/ Money

Spend or save – what do you do with your spare pennies?

stack of pennies

Are you harbouring a pot full of copper coins with no idea how to change or spend them? Or do you make sure you spend those pennies straight away? Perhaps it’s time to do away with them altogether…

The coin pouch of my purse is bursting at the seams. Not because I have a stash of cash – it’s simply an accumulation of far too many pennies. The problem is that I never seem to spend them.

Pennies are just pocket money

As a child, my pocket money was made up of a giant jar of loose change. Every so often, after I’d done chores around the house, my dad would tell me to count it out into money bags so we could change it into notes at the bank. This money would be mine to keep.

It was never very much, and I distinctly remember wondering how on earth that giant jar of copper could only total a few quid. I was grateful for the money, of course, but the ‘shrapnel’, as my dad would call it, just seemed to serve very little purpose other than a collection for my pocket money.

I suppose the only use I had for this change at the time was buying penny sweets. But as I wasn’t much of a fan of those, I saved my pocket money for ice cream and cinema trips – which, back then, cost less than a fiver.

Fast-forward 20-odd years and I’m still hoarding the coppers, yet I never seem to have time to pop to the bank to change it over. And while I’m thinking about it, I wonder who does?

What should we do with our loose change?

Maybe I’ve taken the old savings mantra of ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’ a bit too seriously. The 5p carrier bag of coppers in my wardrobe is testament to this.

So, what do I do with all this change? I object to using those machines that count up the change for you and take a cut of the cash. But then I also know it’s quite foolhardy to leave stacks of coppers sitting at home doing nothing.

Occasionally I’ll count up a few quid’s worth and try to spend it at a supermarket self-service machine. While I’d never dump a pile of change on a poor checkout assistant, I don’t mind doing it to a computer.

Pennies can have other purposes, of course. I’ve seen them used in the garden as a decoration, so maybe I could explore some crafty ideas. I could also pop them in a charity box, but even those are hard to come by these days.

What’s the point of pennies?

So I’m starting to wonder if there’s any point in penny coins these days. Back in 2013, we talked about Canada doing away with its small change and asked you if the UK should follow suit. Of the 417 people who voted, 55% said no, 28% said yes and to include 2p coins, too, and 17% said they’d be happy to do away with 1p coins.

Should we get rid of the 1p piece?

Yes - and 2p coins with them (50%, 759 Votes)

No - I like copper coins (34%, 516 Votes)

Yes - we don't need 1p coins (15%, 232 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,507

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I wonder if this still stands – would you like to say goodbye to the penny coin or do you spend your pennies? What else do you do with all your loose change?


When I return home from a trip out on my electric scooter (unfortunately in 2002 I suffered from a stroke which rather put the kybosh on walking along with the other disabilities that it caused) any small change that I might have in my pockets (coppers & even 5p coins) goes into recycled plastic sweet jars until there is sufficient to form a sizable donation for ‘Headway’ [the brain injury association]. 20p coins & above I save for myself (5 x 20p = £1.00).

I save 1p, 2p and 5p coins in a charity collecting box and I usually get around £20 every 9 months or so. It may not be a lot, but as I have been doing this for several years, the money donated soon adds up.

Mary B says:
17 February 2018

I think if we lose the penny and twopence pieces any price increases will rise by 5p. Think of it in terms of petrol prices.

Donald says:
17 February 2018

Before the euro, we remember in France that items were priced in single centimes but at the till everything was (or seemed to be) rounded down to the nearest 5c – a bit like Pickard’s message about Hungary. I see no problem with that – except that 5p coins are even worse than 1p and 2p coins!
On the other hand, as a trustee of a small local charity that has a collecting tin in local shops, the 1p, 2p and 5p coins that people put in the can mount up, and my wife enjoys counting them and thinking of how much benefit they bring us.
So let’s just keep them

We save every 1p 2p and 5p coins from January to December each year, then we throw them all into the coin machine at our local supermarket which takes 10 percent for charity and we are left with about £15 to spend on Christmas. It all helps.

getting rid of copper coins will just mean that supper markets ect, will just round up cost off food ect for there benefit and we will lose out again.

Ian Andrews says:
18 February 2018

If copper coins are cheaper to produce than “silver” ones why not do away with 1p and 2p coins and make the 5p and 10p coins from copper instead.

Most of the ‘copper’ coins in circulation are actually steel with a copper coating. The older ones contained more copper. A magnet will distinguish old from new.

Only last week, I was surprised to find a 1p piece stuck to the magnetic clasp of my phone case as I didn’t realise coins were now made of magnetic materials.

They have been with us for a few years now: http://www.royalmintmuseum.org.uk/FAQRetrieve.aspx?ID=49896 It caused mayhem parking meters etc. when the steel 10p coins were introduced.

Correct. The change to a steel slug happened in 1982 or so. I keep pre-1982 1p and 2p pieces because the copper alloy makes good compression washers! (Much cheaper than buying them and yes – I know it’s ‘defacing coin of the realm’ but I don’t give a !?!?!!!). As for the others – I give them to charity or make up to multiples of 5p when making small cash purchases. Since nearly everything is rounded to the nearest (or up to the nearest) 5p, I seldom see coppers in my change. Otherwise it’s those annoying things that coat £4.99 or similar paid for in cash that attract the odd penny change. [The reason this came about is partly so the item appeared to be £1 cheaper to the casual observer (but everyone has been savvy to this for ages) – but also when cash was the commonest form of payment, the cashier had to open the till to give the 1p change and thus register the purchase. The 1p reduction made it far more difficult for a dishonest cashier simply to pocket the customer’s fiver.]

Surprisingly, 1 and 2p pieces are only legal tender for amounts not exceeding 20p (source – https://www.royalmint.com/help/trm-faqs/legal-tender-amounts/) but they can be bagged up to any amount, in £1 multiples, for exchange in a bank.

Marks & Spencer started out well with their penny bazaars. The last time I visited Newcastle upon Tyne, this one was still in the Grainger Market:

I was intrigued by ‘Admission free’ and wondered if some shops used to charge.

I save them up and when the grandchildren come round they cannot wait to count them all up. It certainly helps with their maths.

Charities such as Gideons rely on 2p in their Mite phials. Some of my church members save their small change, pass it to me and then I pass it on to Gideons

I am sure we are all enjoying our Brexit Bonuses of rising prices and shrinking comodity sizes so why not give the retailers yet another reason to ratchet up rpices – do away with copper coins!

Carol Powell says:
20 February 2018

Keep the copper coins – they make a huge difference to charities! If you don’t want to carry them around, put them in a collection box. Please!