What do USAnians spend their change on?

Just came back from two great weeks in the US visiting the in-laws. A week in Tampa, FL and a week in NYC.

Naturally in both I spent a large sum of money (and due to some anti-fraud thing, my bank barred me from using my card at the merchant so I was using ATMs a lot), and ended up with a pocket weighed down with a fistful of loose change.

In the UK most of this is readily spendable on cheap things like snacks or you can put down the silver as part of the bill or tip in a restaurant. But whenever I tried to do this in the US, all the nearby Americans were horrified and were astounded I’d even think of attempting to pay in any coinage.

The only thing they said they use their money on is keeping the quarters for launderettes in NYC, but otherwise it seems to be entirely useless. Do people just save it up and take it to those counting machines?

Also, paper $1 bills are bloody annoying. Get some satisfying, solid coinage already!

I spend mine on my cash purchases along with my paper money. Merchants may frown on paying with change, but as long as it’s legal tender all they can do is complain about.

Now I wouldn’t pay only with pennies, but quarters, dimes, nickels and the odd penny or two is just fine, in fact many of the merchants I go to appreciate getting change since most people pay with bills that require them to provide change.

If I have a pocketful of change I always ask if they need quarters and invariably they do need them, so everyone is happy.

Moderator Action

While it is possible that someone could find a cite about exactly how folks in the U.S. spend this kind of money, this question is much better suited to IMHO where folks can post their opinions and experiences.

Moving thread from General Questions to In My Humble Opinion.

All change I get goes into one of the cup holders in the car. Then it gets spent on tolls (although not currently, since there are no toll roads around here) or on drive-thru fast food when I do that - when they say “It’s $6.43, sir” you hand them a $10 bill and 43 cents in change.

If I was still working “for the man” and not at home, I’d probably spend the change in vending machines at work, too.

Yeah, when I get change (I usually use my debit card), I’ll pay with it when buying small items, along with bills. Get a sandwich and it’s $5.19? Pay with $5 in bills and either 19 cents, twenty cents (if I have no pennies), or a quarter.

I wouldn’t pay in change over a dollar’s worth. If I have too much change (like a coffee mug’s worth at home), I occasionally stop by the bank and get it converted into cash.

(Or I’ll drop it into one of those “donate to this worthy cause” change containers in stores.)

I generally wind up with more change than I can readily use*, but there are plenty of businesses, vending machines etc. that are happy to take coins.

The OP seems to be committing the tourist error of mistaking the beliefs of a small selected group of New Yorkers for the attitude of a nation.

*it’s so much easier to carry around paper bills.

Remember when gas stations had free air? Some of them still may (may still?), but that’s what quarters are now handy for.

I live just a few hours north of Tampa and I’ve never encountered horror or astonishment over the idea of paying for something with change. At the top end, maybe exasperation trending towards annoyance if the person using change is significantly increasing the *length *of the transaction.

Me, I have two change jars at home: one for quarters and one for everything else. I’ve easily got over two hundred bucks between the two jars, and I keep saying, “OK, I’m going to use that when I buy x or go to y,” but I never do. Bank won’t even charge me for depositing it when it’s time to cash it all in.

I’ve also got a nice cache of change in my car for vacuums/tires at the gas station and the occasional meter feeding. Probably six or seven bucks in assorted silver.

Paying with exact change, although the trick here is to be lightning fast so as not to cause delays for those in line behind you

Parking meters

Laundry (our apt building laundry facilities are still coin operated and I don’t think this is too unusual even though many buildings are moving to card systems)

Snack vending machines at work or school, at travel rest stops, um, wherever else one buys snacks from vending machines

We do have a coin jar at home, and gradually fill that up and then take it to the bank, usually before a vacation - we might end up with fifty bucks we put toward a special night out or something like that.

