Why I Don’t Pick Up Pennies

Jul 09 2012

As a runner I see an amazing amount of things on the ground.  At my peak I run 70 miles or more a week, all at a speed that lets me see my surroundings. But I’ve developed a running joke (pun intended) that I am known for not picking up pennies. Over the course of the last 5 years I’ve found an iPhone, two one hundred dollar bills, a $500 watch, and countless amount of jewelry. During the Champaign Marathon I found a wad of money on laying on the course that was almost enough to pay for my entry fee.   My running partners all laugh at my ability to spot things along the road.  But there is one thing I don’t pick up……..pennies

Until recently, I always picked up a penny any time I saw it laying there . I figured over my life I probably pick up thousands of pennies and “a penny saved was a penny earned”. Not true any more and I’ll tell you why in a second. There are a few exceptions to these new rules. One, if I dropped the penny I can still pick it up. Two, if it is a quarter I still go for the coin. Here’s why I’ve made the big change (no pun intended) in my life. I earn more than $75 per hour which comes out to 2 cents a second. The time it takes to pick up a penny I could have kept moving and made double what I put in to it. Even if the value of my time doesn’t come into play then I figure I could put in the 2 seconds it takes to bend over and pick up the penny and keep moving towards where I was headed.

Another big part in the decision is my health. Bending over quickly is not good for the back. As a man in my 40’s it’s not wise to bend over in one sudden movement, pick something up. I’m not the most flexible guy, if I hurt something it will take 125 years of picking up pennies to pay for the doctor.  It may also prevent me from training for my Ironman.

Luck plays a bit of a part as well. I know it sounds a bit crazy, but I only would pick up pennies on heads but since I was already down there I would just flip over any pennies on tails and then pick them up. I say I’m not superstitious but evidently after typing this I am. I’m going to be saving myself from potential bad luck.

Lastly, money is pretty dirty. Especially pennies that have been laying on the ground. I’d pick them up and inevitably wipe my face or mouth. Not right away but most likely before I wiped my hands. I’m not afraid of germs but the reality is that money is one of the dirtiest things you’ll ever handle. Who knows how much bacteria I am going to keep out of my body.

Not picking up pennies has also added a lot of joy in my life.  I gave this same type of speech at a large party and 10-15 people now tell me that they think of me every time they see a penny on the ground.  I also leave it for someone that needs the penny more than I do.  Some may claim that it takes pennies to earn dollars but I am going to counter with the old, ” I no longer step on dollars to pick up pennies” .

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Outsmarting the Dumb, Outworking the Smart

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  1. Troy

    Using the same argument I am sure that Bill Gates doesn’t stop to pick up $100 bills he sees on the ground=)

  2. Tia Wood

    “10-15 people now tell me that they think of me every time they see a penny on the ground”

    Thanks. I suppose I’m next lol. Nice story, Shane.

  3. Acro

    Remember: penny face up = good luck. The reverse = bad luck. Since a penny has 50% chance of facing up, you’re actually picking 1/2 a penny most of the time 😀

  4. KD

    Not to mention pennies cost more to produce then they are worth. If you pick them up you are supporting the use of a penny, and therefore costing everyone around you money.

    I am a long time believer of getting rid of the penny. When I get pennies I put them anywhere but my pockets. In a tip jar. In a penny tray. If those are not around I’ll throw a penny on the street for the next sucker to come along and pick it up. Worst case I have to throw the penny into the trash.

    More often than not I use a credit card because it is easier, plus I also get cash back for using it. Not to mention the joy I get from not having to deal with a penny!

  5. Steve

    I have often thought we should get rid of pennies. Honestly I think they should round up to the nearest nickel and use the spread for the national debt. Think if your purchase came to $6.41 and they rounded to $6.45 and automatically that $.04 was designated to the national debt. Think of all the purchases made in the united states every day…. Maybe it wouldn’t make a dent into the debt…. Who knows. All the same I think we should go pennyfree.

  6. Poor Uncle

    Hi Shane,
    Welcome to the penniless world. I never pickup anything from the ground. It is actually bad luck regardless pennies, quarters or dollar bills.

  7. RaTHead

    my mom always told me… see a penny… pick it up… and all the day you’ll have good luck.
    i pick up the penny and leave a nickel dime or quarter in it’s place… just ’cause doin’ stupid stuff sometimes makes life more interesting.

  8. fizz

    In New Zealand the smallest denomination coin now is 10 cents, the equivalent of about 8 US cents. NZ got rid of the 1c, 2c and 5c coins.

    But how will the retail industry of the US survive if you get rid of the penny…doesn’t everything there end in .99…$9.99, $99.99 or $4,999.99?

  9. Tony

    Shane –

    Have I read this wrong or is this whole article actually saying that you no longer, and we should no longer, buy domains that you do not see giving you a lot of upside?

    Or is this really about pennies? 😉

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