When you see a penny glinting on the ground – do you stop and pick it up? I know – a penny doesn’t buy as much as it used to. Neither does a nickel or a dime. However, “found change” can really add up! Of course, some of you are probably thinking: “I’d be EMBARRASSED if someone saw me picking up money off the ground.” Or “Ew, pick up dirty coins off a dirty street? Who’d do THAT?!” The answer is: A lot of smart savers, that’s who!

According to MSN Money Central, picking up pennies is NOT a waste of time. A lot of people collect change in a jar all year – then use the money for something special. One couple mentioned in the article saved found money in a retirement fund. After five years, they had nearly $650 earning interest! People also donate found money to “penny drives” or charity jars. Others give themselves a special treat they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, like a night at the movies.

So, where are the best places to find lost money? Near parking meters, in vending machines, under fast-food drive-through windows, in parking lots, and near the doors at convenience stores and gas stations. Other places to check: Laundromats, self-service car washes, and the ball-crawl play area in family restaurants, like Chuck E. Cheese. The best place to find paper money: Around ATMs. That’s where you’ll also find the most lost cell phones and BlackBerries. Don’t consider those “electronic freebies.” Turn them into the bank – or see if the phone’s address book contains an “ICE contact” – In Case of Emergency.
Right now - I’d like to issue a “Dropped Coin Challenge.” Pick up any money you find – whether it’s a lone penny or a wad of dollar bills - and toss it in an empty jar. Every few months, count it up – and find something to do with it. Bottom line: even if it’s only $10 – that’s $10 more than you would’ve had otherwise.