As I was walking out of Dairy Queen the other day I heard someone behind me say, “There’s a penny on the ground for you.” She was an older lady and probably grew up around the depression or World War II era. Now, I admit, the first thought that went through my head was what on earth is a penny worth anymore? But I didn’t want to sound like a jerk by shrugging off her wealth tip, and plus I like free money no matter what denomination it comes in.
So I picked up the penny and walked to my car. As I backed out, I saw the lady open the door to her jet black BMW and hand the sundaes to her husband in the passenger seat. Now I have no idea about that couple’s total financial picture, but I can put two and two together. Why was it that an older lady driving a BMW would be so concerned with a penny on the ground? It would take six million pennies to buy the beamer she was driving and six hundred just to buy the ice cream they were eating – what good is ONE penny?
The truth is, one penny isn’t worth much at all. It can’t even buy a piece of gum and the cost to make a penny is more than it is actually worth.
A Penny Won’t Make You Rich, Or Will It?
I didn’t feel any richer that day with an extra penny in my pocket, but I saw something I hope I never forget. Your attitude towards money today will have an effect on how you’re able to use money in the future. I really can’t say for sure that the older couple in the BMW was in a good financial situation, but it’s a lot different than many current (and soon to be) retirees, so they probably know a thing or two about managing money.
I’ll also make it a point to say that a car isn’t a measure of someone’s true wealth. The lesson I learned wasn’t that saving pennies would allow you to drive a BMW at retirement. It was that your attitude towards money today will have an effect on how you’re able to use money in the future.
My Two Cents
1. Watch your inflow and outflow carefully.
I like to think that there are two parts to your income and expenses – big-ticket items and small ticket items. The big-ticket things probably aren’t changing anytime soon once you make a budget. These are your paychecks, mortgage payment, car payments, etc. The smaller ticket items can be adjusted quickly and include: entertainment budgets, eating out fund, side hustle income, etc.
The big-ticket items are usually on autopilot. The smaller items usually involve a choice. Guess which one usually causes budgets to be squeezed each month? For us, it’s sometimes easy to ignore the small $3 spent at Walgreens or occasional $7 spent at WalMart, but those small things can add up to triple digits quickly! The same is true for income. We’ve found that with bonus checks or side income, the best way to do is to earmark the money for a specific expense or debt. If we overlook it and throw it into the checking account, it slowly becomes absorbed by other expenses.
2. Don’t get tired of being thankful for the small things.
We live in a society that’s focused on upgrades, would you agree? It’s become normal to upgrade to bigger and better things when you make more money. The problem that can come from this mentality is that we can forget about the small things – and I’m not just talking about ignoring a penny on the ground. How many things do we take for granted each day while looking for ways to upgrade to something better? I’m guilty of it and I’m sure you could think back to a time when you weren’t practicing contentment.
It’s challenging, but I think it’s the key to growing your net worth. Watching your inflow and outflow while reminding yourself to be content with what you have is fundamental if you want to grow your wealth.
Do you still pick up pennies? Do you think that your attitude towards the small things (like pennies on the ground) will affect your attitude in spending in the big things? Meet us in the comments!