October 8, 2008

Finding Money Where You Least Expect It

Since I was a little girl, I have been a money finder. I find pennies, other small change, the odd bill, and on a few notable occasions, several bills. I find money on sidewalks, on the floors of shops and restaurants, in hallways, snagged in bushes. Once my mother pulled up in front of the local Girls’ Club to drop me off for an after-school session and three one-dollar bills blew across the street practically under my feet. Another time I found a quarter while digging under an old tree behind our apartment. I found a Mercury dime in beautiful condition lying in the dust beside a parking meter. And I could go on and on. According to family legend, my paternal grandmother had the same knack.

Over the years I’ve become fairly certain, however, that this is not due to some genetic blessing. Actually, it mostly had to do with my being very shy as a child. People made me nervous, so I spent a lot of time looking at my feet. Consequently, I ended up seeing a lot of things that other people missed -- like spare change.

Most people don’t look down or notice their surroundings as they go from place to place. I saw a great 20/20 episode years ago where John Stossel dropped some wallets to see who would return them and who would keep them. (The wallets contained some money and some identification clearly showing an owner.) WalletTest.com tried a larger version of the experiment, dropping 100 wallets. In both cases, what got my attention was not who returned wallets and who didn’t, but the fact that most people did not even notice the wallets on the ground. The SciFi channel show Mind Control With Derren Brown ran a version where the wallet had a circle drawn around it with yellow chalk. Again, the most notable factor of the experiment was that even with a bright yellow circle around it, most people did not notice the wallet. One guy even stood on the wallet while waiting for a streetlight to change, yet didn’t notice it under his foot.

My point: be aware of what is around you. Look around, and look at the ground occasionally. If you see a penny, pick it up. While it’s not certain that you’ll have good luck all day, it is certain that 100 of those pennies make a dollar. I have an empty multivitamin bottle labeled “found money” that I keep by my front door. I’ve already had to empty it once into my savings account this year.

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