Monday, February 26, 2007

Scrounging Money Around the House

For me frugality is a means to an extra principle payment on the loan we have for our vacant land where we plan to build a log home for our retirement. This mortgage has the higher interest rate of our two loans, and it's the property that means the most to us. So every nickel I scrape up is earmarked for that purpose. The extra principle payment is why I don't drive my car more than a couple times per week; why I keep the thermostat set at 64 during the day; why I'm selling our extra stuff on ebay, and looking for any possible way to cut expenses.

Recently, I discovered a bag of money just sitting in our home office. It contained not American greenbacks, but a large variety of foreign coins and bills we'd collected over our pre-mortgage years of vigorously decadent travel. I opened it up and sorted through the bills, some of which were for obsolete European currencies replaced by the euro. There were Australian dollars, Hong Kong dollars, Iranian rials, Estonian kroner, Finnish marks, Venezuelan Bolivars, New Zealand dollars, Russian rubles, Swedish kroner, British pounds, Irish pounds and Italian lira. I didn't even bother trying to sort the coins.

After sorting through the paper money, I called up my wonderful bank, USAA, and asked about depositing foreign currency in my account. They said they'd take everything but the Iranian rials and the expired European currencies: the lira, Irish pounds and Finnish marks. Best of all, they wouldn't charge me a currency conversion fee. Yet another reason why I love USAA! Running a few quick calculations on the exchange rates, I estimated that I'd just scrounged up around $250 towards next month's extra principle payment. That felt great! It may be a drop in the bucket, but it all adds up.

I was a little sorry to see the Estonian currency go. It's among the prettiest I came across in my travels. And also a little disappointed that we'd hung on to the old European currencies long enough for them to be worthless today. I have no ideas about how to cash in foreign coins. I'd probably do it if there was a somewhat easy way. In the meanwhile, the coins are fun for my nephew to play with, and they're nice mementos of our travels. We might see about selling the Iranian rials to some Persian acquaintances of ours who occasionally travel back to that wonderful country. We'll keep at least one 10,000 rial note as a souvenir. The rest would only be worth around $9 anyway.

At some point, I'll tell you about USAA and why you should definitely do business with them if you're eligible.

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