Where to Find Free Lost Change
Can Found Money Make You Rich?
Are you short on pocket money? Are you wondering where you can find some extra change?
Everyone has picked up a nickel they found under a bench or a dollar bill they found dropped in a restroom, right? Doesn't it make you just a little bit excited? Or do you just walk past that small change on the floor because it isn't worthwhile to bend down?
It Won't Make You Rich, But It Does Add Up!
Unless you happen across a substantial chunk of money with no identification attached, then no, found change probably won't make you rich. It can, however, add up over time. One year, I was able to find over $200 in just loose change found around parking lots and soda machines.
When I lived at home, finding change was a family sporting event. If you didn't call dibs on that found dime before someone else, then you were ten cents poorer. We all had little banks and cans designated just for money we found.
With more people using debit cards these days, change is becoming rare. However, there are still a lot of places where people use cash. And people who use cash are not always willing to retrieve any money they drop. If you take the time to look in some of these places, you will soon find money adding up.
My Found Money for This Year
Gutters and debris piles
Outdoors? Always Look Down
People are often so busy when they go shopping or when they run errands that they don't bother to glance down. But change can show up in all sorts of strange places.
When you take a walk, whether that is around the block for exercise, along a hiking trail, or just across the parking lot, remember to look down occasionally. Change can appear:
- In parking lots. The best parking lots are those belonging to stores and fast food restaurants, where people are so busy they just leave their dropped change on the ground.
- Sidewalks. If someone pulls their phone out of their pocket while walking, they might not notice any dislodged change.
- Gutters. It is a little gross sometimes, but loose change can wash down into gutters during hard rains. Keep an eye out for paper money, too.
- Around carwashes. For some reason, people who wash their cars are often in a hurry or in a bad mood. They don't want to retrieve lost quarters or whatever change fell out of the car when they shook the floor mats.
Never get caught off guard! Use these items to help you be ready to pick up money anywhere:
- Hand sanitizer or wipes
- Separate coin purse, pocket, bag or container on the go to keep found money from mixing with regular change
- Pair of disposable gloves (you might see a $50 bill in a gutter)
- Pair of shades if you don't want to be recognized digging money from the gutter
- Some handy quips for when people ask what you are doing
Find Money When You're Shopping
You can easily add a few cents to your "found fund" just by occasionally looking around when shopping. The most obvious place to find money is near the check-out aisles. However, you can find change just about anywhere in the store.
When people rummage in their pockets or purses, loose change has a habit of falling out. Usually it rolls. So look ahead of where you are walking because you may see change lying under shelf displays. You might have to get on hands and knees to get some of it.
Restrooms and Dressing Rooms
Also check restrooms and dressing rooms when you go in. A lot of people won't pick change up off of a bathroom floor. (I recommend carrying Germ-X and a sandwich bag if you are going to be a die-hard money hunter.)
Check the floors in areas where people are more likely to dig in their pockets or wallets to see if they have enough money to splurge on a little something special. These areas of the store include:
- Clothing department
- Shoe department
- Toy aisles
- Around music, games, and DVDs
- Snack aisles
- Near arcade games or similar machines in lobbies
The best places to look for money are also the places where people spend money. Vending machines are one of the top choices. Not only do people drop coins under these machines, they often forget to retrieve their change from the dispenser.
You will often find more money in soda and snack machines than you will near a machine designed for games. Someone in a hurry might walk off from their quarters after buying a candy bar.
If that person is trying to win a prize, though, they will probably keep using their change until it is gone. This doesn't mean you shouldn't check around these machines though. Sometimes people may not bother picking up any dropped coins that can't be used in the machine.
Another great place to find change is in the laundromat. Always check in the machines before using them. Someone may have left coins in the slot, or you may find a handful of change in the washer or dryer after the previous user is long gone.
Check the Cushions for Change
We all know that our own sofas and chairs tend to hoard our pocket change, right? Well, furniture in public places can yield a few nickels and dimes too.
Anytime a person sits down they risk losing something out of their pocket. Change has a magical way of burrowing under cushions very fast. You might be surprised at what you find if you take the time to run your hand under seating in:
- Bank or hotel lobbies
- Waiting rooms
Aim for seats that have both seat and back cushions. That crack where these two meet is a great hidey-hole for change. You will probably find stuff like pens, food, candy, and worthless paper scraps too. It is up to you whether or not you want to save these "treasures" as well.
