Pennies For Produce

Our Farmer’s Market opened late last month, and my mouth immediately started watering for homegrown produce like you would not believe! We were among the first to arrive on a rainy Saturday morning and it was more than an hour later before we left with 3 bags of microgreens, sunflower sprouts, and spinach; a bunch of radishes, a gallon of strawberries, a loaf of bread, a jar of sugar-free blackberry jam, and an aloe plant. We spent $46.50 (nearly a quarter of the “market money” we had saved over the winter).

Though we love our Farmer’s Market and could talk for hours about the benefits of buying local, the story of how we came into our “market money” is what I really want to talk about today. You see, it never ceases to amaze me how much valuable stuff people throw away – including actual money sometimes.

Last October, when our Farmer’s Market ended for the season, Angie and I came up with the idea to save our change over the winter to spend at the market next season. We thought we’d end up with maybe $20 – $30 at most but, pretty soon, we started finding change all over the place, from pennies at the car wash to quarters in the parking lot of our apartment. Then there were the carts at Aldi. We live next door and often walk through the parking lot on our outings. Despite having to pay a quarter to use a cart, there are still a lot of folks who leave them in the lot (or in the grass). We returned nearly $8.00 worth of carts. (That’s 2 quarts of fresh, juicy blueberries or 4 bags of spinach, by the way.)

Another thing that we passed on our walks was the dumpster – 5 of them to be exact. In or near a typical apartment dumpster, you can find all sorts of stuff. We’ve been rescuing a lot of these items and taking them to Goodwill for years. This time, we started listing some of them on Marketplace. Though it was often a pain in the rear to meet up with people, we managed to make $38 on a couple of items that we found. And speaking of found – on several occasions we stumbled upon $1 and $5 bills at the park. We racked up another $12 this way.

Then one random day in February, we decided to declutter the hall closet. There’s not much in the hall closet of two people who have been minimalists for the better part of the last 7 years, but we did manage to scrounge up some puzzles, a couple pairs of bowling shoes and a tiny space heater to add to our Marketplace listings. We also threw in the money we made from ditching our microwave, for a total of $55.

On the night before the Farmer’s Market opened, we sat down in the living room floor, dumped all our change on the carpet, and started rolling. When we ran out of rollers, we were at $67 – and we hadn’t even touched the pennies! I would venture to guess that we left at least $20 – $30 in the jar for next time – the very same amount we thought we’d have in total in the first place.

Our actual “market money” total was $180, enough to fund our trips to the Farmer’s Market for at least 6-8 weeks (even including our over-exuberance on week one). We’re pretty proud of that, but detailing our good fortune is not the only reason I started this post.

In this world, there are two types of people – the ones who throw pennies away and the ones who pick them up. The penny tossers are also usually the same folks who throw away their dollars without much thought. How many times have you heard someone say (or have said yourself) – “It’s only a dollar (or $5 or $20)”- when contemplating some random purchase? The penny tossers don’t see the bigger picture. Small amounts of money don’t matter, they will never make you rich, so there’s no logical reason not to buy the candy bar, the mocha latte, or the lottery ticket. I mean, there’s a real chance that ticket could be worth a million dollars, right??

The penny pickers on the other hand, they know the real score. They know that all denominations of money spend exactly the same – and they all save the same too. We pick up pennies because they add up, maybe not to enough to make you “rich” but then again, what is the definition of rich anyway? When we take our $180 in mostly found money to the Farmer’s Market this season and trade it for delicious tomatoes, squash, melons, and berries – I’m pretty sure we’re going to feel like we hit the jackpot.

But, if that’s not enough to inspire you not to walk past unwanted change on the ground, this ingenious math from FI Tradesguy might:

Let’s assume that picking up a coin off the ground and putting it in your pocket takes two seconds (it does, I do it all the time!) That means you can pick up 30 coins per minute and 1,800 coins per hour. Here is the simple table showing the hourly rate of picking up coins at two seconds each.

1,800 coins X $.01 = $18/hour

1,800 coins X $.05 = $90/hour

1,800 coins X $.10 = $180/hour

1,800 coins X $.25 = $450/hour

I pick up change because of the mindset behind the action, but I also pick up change because I don’t want to pass by a couple seconds of really high paying wages. Every time you find a penny and pick it up, you can tell yourself that you just made $18/hour. Find a quarter and make $450/hour! Granted, you only worked for two seconds, but who wants to pass up $18 or $450 per hour? No matter how long you can work that gig.

