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.

11 thoughts on “2, 4, 6, 8, . . .

  1. No, but I lugged the loonies to the bank this morning, so the money is now in my account. Given that the box of loonies and twoonies weighed about 20 pounds, it would be rather insane to take it Italy…

  2. That made me go straight to the living room to check my old coin sorter and resolve to start doing exactly what you did, all over again. I became leery of doing it when, a few years ago, I had amassed a good $550 in twoonies and loonies. I wrapped them all and then put them in a box on a high shelf in a closet where I thought they’d be safe . . . but somehow the cleaning lady found them. Needless to say she’s long gone, but I’m still paranoid.

    My cleaning lady now is very trustworthy, so I’ll start ‘er up again . . . and by the way, I got a really cheap, efficient coin sorter at Costco a while back. Even if you just use it for $1 and $2 it’ll really speed things up.

  3. Italy! Where abouts and for how long? And will you stop over here at any point?

  4. Lisa, we’ll be there for 20 days — well, more like 18 if you don’t count travel days. We’re going by way of Paris, but the layover is only 45 minutes. (The plane better not be late!) On the way back we have about five hours in Paris.

    We’re spending five days in Rome, then on to Venice for three days, the Cinque Terre for four days, Florence for two days, and then a sort of motoring tour of Tuscany for four days.

    I know it will be tough, but we’ll try to have fun. ;-)

  5. By the way, this reminds me of a question that has been looming in my mind for quite some time.

    In the US there were these powerful machines (at banks or grocery stores) where you could dump your jar or change and it would count it right away and give you a receipt.

    You could then get the cash from the register, for a small fee. Very convenient.

    Are there any machines like that in Canada?

  6. We do the same!

    Loonies and twoonies go in the Vacation Fund.

    Pennies through to quarters are being salted away for retirement –
    catfood doesn’t buy itself!

    Nobody seems to want to carry change… I’m surprised there isn’t a shortage of coins in circulation.

    Bon Voyage!

    P.S. Bring me back a rock and a story of where and how…

  7. ITS, I’ve never seen one of those machines, but I sure would like to!

    Harry, you got it.

    Christelle; not someday — today. Start it today. Right now.

  8. I will start when I return from my Euro holiday… Leaving soon now, in about 10 days!! :D But when I come back I will create a Loony/Toony pot for my next trip! :)

  9. I’m in Toronto, and I use one of those automated coin sorter machines at the grocery store a few times a year. Since I usually spend my twoonies and loonies on coffee, I mainly end up accumulating quarters, nickles, dimes, and pennies, which I personally find useless and hate carrying around. But I also have better things to do with my time than roll coins, so I gladly let the machine take a percentage in exchange for magically sorting everything and spewing out a voucher for a nice amount of cash… free groceries!

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