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CoinStar — Is It Worth It To Convert Your Spare Change?

Posted in Increasing Productivity and Simplifying Your Life, Technology by engtech on January 25, 2008

Lifehacks and Productivity

When I was a kid rolling up the spare change to take in the bank, I always wondered why there wasn’t a machine that would do it for you in bulk. Sorting coins mechanically isn’t rocket science; all you need is holes of different sizes. Now we’re in the 21st centuary. We might not have jetpacks but I see these CoinStar sorting machines in every supermarket I go to. According to their website they are free if you use them to buy prepaid gift certificates for sites like Amazon.com (US only) or there is a small service fee of 8.9% US or 9.8% CDN to get cash.

They say it can count coins at a rate of 600 coins per minute. It’ll definitely save you time (provided you’re going to the grocery store already). But is it still worth it with that service fee that us Canucks are stuck with? It’s pretty easy to figure out on the back of an envelope.

How Much Is Your Time Worth?

I’ve said before that one of the best ways to gauge productivity is to know the net value of your time.

  • If your net time is worth is $6/hour then the 9.8% fee is worth it if you roll less than $1 worth of coins a minute. (100 pennies, 20 nickels, 10 dimes, or 4 quarters a minute)
  • If your net time is worth is $12/hour then the 9.8% fee is worth it if you roll less than $2 worth of coins a minute. (200 pennies, 40 nickels or 20 dimes, or 8 quarters a minute)
  • If your net time is worth is $24/hour then the 9.8% fee is worth it if you roll less than $4 worth of coins a minute. (400 pennies, 80 nickels or 40 dimes, or 16 quarters a minute)

So using CoinStar with larger coins (quarters, loonies, twoonies — yeah, we have weird money up here) isn’t worth it at all. Even the nickels and dimes aren’t that good a deal. But the pennies? For sure. It’s a different story if you can use CoinStar to get gift certificates without the hefty service fee, but that isn’t an option in the Great White North.

The good news: your bank might already have a coin counter that is free for use of its members. Give them a call to find out.


Photo by superrabbit