10 Things You Can Do With Pennies

iStock
iStock

What's the use of a penny in today's economy? The U.S. government has been talking about doing away with the copper-plated coin for years, but so far, no progress has been made. Two big arguments against keeping the coin in production are time and cost. In 2016, the U.S. Mint spent 1.5 cents to produce each one, making the cost of every penny 50 percent higher than its actual value.

They also waste a lot of time. Citizens to Retire the U.S. Penny claims that handling pennies adds an average of two seconds to a cash transaction. According to a 2012 study by the Federal Reserve, there are 107 billion cash transactions per year in the United States.

To help you combat the penny problem, here are some strategies for spending them, plus ways to put them to creative use.

1. DEPOSIT THEM AT THE BANK.

coin wrappers
iStock

If you don't want your pennies, your bank will take them. Count them out, roll them in coin wrappers (ask your bank if they can give you some for free), and deposit them into your account. There are a few banks that will count coins for free and exchange them for bills so you can walk away with cold, hard cash. You can find participating institutions listed on Lifehacker and MyBankTracker.

2. TAKE THEM TO A COINSTAR MACHINE.

Coinstar machines are magical: You dump your jar of change into their depths and get cash in return. The major downside is that there's an 11.9 percent service fee. However, if you choose the eGift Card option, there's no fee. Options include Amazon, Starbucks, Sephora, iTunes, and Best Buy. Or, turn your coins into a tax-deductible donation to one of several charities. You can use Coinstar's website to find a machine near you.

3. MAKE A COLD COMPRESS.

If you don't have an ice pack in the freezer, try making one with the contents of your piggy bank. Throw some coppers into an old sock, tie it, and freeze it. (A plastic bag works, too.)

4. CREATE DIY DRAPERY WEIGHTS.

If your curtains flare out and won't stay straight, use pennies as drapery weights. Open the stitching at the bottom of your drapes and slide a few pennies in, then sew it back up.

5. SEPARATE THEM INTO DENOMINATIONS BEFOREHAND TO MAKE SHOPPING EASY.

jar of pennies
iStock

Organize your pennies into groups of five or 10 and put them into small Ziploc bags to keep in your purse or backpack. Then you can combine them to pay for something that calls for, say, 15 cents in change. Or, if your total comes to an amount that's not a multiple of five or 10, breaking open a baggie is easier than scrounging around in your coin purse.

6. DECORATE YOUR FLOORS …

If you have lots of pennies, use them for floor tiling. If you're feeling especially ambitious, try a pattern. The internet is full of stunning examples of penny flooring.

7. … OR MAKE A PENNY TABLE.

Add a copper top to a plain table with this DIY guide.

8. USE TAKE A PENNY, LEAVE A PENNY JARS.

pennies
iStock

Take a penny, leave a penny trays are everywhere—but many people don't understand how they work. They're commonly seen at convenience stores or other small shops. Here's the rundown: Customers can take pennies from the bowl if they don't have change and don't want to break a bill. If you get pennies as part of your change for a transaction, you can get rid of them there, so they never even touch your wallet in the first place.

9. MAKE JEWELRY.

There are plenty of DIY penny jewelry ideas out there, including a bracelet, a lucky penny necklace, and a bejeweled ring. You can also make some hand-stamped bling like this pendant.

10. FUNNEL YOUR PENNIES INTO HOME DECOR.

There are endless ways to turn pennies into statement pieces for your pad. Paint them white to make this crafty vase, make them into coasters, decorate a mirror or a picture frame. Make some creative wall art, like this penny mosaic portrait of Abraham Lincoln, these block letters, or this ombré wall hanging. Or, find pennies from milestone years in your life and make a commemorative piece like this one.

You Can Now Order—and Donate—Girl Scout Cookies Online

It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts may have temporarily suspended both cookie booths and door-to-door sales to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be deprived of your annual supply of everyone’s favorite boxed baked goods. Instead, you can now order Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and all the other classic cookies online—or donate them to local charities.

When you enter your ZIP code on the “Girl Scouts Cookie Care” page, it’ll take you to a digital order form for the nearest Girl Scouts organization in your area. Then, simply choose your cookies—which cost $5 or $6 per box—and check out with your payment and shipping information. There’s a minimum of four boxes for each order, and shipping fees vary based on quantity.

Below the list of cookies is a “Donate Cookies” option, which doesn’t count toward your own order total and doesn’t cost any extra to ship. You get to choose how many boxes to donate, but the Girl Scouts decide which kinds of cookies to send and where exactly to send them (the charity, organization, or group of people benefiting from your donation is listed on the order form). There’s a pretty wide range of recipients, and some are specific to healthcare workers—especially in regions with particularly large coronavirus outbreaks. The Girl Scouts of Greater New York, for example, are sending donations to NYC Health + Hospitals, while the Girl Scouts of Western Washington have simply listed “COVID-19 Responders” as their recipients.

Taking their cookie business online isn’t the only way the Girl Scouts are adapting to the ‘stay home’ mandates happening across the country. They’ve also launched “Girl Scouts at Home,” a digital platform filled with self-guided activities so Girl Scouts can continue to learn skills and earn badges without venturing farther than their own backyard. Resources are categorized by grade level and include everything from mastering the basics of coding to building a life vest for a Corgi (though the video instructions for that haven’t been posted yet).

“For 108 years, Girl Scouts has been there in times of crisis and turmoil,” Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo said in a press release. “And today we are stepping forward with new initiatives to help girls, their families, and consumers connect, explore, find comfort, and take action.”

You can order cookies here, and explore “Girl Scouts at Home” here.

Can't Find Yeast? Grow Your Own at Home With a Sourdough Starter

Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images
Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images

Baking bread can relieve stress and it requires long stretches of time at home that many of us now have. But shoppers have been panic-buying some surprising items since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to pantry staples like rice and beans, yeast packets are suddenly hard to find in grocery stores. If you got the idea to make homemade bread at the same time as everyone on your Instagram feed, don't let the yeast shortage stop you. As long as you have flour, water, and time, you can grow your own yeast at home.

While many bread recipes call for either instant yeast or dry active yeast, sourdough bread can be made with ingredients you hopefully already have on hand. The key to sourdough's unique, tangy taste lies in its "wild" yeast. Yeast is a single-celled type of fungus that's abundant in nature—it's so abundant, it's floating around your home right now.

To cultivate wild yeast, you need to make a sourdough starter. This can be done by combining one cup of flour (like whole grain, all-purpose, or a mixture of the two) with a half cup of cool water in a bowl made of nonreactive material (such as glass, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic). Cover it with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it sit in a fairly warm place (70°F to 75°F) for 24 hours.

Your starter must be fed with one cup of flour and a half cup of water every day for five days before it can be used in baking. Sourdough starter is a living thing, so you should notice is start to bubble and grow in size over time (it also makes a great low-maintenance pet if you're looking for company in quarantine). On the fifth day, you can use your starter to make dough for sourdough bread. Here's a recipe from King Arthur Flour that only calls for starter, flour, salt, and water.

If you just want to get the urge to bake out of your system, you can toss your starter once you're done with it. If you plan on making sourdough again, you can use the same starter indefinitely. Starters have been known to live in people's kitchens for decades. But to avoid using up all your flour, you can store yours in the fridge after the first five days and reduce feedings to once a week.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER