Saturday, April 21, 2012

Past Deadline: Saving Pennies for the Moon Condo

Jeepers. I feel as if I am becoming a fogey.

I think it is because I am slowly – or rather quickly – accumulating an “in my day” list. (“In my day” mostly refers to those wild and crazy formative years – from kid to twenty-something.)

In my day we didn’t have Velcro. We had laces and learned to tie our shoes when we were two. Okay, maybe four. And we liked it. We loved it!

In my day computers didn’t have jump keys or CDs or 3.5-inch floppies or even 5-inch ones. We had cassette decks and the monitors were old black and white televisions. And we liked it. We loved it!

In my day we used a technique called “paste up” – not computers – to lay out newspapers. The “paste” was wax and we cut the story strips with Exacto knives and stuck them to the newspaper template page to send it for printing. And we liked it. We loved it!

In my day we didn’t Google something when we needed information, we looked in an encyclopedia or phoned someone. And we liked it. We loved it! (Actually, we just didn’t know any better on this one. I would have killed for the Interwebs when I was still at the paper. Marvellous thing, that World Wide Net.)

In my day, you could buy loads of candy with pennies. It was called penny candy. And we liked it. We loved it!

And we liked the pennies, too.

Not no more, though.

Seems the penny will soon be relegated to my “in my day” list. It is “the currency without currency,” a casualty of modern budgets because it costs more to produce (1.6 cents) than it is worth. Killing it later this year will save about $11 million annually.

I understand this from a financial point of view, but I really do like counting by ones. Of course with 30 billion pennies in circulation (or hiding in jars, fountains, piggy banks and under beds), it will take a kazillion years for it to disappear, at which point we will have to count our change by fives.

That’s okay, I guess. Easier than counting by sevens or thirteens.

Then there is the question of who eats the cost at the cash register. Despite the power of the PMO, it’s unlikely the feds will be able to orchestrate all mathematical calculations to end in fives or zeros, especially considering that 13 per cent HST.

Sure, there will be “guidelines” about rounding up and rounding down for cash transactions, but do you s’pose some people might cheat?

I would say that it makes a case for paying for everything (where possible) using a debit or credit card because those will still be calculated to the cent but, on the other hand, there exists the possibility that the consumer will come out ahead.

This is where that statistics stuff I took in high school would come in handy. What is the probability one would get ahead with the round-down game and gather many cents over time?

Math teachers – on your mark, get set, go!

Of course some people will bypass the rounding up by just rounding their prices up to the nearest five. Then we are officially not ahead.

What all of this boils down to, though, is that I have to get busy and finish my penny collection.

When I was a kid (in my day), one of my elders, I can’t remember which one, bought me one of those little coin-collecting books with the plastic sleeves to protect the pennies.

I was always searching for old pennies when I wasn’t busy writing down random licence plate numbers (weird little kid). My booklet has a penny for every year from 1930-something to sometime within the last decade.

Of course I recently put the book “somewhere safe,” so I can’t check.

Nevertheless, I’ll have to get the kids to sort through our pennies to fill in the current blanks and maybe snag some extra old ones. And then in 150 years they will be worth so much we will sell them to buy a condo on the moon. Right?

Published in The Perth Courier, April 5/12

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