Coinstar recently got in touch to ask if I'd like to be involved in their 'dust off your pennies' campaign, to encourage people to release the humble penny from the back of the sofa, the bottom of a drawer, a piggy bank or wherever it may be lurking.
A recent survey revealed that just under 70% of households have loose change lying around their home that never make it to a savings jar, equating to £60 a year per household on average and a shocking accumulative £1.5 billion in the UK.
We have a habit at home of clearing out pockets and purses of change. Every night when my other half gets home, he routinely dumps the contents of his pocket onto the dresser. The next morning he'll cherry pick the money, leaving behind copper and generally anything less than a £1 coin. This is then swept into a tub in the drawer where it sits until someone can be bothered to count it up, bag it and drag it down to the bank. I have to admit, it's not a job I relish.
We got rid of a lot of our 1p coins in Ruby's Penny Mile challenge at school, but still they keep coming, like they're breeding in the drawer. Ruby also has her own piggy bank where she's encouraged to save bits and pieces of money she's earned or been given for birthdays and Christmas.
We'd never used the Coinstar machines before. In fact, despite going into my supermarket several times a week, I never even knew they had one because it's tucked away in a corner. You can enter your postcode into the website and it will tell you where your nearest machine is.
Now, the one downside of it is it charges - 8.9p for every pound to be precise.
But that said, when you consider most of these machines are located within supermarkets, the convenience and the fact that you're not paying for parking to go to a town centre bank and the time saved counting probably outweigh that.
Also, if you decide to donate your coins to one of the designated charity partners, there's no charge at all.
The facility was really easy to use and Ruby took down a pot of her change and managed to pour it into the machine. We had a guess at how much might be there.
We went to the toy section, the magazines and then the DVD aisle. She was constantly asking 'do I have enough for this?' so I had the chance to do some stealth maths with her.
- If you have £8 and the toy cost £10, do you have enough?
- These cost £2 each, how many could you buy for £8?
- If you buy this for £4 and this for £3 how much is that all together?
- If that comes to £7 and you have £8, how much have you got left?
It was a little hard for her as she had only had the printed ticket - I think next time we'll exchange it for real money, then we can do the sums more visually.
She relished the chance to take charge of her money, and was surprised at how much things like magazines actually cost. I was quite taken aback at her final choices too I have to say - she settled on a pair of slippers; a necklace and ring set, a bar of chocolate and some popping candy!
I also took the penny pot from the kitchen drawer along and got over £5 which was converted into 2 bags of pasta, 2 jars of pasta sauce and a box of cornflakes for the Foodbank collection point. So much better that it's put to good use than just sitting in a jar doing nothing.
Next time you go to the supermarket, why not take along that pot of pennies that's languishing at the back of a drawer and put it towards the Christmas shop, or a treat for yourself?
Disclosure: This post was commissioned by Coinstar however all words, images and opinions are my own.