Sometimes if I am out and realize my purse is extra heavy due to a build up of change, I will stand at the machine for a few minutes and throw it on my Metrocard (not when others are waiting to use the machine, though) -this is kind of an OCD way to spend one’s time (and spend one’s change) so I think most other folks would roll their eyes at this one

Machines take quarters. Dimes and nickles go to merchants, who otherwise would essentially have to purchase them from their bank. They like them. Pennies are disposed of as part of the transaction - if you charge me 12.43, I’ll give you a twenty and three pennies. Yes, this slows down the transaction. Memo: try rounding the bill and this problem will go away.

Personally I’d be happy if the one dollar bill and the penny were discontinued. Over the longer haul, I’d rather work with units divisible by ten than units divisible by five. So in 2030, I’d move the decimal and replace the US dollar with the US buckaroo. 10US$=1USBk. Pennies would have modest value and there we be no quarters, only 20 and 50 US pence pieces.

We use change for vending machines.

And we use it to pay the exact price on items. Like Ferret Herder’s example, if a sandwich costs $5.19, we’ll pay with a five dollar bill and nineteen cents in change. Or we’ll pay with a ten dollar bill and nineteen cents in change and get a five dollar bill back.

There’s resistance to switching over to dollar coins because while they may be more durable, they’re also bulkier. Most people don’t like having a bunch of change in their pocket, so they prefer to carry paper money as much as possible.

Because change comes in small denominations, it’s perceived as being less money even if you add it up to the same amount. A five dollar tip in paper currency looks normal; the same five dollars in change looks cheap. Plus there’s the inconvenience of giving the server a handful of coins instead of a single bill.

Another common use for coins is to simply ignore their monetary value and use them as convenient pieces of metal. We flip coins, we play games with them, we stack them when we’re bored, we make art out of them, we jangle them together to make noise, we do magic tricks with them, we use them as screwdrivers, we scratch lottery cards with them, we ill-advisedly replace electric fuses with them, etc.

Our change tends to go into one of several bowls in the house, and when enough has accumulated, I take it to my credit union. They have a machine that counts it and I get a receipt that I generally just deposit in savings.

But sometimes, I’ll just count them out to pay for items. I’ve also given a handful of quarters as a tip to the delivery guy with an apology when I don’t have folding money, but they’ve said “It all spends the same.” And sometimes, I’ll drop a handful into the bucket of a charity if I support their work. Change never goes to waste with me.

“Legal tender” does not mean that. Merchants can refuse to take your coins.

I loathe change and am comforted by the belief that if we can’t get rid of the silly penny, it’s unlikely we’ll get rid of the paper dollar.

Aside from keeping a bit in the car for parking meters, our change goes into a jar, growing until we finally get around to cashing it in. That day has kind of receded into the future, as the stash barely grows anymore–between quitting smoking (so there’s no daily odd-amount purchase) and debit cards, using cash is a rarity.

Mine goes in a bowl and once a year or so, Ill spend a lazy winter day rolling them all up. Then I deposit it.

I actually enjoy the process. But now I have a grand daughter, so piggy banks will get most of it.

I pay for very little by cash. I keep a bag of quarters in the trunk of my car for the times when I need them for parking meters or some such. I use up change by including it when I pay for gas at a gas station.

Quarters go into one cup, to be used for parking at my regular bar.
The rest go into another cup, eventually to be fed to the nice coin counting monster in the corner at my credit union.

I rarely carry change on my, except what I’ve gotten from stores or restaurants since the last time I was home.

I have specifically asked both real-life waiters and those smart folks at the SDMB: giving coins with a tip is fine. So if I’m tipping 20% on a $25 meal, I sometimes plunk a handful of coins down on top of the $5 bill.

What? You think having a pocket full of metal is less annoying than some compact pieces of paper?

I don’t get that at all. I would be happy if there were no coins.

I keep a few bucks in quarters in the car ashtray for parking meters and self serve car washes, but most of my change gets dumped in a large jar I take to the bank when it fills up for machine counting and cashing out or depositing (holds about $75 in change).