It’s a bit paradoxical we still talk about buying something with “cold, hard cash” when most of the time we’re literally buying it by swiping plastic or waving around a device. And yet precisely because we’re no longer counting out coins for most purchases, many businesses are experiencing a shortage.
Just add it to the long list of things that have seen shortages due to wonky supply chains and shifting consumer habits. But as with most changes to our ecosystem, there are unintended consequences of this coin deficit.
Let’s find out more about what caused the coin shortage in the first place and how you can help—including boosting your own net worth with the coins that are likely rattling around your own house and car.
What caused the current coin shortage?
As with most of our “new normal” shifts, the coin shortage began during COVID when fewer people were using cash to make purchases. The flow was also affected by the fact that it was harder to obtain the raw materials needed to manufacture coins and there was less labor to distribute them.
Not having ample coins to give change for purchases hurts underserved and vulnerable populations who may prefer to use cash rather than electronic payments or lack sufficient credit to make charges. And it also creates a challenge for businesses that serve this population. Other groups that might be harmed by fewer people with cash are those who rely on tips and nonprofit workers who solicit cash donations at retail outlets.
The Federal Reserve took note and convened the U.S. Coin Task Force (TF) in July 2020 to address the issue, which improved circulation for a time. But recently many organizations have discovered coin circulation has once again slowed. Today, now that supply chains and labor deficits have largely rightsized, the issue is more that there aren’t enough coins in circulation rather than a true shortage.
What are some ways you can help alleviate the coin shortage?
In other words, most coins that are needed are out there—they’re just sitting in people’s homes and cars rather than being used to conduct commerce. It’s quite likely that includes you.
Why not go on a coin hunt? Many houses have a supply of coins languishing in a change cup—or maybe your house has a “swear jar,” where family members make a contribution when they slip up. There’s a good chance you’ll find even more languishing in your car’s cup holders, glove box or console; or in your house in the junk drawer, laundry room or under your couch cushions.
If you have kids, get them involved in the hunt. They might even have their own stash from gifts and chores or have been squirreling away loose change in their own piggy banks. Once you’ve amassed all you can find, play a game to guess how much you have and then let them practice their math skills by counting and organizing the coins.
What should you do with the coins you find?
Now is the fun part…spending your bounty. Coins might be heavier, louder and less convenient to use, but they spend just as well as any other money so it’s a shame to waste them. However, you don’t want to overwhelm workers or hold up the line by paying for merchandise in coins. Go ahead, take some and make a wish in a fountain and then convert the rest of your loose change to a more spendable medium.
You can let Valley count it at one of our machines, and within minutes it will be ready for you to spend, donate to charity or deposit into your savings account. Even better, do a little of all of it, using a popular money system called the “three jars method,” where you divide the sum by thirds to spend, donate and save.
It’s also a great way to introduce your kids to money management. They can help you pick the fun reward for the spending part or you can show them how you’re taking care of that week’s groceries if you prefer to allocate it to essentials. It’s also a great way for them to learn about how good it feels to give to others by letting them choose the charity they’d like to support. Then you can open a Valley Kid’s First Savings Club Account for the rest to demonstrate how easy it is to save.
Are you ready to #getcoinmoving?
That’s the social media tag the Federal Reserve developed for its social media campaign, and you can use it to share your involvement with your own followers and encourage them to do the same.
After all, there’s nothing like finding an unexpected stash of cash, and with Valley’s coin-counting service, it’s a cinch to spend.