2, 4, 6, 8, . . .

In 1997 I spent three weeks in Las Vegas. I was part of a group who were preparing for, and ultimately participating in, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) annual trade show. During those three weeks I was constantly surrounded by "one-armed bandits" (slot machines), and I came to realize how valuable a seemingly small pile of change can be. It got me thinking.

When I came back from NAB I made a pledge to myself. At the end of every day, I would take any $1 and $2 coins ("loonies" and "twoonies," respectively) that were in my pocket and throw them into a can. This would be my travel fund.

There were two very strict rules: (1) I must empty my pockets of loonies and twoonies every single night (no exceptions), and (2) the money must be used for travelling. No dipping into the pot for laundry money or parking meters. I created a superstition: if I ever dipped into the stash for something not travel-related, then something very bad would happen on my next trip.

I stuck to the rules. No exceptions. It was September of 1998 before the opportunity to travel came along — on very short notice, I went to Italy for two weeks. Before leaving, I rolled up a year and a half’s worth of loonies and twoonies. To my surprise, I had accumulated $1800!

I’ve stuck to the same program ever since. I’ve never managed to accumulate that much again, as I don’t usually wait that long between trips. I pulled about $700 out of the can before my trip to Portugal in 1999, and about $1000 before I went to Paris in 2001. Heaps of coins from the loonie can also eased my way through two trips to San Francisco and two trips to Mexico.

Now, a week before Martine and I jet off to Italy, it is time to dip into the can again. I rolled up the loonies and twoonies last night, to the tune of $1100. I also had some quarters laying around, which added another $60 to the pot.

Rolling big coins is a joy, unlike rolling nickels or pennies. It only took me about 30 minutes to roll all that up, and that was at a pretty casual pace while listening to the radio. That’s a rate of about $2200 an hour!

The best part is that this seems like "free money," so I feel no reservations about spending it unwisely. I also have some "real money" saved up, which will cover the big-ticket items (hotels, trains, etc.) But that $1160 is entirely about indulgent lunches, marvelous dinners, delicious wines, and creamy gelato.