I believe in change so much that I have an old pickle jar in my home office filled with quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies. Also some golf tees, safety pins and wintergreen Lifesavers.
When I was a kid, I saved the very same way. After a few months, I'd pour the stash in my pocket and jangle my way down to the store, or I'd ask the bank for some wrappers in assorted colors and carefully count out the 40 quarters or the 50 dimes required to properly fill the roll.
The thrill of this incremental savings technique never wore off for me.
Well, not until recently.
That container in my office held the savings of the past 18 months, about $400, I estimated, which translated into a nice infusion of cash for the vacation my wife and I are planning for our 30th anniversary.
I took the sealed jar into my bank, hugging it tightly. I assumed the friendly teller would toss my hard-earned change into a high-tech coin counter, then sweeten my bank account with this windfall.
Instead, I got the bad news ...
"Mr. Wolfsie, we can count this for you, but we'll have to subtract 7 percent from your deposit for administrative costs and wear and tear on our counting machine."
"Wait a second. You're going to charge customers to put money into your bank? Are people that dumb?"
"Apparently. That's why it's called chump change."
I told my wife about the problem and she suggested that I have Brett, our son, count the money and we'd give him 4 percent of the total, a savings of several dollars over the bank's fee.
"Gee, Mary Ellen, that's a brilliant idea. Then we'll know exactly how much money we owe Brett, but what will we do with a two-gallon jar of sorted quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies?"
"We'll deposit the rolls in the bank."
"Don't you get it? They don't care about our calculation. They have to add it up themselves in that cockamamie machine. They're not going to take Brett's word for it."
"Well, they don't know what an honest young man he is, do they? Maybe you should introduce him. Did you mention he took calculus in college?"
At this point, I just dumped the money on the carpet, and starting adding it all up.
An hour later I'd calculated a total of $432.50.
Now I knew exactly how much change I had, and I was in the identical predicament I was in before I counted it.
One option was to use the Coinstar machine at the supermarket. They charge 9 percent, but you get all your money back if you take it in the form of a gift certificate to a restaurant.
Sorry, but after a year of watching that nest egg grow, I was looking forward to translating that into a romantic meal and a fine bottle of wine, not 22 fried catfish specials at MCL.
Then, I wondered if I could sell the money on Craigslist or eBay.
But how would I word the ad?
"$432.50 for sale. $410 or best offer. Fair condition, some scratches and smudges. Hand counted. Cash only."
I was still convinced that some bank out there would count my change without a fee, so I spent the better part of one afternoon investigating several branches.
I finally got home and told my wife that it was a lost cause and that I was tired of toting around a 20-pound jar of coins.
And to make matters worse, I got a parking ticket.
The meter had expired.