Strange Places to Find Free Money
Although the places listed above are the obvious hot-spots for dropped money, you should never let your guard down. Here are some places that I have found money on more than one occasion:
- Storm drains. Bills can blow in there. Change gets dropped when people decide to play in the water after a rain.
- Tampon and condom machines in restrooms. I'm not sure if they just forgot their coins in the slots, or if they got embarrassed when someone walked in or knocked and abandoned their whole effort. Either way, I have found money stuck in those machines quite often.
- Dried up puddles. I guess some people are desperate for wishes and will toss coins into any standing water.
- Pools and lakes. There is always that guy that jumps in with his pockets full, I suppose.
- Secondhand items. Remember those cushions? I once bought a $5 dollar couch and found $11 worth of change in the cushions! If you buy secondhand items, always shake them out to see if they contain some lost change.
- Where richer-than-you people hang out. Some people are just so well-off they don't bother to stoop to pick up a few measly cents from the floor. Note this phenomenon in shopping malls around crowds that are pretending to be well-off.
- Toilets. Yes, I once saw a dollar bill in a public toilet. And no, I didn't get it.
You will pretty much find money wherever there are humans. Some places will be more likely to produce money, but if you are really interested in finding some free dollars, you will make it a habit to be vigilant no matter how unlikely the area is.
Even More Places to Find Free Money
Check out these additional places to look for change. (You may even find a bill or two!)
- Drive through lanes
- Pay phones
- Pages of used books
- Under restaurant tables
- Between cushions in dining booths
- Near change machines
- Gas stations with slot machines
- Swim beaches
- Outside of casinos (most people are in it for the big cash and may discard or disregard small bills and change.)
- Places where people have partied or had events (reunion spots, 4th of July picnic areas, festival grounds, etc.)
Money That You Shouldn't Pocket
Picking up free money should have it's own code of ethics. There is some money that you should absolutely not take.
- Tips lying on tables
- Money from donation cups
- Money from fountains or other public structures.
- Money dropped by someone standing near. (always return money to the person who dropped it if they are there.
- Money that children have laid down while they look at something. (I've seen this. It is just mean!)
- Money in a wallet or purse with identification.
- A large amount of money.
- Suspicious money. You know...the briefcase full of stacks of thousand dollar bills we see in movies? In real life, that might not be such a great find.
It can be very hard to determine when money with no identification should be returned. Although it is most ethical to return large sums, sometimes you do wonder whether or not stores or business make any effort to see that it gets back to it's rightful owner.
Use your best judgement here, but if it seems like a LOT of money, you might try the police station rather than handing it over to a cashier or clerk. If you find larger bills that are lost out and about, you just have to go with your instincts. Once, someone I knew found a $10 bill stuck in her fence after a storm. How would you even begin to find the real owner?
Save Your Money for That Rainy Day
Finding and saving found money can be fun. It can also be really tempting to spend it once it starts adding up to $10 and beyond.
Look at found money for what it is, FREE money. You didn't work for it and it isn't in your budget. Therefore, there is no need to spend it. You are used to living without it, right? Naturally, you can pull it out in the case of an emergency, but hopefully that will never happen.
Make saving found money a challenging adventure. Designate a special container just for found money, no matter how mediocre your findings. Let it add up.
When it reaches a goal amount, $10, $20, or even $100...take it to the bank and open a high yield savings account. Once you get enough, roll the money into a CD or invest it to make it earn a little extra. Or you can just leave it in the account and add more free money every time your coin jar gets full.
You don't necessarily have to leave it in there for the rest of your life. You can always aim for certain amount to purchase a much needed or wanted item. You can even use spare change to pay off a small debt.
The best thing you can do is to keep tossing that change into a container and forgetting it. If you spend a lot of time keeping up with how much you have, you are going to get pretty depressed, especially when the money-hunting is slow. Forgotten money tends to multiply faster than counted money, and is less likely to be spent on a whim.
Don't let a great opportunity to earn an extra few dollars a year pass you by. Pick up those pennies and nickels. Dig out that crumpled dollar from the gutter. Any money is good money, and you might as well put it to some good use!
Make It a Game
Encourage children to (safely) accumulate money they find, too.
- Decorate a separate container or bank for found money and make a contest to see who can fill their's up faster. (no spending!)
- Pool all found money for one big family treat, such as a day-trip.
- Have each child choose a charity and help them save and donate their found money once their bank is filled.