A close up of a box

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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17 replies
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  1. Joanna Miller says:

    We also save a lot of change. A few years ago, I bought a manual, hand-crank coin sorter for just under $30. It was well-worth the purchase. I had over $200 of coin rolled within an hour. My bank provides the coin wrappers at no charge and will also accept my rolled coin at no charge.

  2. tboofy says:

    Many CoinStar machines will give you the option to get 100% of the money on an e-certificate to places like Amazon, IHOP, GameStop, etc. I do tons of shopping on Amazon, so this is a great option for me.

  3. Carryn McLean says:

    Here in Australia our banks have cash deposit machines which count the money. You are given a slip with the total and proceed to the teller. If you deposit the money onto your account there is no charge. However if you wish to take cash you are charged about AU$5.00 which is US$3.57.

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