15 Surprisingly Valuable Uses for a Penny
Here's a quick fact for you: it costs more to make a penny than a penny is actually worth. The Government Accountability Office states that it costs 1.7 cents to make a one-cent penny. The reason is rising metal prices. This probably means the venerable penny will not be around for much longer, as it is a money pit for the mint. So, while it's still around, here are 15 valuable uses for your humble penny. (See also: 12 Smart Uses for Safety Pins)
1. Decorate Floors and Tables
If you have the time, and patience, pennies can be a decorative and highly durable surface for floors and tables. Do a quick Google search for "penny table top" or "penny flooring" and you'll see some quite ingenious and beautiful designs using the penny. Even better, it's a very affordable option for covering your old tables or floors. All you really need is a huge amount of pennies, some epoxy, and a way to seal the finished surface. And if you're budgeting this in your head, it takes about $3 of pennies per square foot. That's cheaper than most tiles or wooden floors.
2. Check Your Tire Tread Depth
Tire tread depth is important. Worn tires are unsafe, especially in winter conditions or heavy rain, and you should monitor it often. New tires are usually between 10/32" and 11/32," and depending on the type of tire you have, and the kind of driving you do, this can wear down quickly. To check the depth with a penny, turn it so that Lincoln's head is pointing down. If the top of his head is covered by tread, you're in good shape. If all of his head is visible, get the tires checked. It's probably time for a new set.
3. Turn the Screws
Often, we'll find ourselves in situations that require a screwdriver. And we might not always have one on hand. In these situations, a penny can come in handy. Of course, it's not exactly ideal (it will only work on slot-head screws), but a penny can be used to turn that screw and get you out of a jam. You can also use pennies to pry open containers.
4. Make a Cold Pack
Every home should have a cold pack in the freezer. They are a very effective way to reduce the swelling on an injury, but they can be expensive. However, you can make your own with just an old sock or cotton sack, and a whole bunch of pennies. Pour them into the sock, tie it up, and pop it in the freezer. The pennies will form around the leg or arm, and they stay cold for a long time.
5. Keep Cut Flowers Fresh for Longer
There are several tricks out there for prolonging the life of your flowers. According to florists, all it takes is a copper penny (dated before 1982) and a cube of sugar. Add both to the vase and fill it with water, then add your cut flowers. The copper from the penny acts as a natural fungicide, which helps keep your flowers free from yeasts and bacteria.
6. Use as Spacers When Laying Tile
As Alton Brown often says, you should try not to buy items that have only one use. Bags of plastic tile spacers are available at every hardware store, but they have just one use. Instead of wasting your money on them, use pennies instead. They give you the width you're looking for, and you can clean them off and use them again, or cash them in.
7. Pay With a Vengeance
Some people say this one is a little petty, but hey, depending on the circumstance it can be a great way to make a statement. If you get a bill that you think was undeserved, or just owe money to someone that you believe deserves to be taught a lesson, pay it back in pennies. They are legal tender, but it can become a nightmare to count them. Just think, even $10 is 1,000 pennies. You may get told you cannot pay in pennies, but this is not the case. Money is money. This is not a check; it's hard currency.
8. Save a Glass of Wine
It's happened to all of us who partake in a glass of wine now and then. You go to sip your delicious glass of merlot or claret, and boom; you're hit with the smell of rotten eggs. This is because volatile sulfur compounds (mercaptans and thiols) form when the chemicals in the wine react with oxygen. Fortunately, the wine can be saved by a clean copper penny; just make sure it is dated 1982 or earlier (anything after this date is made mostly of zinc). Pop the penny in your glass of wine and give it a stir. The sulfur in the wine will bond with the copper in the penny, creating copper sulfide (which has no smell). Problem solved, wine saved, party on.
9. Make Your Own Washers
If you need a washer, and fast, you can use a penny. Simply secure it in a vice, or clamp it down with woodworking clamps, and drill the appropriate-sized hole in the center. And as you're drilling, think about this: Similar-sized washers cost between 10-15 cents at the hardware store. By using a penny, you are saving 90% on the price of a washer.
10. Create Tap Shoes for Kids
Okay, so they won't be good for actual competitions or professional dance lessons. But, if you want to let the kids experiment with tap dance, you can improvise some pretty cool tap shoes using pennies. Just find an old pair of shoes or sneakers that are not being used. Find some good, industrial-strength glue, and affix three to five pennies on the front part of the sole, and two to four on the back. Let the glue dry, and you have a pair of tap shoes that sound great on hard surfaces.
11. Give Your Birdhouse a New Roof
Birdhouses are great, but most of the time the weather takes its toll on them. The roof, in particular, bears the brunt of the wind, rain, hail, sun, and snow. With about $5 worth of pennies, you can create a new roof that is not only great against the elements, but also looks just like an old tiled roof. Here's a great example of a birdhouse that was given a penny makeover.
12. Add Weight to Curtains
If your curtains are a little lightweight, and don't hang as straight as you'd like, pennies can come to the rescue. Simply make an opening in the hem, and slide pennies into the cavity, at even spaces along the width of the curtain. Use as many as you need to weigh the fabric down without it being cumbersome. Then, simply sew the hem shut.
13. Make Buttons
Pennies can become very cool buttons for coats, jackets, and bags. First, decide if you want the pennies to look worn and dated, or shiny and new. You can get brand new pennies from banks, or shine your own by popping them in a bowl filled with vinegar and a little salt. When you have the pennies ready, drill two small holes side-by-side in the center. Now, sew them onto your garment.
14. Stabilize Wobbly Chairs and Tables
Most of us fix a wobbly table or chair by folding up a piece of paper several times, and jamming it under the short leg. It's a fix, but not a very good one. And sooner or later, the paper will come out. Instead, glue pennies to the bottom of the offending leg. Place pennies in the gap until the table or chair is stabilized, then remove them, glue them together, and let them dry. Then, glue your penny wad to the base of the leg. If you're worried about scratching the floor, glue a small piece of felt to the bottom penny.
15. Create Amazing Art
If you have some artistic ability, pennies can be transformed into incredible works of art. As this site here demonstrates, you can make a portrait of Lincoln using a variety of pennies that have different levels of shine. But you can take it even further, and create any kind of image or portrait.
What are some other creative uses for pennies? Share with us in the comments!
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