The Change Panic

I have change counting phobia.

There I said it.

How old are you when you learn to count money again?  Six…seven?

Maybe I need to go back to elementary school? I'd probably still fit behind one of the desks...

I distinctly remember learning to count money in maybe first of second grade.  We had these little paper coins and dollars that we would use to practice with.  It frustrated me then, and I’m still frustrated now.

Don’t get it twisted, I know how to count money.  That’s not the issue.  The issue is the sheer panic I fall under while doing so.

Sometimes I wish I had one of these.

I went shopping the other day, and when it came time to pay, the change called for 67 cents.  Easy right?  Normally, but there were at least four impatient people behind me.  I started frantically searching through my wallet, muttering under my breath, “I swear I had a quarter in here somewhere.”  The sales girl, who was probably about seventeen, was chomping on her gum, staring at me in disbelief.  I pulled out some change, dropping multiple coins on the floor, and that’s when I really started to panic.  A nice southern gentleman behind me picked it up, handing it to me, and giving me an “I feel sorry for you” smile.  As I retrieved the coins, I immediately started counting, but I kept getting stuck from the pressure. “Ten, fifteen, twenty,” I mentally counted, “Wait was that twenty cents I just counted?  What did I just count?!”  I stared down at the coins in my hand, the hysteria blurring my vision, and started over.  Getting frustrated, I handed her my entire handful of change, and let out a deep sigh of relief that it was off my hands.  She looked at me like, “Are you crazy?” And proceeded to count it out for me, pushing the remaining change back over to me across the counter when she was done.  I weakly smiled, embarrassed that I’m a 29-year-old woman who has change counting panic.

I’ve got to be honest, I think I totally deserve a big fat “Who does that, like seriously who does that” label?

After all, I’ve earned it.

My only question is:  Am I alone in this?  Or do other people have the “change panic” too?

~The End.

Photos by, and pinterest.  

45 thoughts on “The Change Panic

  1. I get this every time I try and count change when there are people behind me. I think mostly because I feel as though they are willing me to be gone from the checkout line so they can get out faster.

  2. I have change panic in foreign countries when the coins are different sizes and denominations, and there could be an equivalent of a dollar coin, or a 2 dollar coin, etc. And I feel pressure to figure it out faster so the people behind me don’t start thinking “stupid american!” So I usually end up paying with paper money and have way too much change at the end of my journey.

  3. No, I don’t blame you about this because whenever I try to pay with cash and exact change everyone behind me huffs, the salesperson gets that annoyed look on their face, and I just want to scream at everyone to chill down and I just cost them a couple of seconds and maybe a full minute, but you still have time in your day to do everything.

  4. I get this way when I am in a drive thru setting and there are multiple cars behind me. I also get time panic, especially when I have to look at a traditional clock and not a digital one. I have been in stores where they separate cash from credit customers. Thanks for sharing and reminding us that we are not alone!

  5. No, you’re not alone. I get the panic too. I think mine stems from a failed attempt at counting out my change when I was about 7 years old. At the corner deli I went to pay for my own creamsicle and accidentally gave the guy the wrong change. He called me out so everyone could hear and I wanted to disappear into the ground. Never been the same since.

  6. Sometimes I get scared when I think the coins in my pocket are talking to each other. HEY YOU! I’ll shout, looking down into my pockets. I mean, what are they doing down there? What are they saying about me? Right?

    Wait, this isn’t my therapist’s web site…

  7. I do this all the time! I work in a clothing boutique, and often have to count out change for customers… They are always chatting with me while I’m trying to count and I get so nervous I’m going to count the change wrong. Especially when it’s a lot of change involving $10 or $20 bills. Gah!!

  8. Heyy, i LOVE LOVE LOVE ur blog and u because my dream in life IS to be a broadway star ( after i get outta highschool anyways) BUT can u please help me out and check out my blog? its ur suggestions would mean the world to me..
    thanks (:

  9. I love this blog, I am learning how to blog myself and i think you’ve got it. By the way, I do feel sorry for you, even though I know how count money (but my friends don’t) so i know where your coming from. If you could please take a look at my blog? it is your suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks 🙂

  10. Hey there. I’m new to blogging – because last week I had to make one class grade, partly as an academic experiment (I guess?) and partly for half my grade.

    So, my first time commenting. (And definitely not my last, haha)

    I definitely know what you mean about change panic. I actually experience a kind of reading panic myself, like in class when I’m asked to read something out loud to everyone else. Like, I know how to read obviously, but there’s something about everyone else watching and listening..I completely forget how to form words!

    Don’t worry, girl. You’re certainly not alone.

  11. Oh I have change panic for sure. Well, panic anytime when I’m holding up a line for whatever reason. But back to the change, I don’t think it’s just about the use of cards now, but I’m sure that makes it worse. I remember being little and at a fast food restaurant, and I was getting anxiety counting out change from my fanny pack. That’s where it all began…

  12. When I moved from Australia to america I totally got change panic….all the coins were different and I had no idea what was what. Why the 2 dollar coin is smaller than the 1 dollar coin still beats me….and the need to have a huuuuuge 50cent piece is also another enigma. One positive though….we don’t have pennies!

