I have kids, so having cash to make a cash transaction at a store is pretty rare, but when I am able to throw down some paper money for something, I almost don't know what to do with the change in return. So I throw it in a jar and after a few years I take it to a bank or a coin exchange machine, get my $36-ish and the cycle starts all over again.
But like everything in 2020, COVID-19 is even having an impact on that.
Most businesses under the "no mask, no service" mandate will have a sign informing customers that a mask must be worn inside. However, you may have noticed another sign popping up referencing a coin shortage. I saw one over the weekend at Lowe's.
The coin shortage has spread nationwide, but why? It's not like it's toilet paper or anything, right?
The answer is pretty simple.
First, circulation of coins is down because businesses have either been closed during the pandemic or operating under restrictions that affect hours and capacity. In addition to that, some businesses are requesting card only transactions in an effort to reduce employees coming into contact with potentially dirty money (dirty in a COVID way, not the usual, inherently dirty way. Money is really dirty. Check it out.)
So less business, means less money being exchanged, means coins aren't circulating.
Coupled with circulation is the fact that the U.S. mint slowed their production of coins to limit the exposure for their employees.
Less coins being made means less coins to go around.
Depending on how low you got on toilet paper, the coin shortage isn't as dire or urgent. The effects are easily managed or even avoidable altogether.
First, you can eliminate coins from your transactions and pay with a credit or debit card. However, with card payments often comes fees in the form of interest for you or a transaction fee for the business. So if you're using cash, paying in exact change is always helpful for the business, if you have the coins.
Some businesses are even rounding up their prices or asking the customer to do so and donate to a charity to make the final total more manageable.
Do we even need change in 2020? A look at the comments on a post I made Wednesday afternoon on Facebook show that a lot of people believe the coin shortage is simply a plan by the government to push us to a "cashless society".
If that's the case, you'd think that they would've stopped making pennies years ago. It costs nearly two pennies to make one penny. The United States is losing millions of dollars a year to make pennies.
I went to Kendall Yards Wednesday afternoon and set up shop on a "Penny for your thoughts about pennies" stand to give people a penny simply to tell me what they thought of pennies. Few stopped and the ones that did seemed to reluctantly accept their $.01 prize. Though admittedly, this could've just been due to their disdain and apprehension of me and not the penny. It wasn't very scientific, but I was looking to unload some pennies.
There's been talk for decade about eliminating the penny, which isn't unheard of as Canada began phasing out their pennies in 2013 the U.S. eliminated the half-cent way back in 1857.
But I digress. It's not just a shortage of pennies. It's all coins. So one thing you can do to help businesses is take that jar full of coins you have sitting on your dresser or above your washer and dryer and take it to the bank to exchange for cash. You get yourself some useful money and the banks get more coins to distribute to businesses who might be running low.