Honestly, I’d never really thought of it that way but the excited feeling I get when find a quarter says that there’s some truth to that logic. $450/hour is some serious cash. Who wouldn’t be happy to find a quarter??

Crazy Things I Heard This Week

We pretty much eat, sleep, and breathe minimalism, frugality, and simple living. It’s so much a part of who we are and what we do that we often forget that there’s an entire world out there full of people who are not minimalists or frugal or even concerned, for that matter. I don’t know why, but when I hear people say something that celebrates excess or consumerism or wastefulness (of money or resources), I’m taken aback…so much so sometimes that I just stand there shaking my head. This week, my head was on a swivel, it shook so much! Some things were truly funny, some were unbelievably strange, and a few were just plain wrong; so, if for no other reason than to rid my own mind of the nonsense, I want to share with you some of the crazy things I heard this week.

Crazy Thing #1

My cousin recently went on a cruise to the Caribbean with a couple he has known for a while. I don’t think he considers them to be close friends; just social acquaintances from his Bridge Club. When my cousin picked them up to head to the airport in his 10-year-old Nissan, one of his companions offered him this nugget of wisdom: “If you didn’t travel so much and eat at fine restaurants all the time, you would have the money to buy nicer stuff.” He actually used the word stuff, as if it was truly something to strive for. My cousin is in his early 50s, debt-free, and retired. His friend is not.

Crazy Thing #2

My aunt’s taxes on her 26-acre property were due at the end of February. The total bill was just a little over $500, which she opted to pay in monthly payments. When my mom asked if she just didn’t have the money, my aunt replied, “Oh, I have it, I just don’t want to part with it.” My mom then proceeded to tell me that when my uncle was alive, he would always borrow money from my grandfather, even when he had the exact amount of money he needed in his own wallet. Why? Because he just didn’t want to part with it! Hmm…I guess that’s one way to save your money!

Crazy Thing #3

Angie’s mom’s friend, Betty, is retiring this year. She’s 64. When Angie asked her mom what Betty plans to do after she retires, she answered, “She’ll probably do what all retired people do – go through her closets and get rid of stuff.” Good to know that’s what all retired people do. I feel retired already!

Crazy Thing #4

Betty’s husband, Bob, has been at his job for 30 years. His employer told him that he could have anything he wanted for his work anniversary – a vacation, cash, whatever. He picked a $25,000 ATV. A four-wheeler! Betty and Bob owe more than $60,000 in credit card debt and were once featured in one of our most popular posts, She Spent $1,700 Where?? As you can see, not much has changed in their life in the past two years.

Crazy Thing #5

A doctor in Texas told Angie’s parents to drink a shot of top-shelf tequila every day to prevent and reverse diabetes. I feel so cheated! My doctor just told me to eat more plants.

Crazy Thing #6

The lady who does my mom’s hair has a 48-year-old son who lives at home. He’s an average guy with a normal IQ who loves beer, motorcycles, and hanging out with his friends. In other words, there’s nothing stopping him from making it on his own. Except for the “contract”. Apparently when he graduated from high school, his mom offered him a deal – live at home and you’ll never have to work…or cook a meal for yourself…or do your own laundry. Sounds like a plan, right?? Except that he’s also prohibited from travelling anywhere or having anyone stay overnight. Not only did he agree to this, he signed an actual contract. Well, that’s certainly an approach to simple living I’ve never considered!

Crazy Thing #7

A friend of ours got a $600 income tax refund. Her stove recently went out and needs to be repaired or replaced. Logic might seem to dictate that part of the refund would go toward the stove – which most folks consider a necessity. Nope, she’s buying a Shou-sugi-gan torch. Not to be confused with something that flame grills veggies, this is a woodworking tool…and the latest in a long line of “cool looking” gadgets that will “make life easier” for her. I imagine it will go on the shelf in the garage, right next to the shrimp deveiner, the digital meat thermometer, and the 6-bulb garlic press. But hey, who needs those things anyway when you don’t have a stove??

I would worry about offending the real-life folks who participated in these crazy scenarios, but as Angie just told me:

Crazy Thing #8

No one in our family reads this blog because it’s not political and it doesn’t have anything to do with dogs.

What is the craziest thing you heard lately?