The other day, I spent some time with my wife, doing one of the things I despise the most. Returning bottles and cans at the Kroger. Well, I don’t really mean returning, I mean crushing and destroying. Like most bottle return departments these days, Kroger’s is self-service. This results in a lot of bugs, sticky hands, jammed machines, and frustration levels going through the roof. I have always said it’s one of the worst-paying part-time jobs ever! However, as I was slogging my way through this thankless task, it reminded me of a time in my life when things weren’t as rosy as they are now.

As I detailed in my article Independence Day, I went through a pretty rough time after being laid off from my job of almost 26 years. After my severance pay and unemployment ran out, I had no money coming in at all. Thankfully, I have a wonderful wife, who supported me during that zero income period. What money I could scrounge up on my own, was usually from loose change and pop can returns. However, the flaw in that financial plan is that you have to have cash, in order to buy pop cans and thereby acquire loose change. A vicious cycle if ever I saw one. It’s really easy to feel sorry for yourself in that kind of situation. Or, you can get off your butt and do something about it.

Driving for Uber and Lyft got me out of the house, but it certainly didn’t do much to improve my financial situation. However, you can’t put a price on having a little jingle in your pocket. This became seed money for my loose change and pop cans income stream. You never appreciate having a steady income, until Friday ceases to be payday, and becomes just another day without money. I will never forget how that felt. Although, occasionally, I still lose sight of it. Usually, while pumping gas on a freezing morning, or when I’m stuck in traffic. However, all I have to do is return some pop cans or drop some loose change in a Coinstar machine, and I’m right back where I was, penniless. Now, I value every single penny I earn. I think if more people felt the same way, there would be a lot more gratitude and generosity in the world. But, that’s just my two cents.

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