Thursday, October 18, 2007

Reduce the amount of coins you keep

I keep hearing people complain about having so much change in their pocket, especially people from my homeland of Canada where there are 1$ and 2$ coins and the smallest bill is a 5$. I've never really had that problem, but I guess I'm not an average individual so I'll share how I do it, it's pretty simple.

1: Know how much you're carrying.
It's important to remember what you have in the deep ends of your pocket. You might think that you have way too much change to remember that, but you'll see that's it's actually pretty easy once you start keeping your change to a minimum.

2: Preemptively count your change.
I guess this kind of conflicts with rule 1, but when you're waiting at a line to pay, now is the time to get all your change out and count it. Most people I see in lines turn their brain off, look at those celebrity rags, and when they realize they have to pay 5.23$ they waste 10 seconds searching through their pockets for a quarter to avoid receiving a lot of change.

3: Pre-compute the total
This is a though one because it's not always realistically possible. For example, if you're doing your groceries and you have 20 items, there's no way you can actually get an accurate amount. If you can get the total up to the cents, then you're probably officially mad. ;) But most transaction seems to be one or two items, such as buying a coffee. In that case you can probably know approximately how much it's going to cost after taxes and plan for it.

4: Giving the right amount
Now comes the hardest part. When you get the total and need to choose how much to give. The objective is to minimize the amount of coins you have in your pocket. You want every coin in your pocket to be the minimum amount you can have. Let's state what that minimum is first. This is in $CND, but just remove the 2$ coins and it works with $USD

4 1¢
2 10¢
3 25¢
2 2$

It's pretty easy. You never want more than 4 pennies. Then, you don't want more than one 5¢, and never more than 25¢ in 10¢ and 5¢. Then you don't want more than 3 25¢. The rest is only for Canadian money. You don't want more than one 1$, and never more than 4$ in 1$ and 2$. In all cases the highest amount of coins you'll be carrying is 11, or 9 in $USD.

Alright, so what can we do now to minimize that amount easily. The easiest thing we can do first is try to get rid of pennies. It's easy because most people (I hope...) can take a total and see how many pennies they need to give to not receive any (for my mathematically-oriented friend, the "total mod 5").
Once you have that, the second easiest thing to do is reduce that to a multiple of 25¢. Say, if the amount to pay if 6.43$, you want to lower that amount to a multiple of 25¢, and the closest one is 6.25$. So you need to give 43¢-25¢=18¢ in coins.
Now that you understand those two tricks, you can extend the logic to make sure you never have two 5¢ and never four 25¢.

Let's look at an example. Say I need to pay 6.43$, I might give 11.18$ so that I'll get 4.75$ back. So I got rid of 1 1$, 1 10c, 1 5c, 3 1c (6 coins) and got back 2 2$, 3 25c (5 coins), so I have 1 less coin. If I had simply given a 10$, I would've received 3.57 so 1 2$, 1 1$, 2 25c, 1 5c and 2 1c (7 coins). Everyone's happier! Just make sure to pre-calculate it so as not to waste the time of the people waiting in line behind you, you don't want to be the douchebag wasting everyone's time.

I hope that helped.


Mike said...

I feel directly targeted by this post :)

My problem with change is more in my will to keep count and with step #3. I'd rather throw away my 1c coins and help get rid of those pennies that no one wants around anymore.

What I do is keep the big coins (25 cents and up) and put the others in a little box. When I have enough of those smaller valued coins, I can just go exchange them at the bank.

Anonymous said...

The other solution is just to refuse change. I personally refuse to keep any change below 0.25$.. I just leave it there when people give it to me.. It has so little value that I couldn't care less about it and its just weight. I've found that since I started doing that, my change problem has almost completely disappeared.

wipet said...

Tiens un post juste pour moi ;)

Snake said...

Dude, tu devrais travailler pour les relations cassiers-clients chez Couche-Tard! That's a REAL issue! Les gens ne savent pas compter... et encore moins compter d'avance!

François said...

je jette mes cents noires dans les poubelles, pu de problèmes!

Eric B said...

Hey Simon, you pretty much read my mind. Many times a year I look at my desk and think of rule #4 for getting rid of all those coins...

I may be too lazy however because I just can't use this rule twice in a row before going back to rule #-1 : pay-with-quarters-or-more-and-empty-pockets -when-they-reach-critical-mass....