Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Common Cents

Find a penny pick it up. All day long you'll have good luck... unless of course it's tails. Then you ask your buddy to go flip it over for you so that you can pick it up.

In all seriousness, do you pick coins up off the floor or do you walk right by them? Maybe you have a threshold; passing by nickles and dimes but jumping on anything worth more than a quarter. So is it worth the effort to be picking up all this loose change or is your time better used doing something more productive? Regardless of which side of the coin is facing up, let's see if we can come out ahead (and the bad puns keep rolling out).

Last time we talked about thinking about purchases in terms of how much time it took at work to make enough money to make the purchase. Now let's do some more analysis of how much your time is worth. That's right I'm going to be putting a dollar sign on your time. Remember, time is money. I'll use myself as an example. I'll use my highest rate of pay (I have three rates depending on where I'm working) which is around $16/hr. Converting that rate into minutes (by dividing by 60) we see that I'm making about 27 cents every minute I'm at work. Converting to seconds (again by dividing by 60) we see that I make less than half a penny every second.

Now let's imagine there was a job where all you did was pick up coins off a conveyor belt (at floor level) that constantly has coins spitting out of a coin-making machine and all you do is put them in your pocket and keep whatever you have. That's it. Nothing else to the job, just pick up change and then go home at the end of the day. How long does it take you to pick a coin off the floor? I would say around 2 seconds is the longest time. It would probably take closer to 1 second but let's be a bit conservative in our calculations. Speaking of being conservative, also assume that all we pick up are pennies. Now here comes some more math. You ready? Since we're making a penny every 2 seconds, we would make 30 cents every minute (by multiplying by 30 to convert to minutes). Finally to convert to hours we'll multiply the 30 cents per minute by 60 min/hr. We arrive at $18/hr... which is 12.5% more than my rate at my real job...which is kind of sad...

Now imagine if you find something more than a penny. Even a nickle would increase your rate by a factor of 5. Of course this is just a hypothetical job; the only way to have an occupation where you print money will land you a nice spot in a jail cell. However, the fact remains that spending that extra second to pick up a penny makes you more money than spending the exact same amount of time at work (assuming you make less than $18/hr - and if you make more than $18/hr as a university student, let me know when there's an opening at your workplace).

The calculations go both ways. Have you ever dropped some change and decided to not pick it up? If you dropped a penny every two seconds you would be out 18 bucks in an hour. But it's worst than that. That's because it takes less than a second to drop something - gravity does all the work; you just have to let go. If it takes you less than a second to drop a penny then you would lose something north of $36 at the hour mark. That hurts. Sure you have to drop a heck load of pennies to lose $36 but that's money that you don't have to lose. Remember, every little bit counts.

Try this little exercise. For the month, every time you come across a coin, pick it up. At the end of the month, see how much money you collected. If you're lucky then you might have enough to get a free coffee! Unless you live in Toronto and around my neighborhood. Then don't pick them up... they're uh... they're not worth your time.

What do you guys think about loose change on the ground? Do you pick it up?

-the Paperboy

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