Ravings From The Bog

Small Change In The New Economy
September 19, 2008, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Economy, Family, Fun, Life, News, Society, Thoughts, UK, Weird & Wonderful, Work at Stressco | Tags: , , ,

Some smart-ass in work today super-glued a penny to the floor in one of the offices, and of course, i was one of the embarrassed victims who struggled to lift it off the floor! Roars of laughter all around! I always pick up change, I’m not ashamed to say – however, my daughter is usually mortified if she’s there!

In the present economic climate, the hard-pressed are counting their pennies. Teacher Kath Kelly found £117 in dropped cash on the streets of Bristol, during a year in which she lived off £1 a day. She shares her tips on spotting free money.

 Dick Whittington found that the streets of London were not paved with gold after all.

He and his pussycat had their eyes set a bit higher than one and two pence pieces, but Kath Kelly can vouch for the potential riches that millions of us step over every day.

In 12 months, she found £117 lying loose on the streets of Bristol, while living off £1 a day. So how does she fare in central London?

Surveying the busy Euston Road before starting, the 47-year-old teacher is not optimistic.

“Bristol streets are a bit grubbier, so money goes unnoticed, but these streets are cleanly swept. But people probably chuck their money around a bit more in London, so who knows.”

It’s perhaps the first time the streets of Kings Cross have been described as too clean, but the footpath is soon getting another sweep, this time from her eyes which discreetly skirt the paverment as she walks and talks.

“Bus stops are good, and places where people get out of taxis. They tend not to check their change too carefully, or they’re a bit drunk getting out of the taxi and just drop it when they get their things together. People do that, don’t they?

“Also places where people come and go a lot in the evening where they might not see very clearly, like outside cinemas.

“Supermarkets too – the pounds they put into machines for their trolleys, and don’t always put in the money carefully.”

She compares the technique to picking fruit – getting your “eye in” by imagining the colour and shape of what you’re looking for. It’s a method that’s brought her results in the past, but after 10 minutes on the streets of London, we haven’t found enough for a penny sweet.

The prospects improve when she reaches Euston railway station – “nice and grubby”, she says. Her radar begins to quiver and suddenly in mid-sentence she exclaims: “There’s a penny!”

Barely discernible between the feet of a man sitting at a bench is a single copper coin. Only £116.99 to go.

After waiting patiently for the man to leave, Ms Kelly cashes in, getting a few funny looks from those nearby.

“A lot of people would not consider a penny worth bending down for, but I wouldn’t pass up any coins.

“There’s a bit of shame attached to it. In a way it’s almost like begging or scavenging around the street, not considered the thing to do. But it’s changing. People are quite proud of getting a bargain nowadays.”

The £117 she amassed in Bristol came about quite by accident, she says, because her £1 a day regime meant she was no longer looking in shop windows. She gave her pavement pennies (and one £20 note) to charity, because she thought it cheating to supplement her strict budget.

She put herself through this 12-month ordeal to save up enough to get her brother a decent wedding present, which with her part-time salary of £10,000, she thought would otherwise not be possible.

Paying her £3,000 annual rent up front, she kept to her £365 budget for the year and was able to spend £1,300 on lifetime memberships of the National Trust for her brother and his wife, plus contribute to the cost of his wedding.

So how did she do it?

“Collecting all the bargains at the end of the day I would come out of the supermarket with an armful of shopping that only cost 50p – people looked me up and down as if I was a tramp.

“But that didn’t bother me. I did become quite shameless, walking into hairdressers asking if new stylists wanted hair to cut.”

Free buffets were another source of sustenance and she scoured notice boards, local newspapers and the internet for events, launches and gallery openings that could provide nibbles and sometimes even a glass of wine.

“My social life improved. I was out almost every night. My friends thought I would be sitting by the TV or in a library and it would be boring.”

She also walked or cycled 10 miles a day, bought clothes at jumble sales and managed without a mobile phone.

A pound a day is too strict a regime to be sustainable, she says – and impossible with dependents – but the experience has taught her a change in philosophy.

Months after the end of her mission, she still shops for bargains, no longer frequents coffee shops and has a smaller shoe collection.

And longer term, she believes people could spend less by sharing more of what they have, whether it’s a garden mower with neighbours or babysitting duties with other parents.

Pavement pennies won’t buy much, but they might make you value money differently.


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