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A Simple Life Hack: Sort Coins in your Car

If you're like me, you accumulate spare change. I don't get a whole lot of it, but it's enough to overwhelm the little coin-holder tray in my car a couple of times a year. Once it gets full enough that the coins slosh out onto the floor when I take a corner too hard, I know it's time to clean it out.

Mentally, I sort change into two categories: useful (quarters) and non-useful (dimes, nickels, and pennies). (Other pieces such as the half-dollar or dollar coins are sufficiently rare in my life that I usually just put them aside as a curiosity until they can be spent.) Quarters can be used at the laundromat, to pay the toll on toll roads, in vending machines, etc. The rest of it is pretty much useless to me. I usually don't have the time to count out a bunch of coins to pay for something. It's good to have a few nickels and dimes on hand for the odd stuff at the vending machine, but no more than that.

So I periodically go through and sort the quarters from the non-quarters. I happened upon a trick that makes this job very easy to do, even while driving. Your standard plastic drink bottle (I used a 1-liter water bottle; a soda bottle would work just as well, but you'd want to wash it out) has a mouth that is smaller than a quarter but will accommodate any other common U.S. coinage. My procedure is to set the empty (and well-dried-out) bottle between my legs while driving down the highway, and use my right hand (the left stays on the steering wheel) to grab small handfuls of change from the tray, and use my fingers to guide the coins into the mouth of the bottle. Since quarters don't fit, they are easy to sort and put into my special quarter space (inside the center console). The rest of the change lives in the bottle, which I usually keep under the front seat (with the lid on) until it's needed again. Occasionally I'll empty out the bottle and take the coins to my bank. Note: the coins don't come out the mouth of the bottle very easily, so I'd suggest that you simply cut open the bottom of the bottle.

When I'm driving, it's not like my brain doesn't have a little extra processing power that it could put towards something else, but such things are usually pretty unsafe (e.g. I refuse to read while driving, unlike some people I know). This task requires just one hand and does not require you to take your eyes off the road for any appreciable length of time. You can do the whole thing mostly by feel, and once you're done, your coins are sorted and your change tray is clean.

If you like to sort your coins for rolling, you could even take it a step further and use 3 separate bottles (still enough to fit between your legs or maybe squeezed in next to the seat) and use your fingers to feel the difference between the coins and put them into the correct bottle. Obviously this would go much more slowly (as each coin would need to be handled individually), but if you drive a lot, it shouldn't be too onerous.

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