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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Coinstar: How Much Time Should a San Franciscan Spend Amassing Pennies?

Posted By on Tue, Nov 26, 2013 at 2:30 PM

click to enlarge Look how much money you can save!
  • Look how much money you can save!

Those of a certain age may remember being impressed into rolling 50 pennies into chutes. These Tootsie Roll-like hunks of metal and paper could be exchanged with banks for legal tender, foisted upon surly toll-takers, or tossed from a high place onto passers-by below.

Those days have passed. Now coin hoarders tote their vats of currency to the Coinstar machine in the front of the supermarket, saving untold amounts of time.

And time, after all, is money. Which is why an ostensibly crap study from the Coinstar people is more interesting than it might appear at first blush. Per the company, the average consumer estimates he or she has $26 in loose change rattling around the couch, the glove box, the dryer, etc. -- but the average user of the Coinstar service cashes in $56. The company spins this data in a manner suggesting you've got more money at home than you think, and should avail yourself of their services, posthaste.

The obvious alternate reading of this ersatz Pepsi Challenge is that people who haul their vats of change to Coinstar are not "average" consumers, and have likely been amassing large quantities of currency before making a pilgrimage. Certainly the people in the vat industry feel that way.

So, there you go. But a more pertinent question for San Franciscans might be: How much of your time is it worth to amass $56 worth of coins?

Per the latest Census data, the per-capita income for a San Franciscan is $46,777 (that's a lot; the state tally is $29,634).

How much your time is worth is not an objective measure. But, for the sake of argument, let's simply figure your free time is worth the same as your working time. If you earn $46,777 working a 50-week, five-day, eight-hour schedule, you're taking home around $23.39 an hour.

Extrapolating that figure, you hit the break-even point with regard to scouring your domicile for coins after two hours and 23 minutes. Anything beyond that will require more time than your estimated earnings make worthwhile.

Of course, this is a rough way of looking at things. And, who knows, you may yet find something of great monetary or sentimental value while turning the house upside down.

Or, in depleting the vast monetary reserves residing in your couch, you may devalue the piece of furniture to the point of worthlessness.

Whether taking that risk is worth your while is a calculation only you can tabulate.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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