The Correct Change

The California Muni Bus system recently raised their one way fare from $1.5 to $2, as they desperately try to pay for another mismanaged government agency. When the fare was $1.5, sometimes you had to just eat the 50 cents change you were owed because you only had two dollar bills. Fine, your fault, no big deal. But is this the right type of thinking for those who are really looking to save money? After all, $2 is 33% more than $1.5. Would you be ok with paying $200 for that jacket if it was only $150, because the store has no change? Heck no. Government transportation systems around the world rely on this type of consumer laziness to pad their profits and make more than they normally would. Retailers who sell gift cards, either count on the consumer to lose the gift card, forget they even have it, or let the usage date expire to reaping in millions of dollars each year.

As I was on my way way home from work this afternoon, a woman told the bus driver after he started moving that she didn't have correct change and only had a $20! He muttered something under his breath and told her to go ask fellow passengers. Come on lady, how many of us bus riders are going to have one $10, one $5, and five $1s for your $20? We take the bus! Change for $5 bucks ok, but $20? So sorry. In the end, none of the 20+ passengers had any change, and she sheepishly put the $20 bucks through the feeder!

If we're taking the bus in the first place, we're generally more frugal than the average person, so why would we be so lazy as to not give correct change? The answer probably has to do with convenience. Convenience is definitely valuable, no doubt. However, I want to challenge the RB30RB40 readers on this type of thinking, because collectively, over our life times, not giving the correct change ads up. Laziness is what results in late charges, and over draft fees and robs us of our financial freedom. So much about personal finance is about making conscience decisions that allow us to prosper going forward.

When the lady got off the bus, the bus driver yelled, “Correct change appreciated as always unless you got a $20! Hold on!”

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About the Author: Sam began investing his own money ever since he first opened a Charles Schwab brokerage account online in 1995. Sam loved investing so much that he decided to make a career out of investing by spending the next 13 years after college on Wall Street. During this time, Sam received his MBA from UC Berkeley with a focus on finance and real estate. He also became Series 7 and Series 63 registered. In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 35 largely due to his investments that now generate over six figures a year in passive income. Sam now spends his time playing tennis, spending time with family, and writing online to help others achieve financial freedom.

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7 thoughts on “The Correct Change”

  1. RB @ RichBy30RetireBy40

    Hi Kim! Good to hear from you. Interesting how shops round up the price. Can you just ask for your change back? Maybe a good way is to just pay by credit card, so they charge you the exact cost?



  2. The same thing happens here in Singapore. Not completely sure as to whether or not it is legal! Also in Singapore shops round UP the price of the slip to the nearest 5c or 10c. Something else that is odd.

  3. Haha, I hear you guys. She felt really guilty though, because she had already gone five stops after asking everybody for change. So, in that sense, good morals to her!

  4. Fabulously Broke


    I would have hopped off the bus and gotten change, and THEN paid the $2 for the fare

    But to pay $20? Just because you don't want to wait another 5 – 15 minutes?


  5. Wowza, that is pretty darn lazy. I would have just hopped off at the next stop. But i guess if she spent time asking everyone, she probably felt guilty! hahaha.

  6. man that lady must feel like an idiot having to fork over a $20 esp since a cab ride probably would have been half that! Charlie

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