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Voices of MainStreet: April Lee

Heavy Pennies

April 29, 2011

My mother used to keep a jar mostly full of pennies. It was a game to pull them all out to sift through them and count, and my mother made rolling change “fun.” (Well, I can’t say she particularly enjoyed it, but my sister and I had a decent time.) There was something exciting about seeing all of those pennies strewn about the floor and it seemed like we had so much. We were happy to count all the shiny and rusted pennies to see how much we money we had, but the older we got, the less excited we were about pennies. A penny is one cent - one measly cent! What am I supposed to do with that?, I would think to myself.

It wasn’t until I grew a few decades older that I truly understood the value of a penny. To this day, I keep all my change in a jar, or piggy bank, and roll it in labeled papers to take to the bank and deposit into my savings account. I like to wait until the end of the year so I can see just how much I saved. It’s important to feel the "weight" of money, and it’s a valuable lesson I feel we are losing with our frequent use of plastic credit cards.

Here's what I learned from my mother: The value of even one penny and what you do with it counts. It’s easy to spend so much money when we swipe our plastic; its value is condensed to the stroke of the card--a stroke of a card through a reader. It’s more convenient, sure, but it’s also detached. Imagine if you had to carry around all your pennies? Imagine if you had to carry the weight of all you spent or all you have saved? Wouldn’t that be an unforgettable lesson?

My parents were never “great” with money and I had my own hard lessons to learn, thanks to the tangled web of credit and marketing, but I do feel lucky that my parents taught me this little bit of wisdom because it’s the little bit that matters.

—April is a well-traveled young woman planting her roots in sunny Seattle, or well, just Seattle. Her writing covers whatever piques her interest and curiousity. Check out her blog here.

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