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Things You Used to Be Able to Buy With a Penny

I was fortunate to spend more time than usual chatting on the phone with my Dad for Father's Day last month. We should definitely spend more time talking, because he’s a great man that has taught me some of the most important financial lessons in life: budgeting, leveraging 0% interest credit cards and loans, and working with my spouse to find common goals and aspirations. Like most older gentlemen, he has also spent hours upon hours telling me about how things used to be. One of his stories popped in my mind during work today, while I closed a savings account that had one cent of unposted interest.
As I made a joke to my client about not spending all that new interest in one place, I remembered my dad telling me of all the things he used to be able to buy with a penny.“When I was your age,” he’d start out, “a shiny penny could buy bubble gum, hard candies, and licorice.” It wasn’t just candy, though. It was an experience. Kids could run to the neighborhood candy store where the counters would be lined with jars of delicious candy. As they salivated at the coming explosion of sugar in their mouths, they laid their hard-earned pennies on the counter and picked their pleasures. Carnivals and fairs were also favorites, where prizes from the penny games felt like jackpots from Vegas. They could try their chances at punch cards, tossing pennies into bottles or throwing darts. If people grew tired of the games, they could switch to a short Charlie Chaplin flick for another penny. When somebody really saved their pennies, five cents could buy tickets to a full-length, Saturday matinee - though it cost upwards of twenty-five cents for a normal showing. Whether they wanted to fill their bellies during the movie or some other time, five pennies also bought candy bars, ice cream bars, grab bags of candy, baseball cards with bubble gum, and many other treats like apples or sodas. While it’s true that my father has fond memories of the joy a penny used to bring him, he rarely factors in inflation and raises.
And though it seems impossible to buy something for a penny these days, penny stocks and penny slots have not only kept the dream alive, they also maintain the rush of winning something out of nearly nothing. What’s important to remember is that while a penny may not go as far as before, they can add up rather quickly. Take advantage of discounts and bonuses offered by credit cards and coupons. Know where you stand financially, and make sure to enjoy at least a few of the finer things in life How do you save and spend your pennies?
Photo credit: Shutterstock / Pete Spiro
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Logan Abbott's picture

Logan Abbott is a personal finance and credit card expert with over 5 years of experience writing about each topic. He is a graduate of the USC Marshall School of Business, and also contributes to other online finance publications. He has been quoted in the New York Times, San Diego Union Tribune, TheStreet, and more.

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stacco's picture

when i was a kid, we put all our pennies and other coins in a huge one and half foot clear jar and that was how we saved up for a family trip to disneyland. i was too young to know how much money we saved when the coins filled up the jar but it was a fun goal for us kids.