What will we lose if we completely abandon small coins

The governments of many countries are thinking about completely withdrawing small coins from circulation, and somewhere they have already done it. However, getting rid of the change is not just about stopping the machines at the mint. It turns out that a trifle performs very important functions in society.

Australian Jack Sterling sighs heavily when he sees shoppers at the supermarket where he works reach for their wallets to scoop out change.

“I just love it when people decide to lighten their wallet by dumping a bunch of coins on the counter,” he says.

Sterling usually works on the express checkout line, where buyers who have 12 items or less go. “Speed ​​is very important in order not to accumulate more than three people in the queue,” he explains.

And buyers who carefully count their change can seriously slow down the process. As a supermarket worker, Jack prefers those who use contactless payment by simply touching a debit or credit card to the terminal.

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A study by the American National Association of Convenience Stores found that counting cents adds up to two and a half seconds to every transaction. It would seem not so much. But if you multiply this by millions of times a day, the impact on the pace of work becomes obvious.

However, coins may soon become a thing of the past – at least if the governments of different countries carry out their plans. Little things regularly encroach on the fate in different parts of the world.

The British Royal Mint, for example, said at the beginning of the year that the surplus of “metal” in the country was such that there was no need to mint new two-pound and two-penny coins in the next decade.

Canada stopped minting one-cent coins (often referred to here as pennies) in 2012, while Australia did so for one- and two-cent coins as early as 1992.

At the end of January 2020, the release of the smallest, one-cent coins in the Bahamas was stopped. From the end of the year, these coins will simply not be accepted at retail outlets.

In different countries they are trying to get rid of the so-called small change by stopping the minting of new coins, but the problem is that small change is part of our culture.

“I think the majority of the population in wealthy, industrialized countries is less and less tied to coins,” says Lisa Cook, an economist and former staff member of the Presidential administration of Barack Obama. and officials from other developed countries will gladly follow suit.”

However, it is not so easy to give up small things – for this it is not enough to stop the machines at the mint.

Even if some do not like to carry with them or accept a bunch of small coins as change, for others a trifle is the only salvation.

Philanthropists’ concerns

Among those who understand how much a world without coins can change are charities, which often rely on impulsive donations from citizens who easily part with trifles when they see a good goal.

“You inevitably start to worry when one of the mechanisms for raising money for charity disappears,” says Carl Wilding, head of Britain’s National Council of Volunteer Organizations.

A significant amount of donations is collected precisely through small coins dropped into jars of fundraisers for charity – at the cash desks of shops, in churches or on city streets.

For example, according to the UK Charitable Aid Fund (CAF), in 2019 more than half of all donations to UK charities were made in cash, mostly in small coins.

Another CAF study found that in 2018, £320 million ($414 million) of donations were received in the form of change.

Significant amounts of money are donated to charitable causes in the form of small change.

“There’s nothing easier than getting a few small coins out of your pocket and putting them in a fundraiser’s jar,” says CAF’s Susan Pinckney. “Cash is still the most common way to donate to charitable causes.”

This is what worries Felicity Spencer-Smith of the British Association of fundraisers (fundraisers). “Perhaps the consequences [of abandoning coins] will be deeper than we realize,” she says, emphasizing how important it is to educate children to donate to good causes.

During the pandemic, many stores were reluctant to accept cash, preferring to pay with bank cards

Without the habit of using small coins, the younger generation will lose the inclination to charity, the inclination to donate, Spencer-Smith fears.

Wilding agrees: “Many people get into the habit of giving when they are in school and have a little bit of little money. more”.

If this path to charity disappears, then financial assistance may dry up.

Homeless Anxiety

For many of those who are on the street, a trifle can be the only salvation. “I’ve been on both sides [of being homeless and donating coins],” says Phoenix Black. little things, because it looks like a trifle.”

The well-being, and sometimes even the lives of the most defenseless segments of the population, often depend on our willingness to sacrifice a mere trifle.

Black, in his late 30s, has been living on the streets in Massachusetts for more than a year and shares his experience of being homeless on YouTube and TikTokker.

Although small change is a trifle, it can be collected quite a lot with a certain persistence, he says, “as much as you need.”

The fewer small coins in circulation, the harder it will be for the homeless. “It’s already morally difficult for many to ask a stranger for help, it’s embarrassing, so usually it’s about the smallest amount,” emphasizes Black.

“It is clear that there will be consequences,” says Kimberley Scharf, professor of economics at the University of Birmingham (England). “When people, out of habit, reach into their pockets for change and find nothing there but a banknote, it is not certain that they will give it away.”

However, she hopes that things won’t be so bad.