is full. It has already saved me tons of time, which is at a real minimum as a teacher (especially when counting money that ISN’T my own).

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