Monday, March 30, 2009

Holding on to my pennies

Isn't it amazing how much a little word like money seems to creep into our vocabulary pretty much everyday at some point. I find that lately that and the word economy are the main topics in the news everywhere.

I myself tend to get a little tired of it, but am comforted by these words: "the cost of a thing is the amount of time in which it takes to acquire it." (Henry Thoreau, from: Walden Pond)I read that quote in high school and it has stuck in my mind ever since. What I think it means is that money and cost are just numbers and numbers can mean different things to different people. Anything can be valued differently by someone depending on how much they need an item and how much money they have to acquire it. If someone has a lot of money they may not even blink at dropping $20 out to lunch for themselves, whereas someone who makes minimum wage might see that as a good few meals for their entire family in one week. The amount of time it may take to make $20 varies from person to person.

I have kept this in mind and have seen how it affects how I spend my money. I've had some jobs that pay quite decent, and others that have not. During the times with the better paying job I was more likely to spend money on things I didn't necessarily need but wanted. The times with the jobs that paid less hourly I tended to spend less in general because I knew that it really was taking me longer to make that money.

What it comes down to is this other commonly said phrase: "time is money." You can reverse it and say: "money is time" and get a similar message.

I think most of us nowadays are holding on to our money a little tighter anyway no matter how much we make an hour. It seems like the one nice thing about all the economic talk of losing jobs and houses, etc. is that it is seeming to close the gap a bit and make everyone have something in common. I know some would disagree with this, but I really think it has given everyone a chance to see that without our money and possessions we are all the same. Nothing is free, and everyone is subject to loss at any point in their lives.

Knowing this has got to make us more responsible, less materialistic, and more conscientious of what we spend our time and money on.

My mom and I have this thing where we love to find pennies or any other change in parking lots or on the sidewalk when we are walking. I used to think she was silly for stopping and bending down to pick up a dirty penny, slipping it into her nice pocket after brushing it off a bit. But when I went to college I started seeing spare change everywhere I went, no kidding! It was really odd, and believe it or not I just started picking it up too. I figured if I can be humbled enough to pick up spare change in the middle of a busy walkway and not feel stupid, I was doing okay. I think I had close to a few dollars by the end of one school year. Although that might not seem like much, it was free money and took really no time to acquire it.

I sometimes get teased for being someone who gives exact change as well. I don't mind using it and counting it out. It is money and has a value. It all adds up. When people got so anxious about gas prices being so high last summer even if it changed by a few cents I thought to myself how my spare change really had even more value.

Kids are great with this. When they are little they hold on to the dollar bills and spare change they may be given as an allowance or gift for their Birthday. It's exciting to them to save up for a small purchase they can make all on their own. When I was a kid I remember getting 35 cents a week! Milk at lunch was 25 cents and latter went up to 35 cents. Although my mom didn't make us pay for our own milk, if you lost that quarter or dime in your lunch box you were not a happy camper.

In college I even named my three goldfish penny, nickle, and dime. I didn't have three at once but three separate fish over the course of a couple years after the little guys passed away one after another. Maybe I thought naming them a little more expensive value of coin would make them live longer? Well, money didn't quite equal time in that sense.

Needless to say, I'm still going to be holding onto my pennies in the hopes that when the time comes that I need them they are there.

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