  13. Change panic is the perfect way to describe it, there is nothing worse than finding out that you are short or that you can’t remember how much you just counted and the other people in line (obviously annoyed) behind you just adds to the pressure.

  14. Great post! I can totally (perhaps sadly?) relate!

    The irony is that I used to work as a cashier when I was a teenager and had the same problem! The only difference was the expectation that I be flawless at counting cash, cuz you know it’s my job after all! 😀

    Now as a consumer when I go to pay, I remember those horrid days of having to count cash and change ALL day long! And I still have the same issues—I lose track of how many cents I am counting. The worse part too is that in the middle of counting my coins, I find a foreign coin in the lot which throws me off and I have to start all over again! 😉

  15. I have the same panic issue. Towards the end of the two weeks between paydays I’ll use my leftover change to pay for a soda at the gas station. The last time I did this I completely blacked out on how to count my change. I felt like I needed to qualify myself to the clerk so she didn’t think I was uable to complete the simple task of counting change. I was so embarrased when I left the gas station. I pride myself on being intelligent but after not being able to count out my change I felt anything but intelligent.

  16. Nothing humbles me quicker then counting out change. I work in retail and every time I get change, I have to count it out loud. I try to whisper it but I’m certain I still look a little crazy but at least everyone gets the right change.

  17. Ah, such a familiar feeling! Like I’ve suddenly lost my brains somehow. Next time instead of letting some else give you the ‘I feel your for you’ smile, give that smile to everyone else whose cranky behind you inline!

  18. Don’t feel bad…I think a lot of people get overwhelmed with anything that has to do with numbers and math in general. I used have a similar problem with money when I was younger, but my issue had (has, sometimes, even now) to do with knowing how much change a person needs back if they give me more money than needed. I got all nervous because I had to do the math in my head, without a calculator.

    Maybe it just has to do with feeling like you need to hurry because you know there are people waiting behind you? That can be pressuring…Anyway, I totally feel ya! 🙂

    P.S. If you find that I have “unfollowed” you, please don’t feel like I don’t want to read your blog anymore. The only reason why is because my inbox keeps getting flooded with your comments from other people (you’re too popular! 😉 ) and I’ve tried fixing my settings, but I’m still getting a whole lot of comment updates regardless. I thought that if I “unfollowed” that would fix it. I honestly love your blog and I linked it on my site (hope that’s ok!) so that I can keep updated that way.

  19. Oh my word I totally get change panic!!! It doesn’t help that I have a change purse that’s like fort knox to get into! I think your blog is fantastic…I found you through Freshly Pressed. Your very entertaining to read!

  20. I’ve never really thought about it bit I do hate counting change (usually because I don’t have much, and yet it still takes me forever to count) – I thank goodness for my bank card & avoid cash.

    Congrats on making it on Freshly Pressed, so glad to have found this place 🙂
    I’m off to read the rest of your posts now. Xx

  21. Ha ha! This is me every time I go to buy a coffee, postage stamp or even a newspaper, I count the coins over and over again to make sure that I have the correct money and then I worry about the cashier telling me I’m short 10 cents.

  22. Don’t worry! You are not alone! Im always in panic… Even though i can count properly when comes to change counting nd a lot of people standing behind me, i get tensed up and do sumthin stupid and get myself embarrassed….

  23. If I’m midway in a queue, but I’m determined to get rid of some change, I try to quickly assess the change in my purse, so that I’m ready for the till. However, when I get to the till, as soon as the cashier asks for money, I do the change panic. I’m a nervous person anyway, and when I get really nervous or anxious, my hand shakes as if I’m cold. Could my change panic be anymore obvious to people? Or do they simply think I’m cold?

  24. I have like, card panic. I keep fishing for my ‘points’ card which really just leads to people pointing their eyes at me in disbelief at how many cards I need to fish through to earn those measly points to finally get like, $5.00 off for a future purchase. 20 years from now.

    My change panic is so bad, I just collect jars and jars of it at home. I try to like, look all smooth with dollar bills (y’all) and even refuse to give homeless people such weighty scraps.

    I think I have a mayonnaise jar full of pennies still I think.

  25. I’m not alone! That’s great to know. I have that problem pretty much anytime I check out somewhere. I even get nervous counting out dollar bills. I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember. It really is a nerve racking experience.
    I loved this blog. 🙂

  26. I don’t tend to panic about the change but I do feel the need to give correct change anytime I can. I dont know why but I really always want to count out those coins and make sure they are right.

  27. Ha ha, I have a similar problem.. I wait at the checkout trying to add up my purchases in my head to work out how much money I need. Sometimes I get the calculations wrong, and don’t pull out enough money.. *sigh*


  28. I have change panic too! I couldn’t help but laugh when I read your post because I feel like this always happens to me. And I always have to double or triple count to be sure I have the right amount because the “panic” has set in which makes the people behind me in line love me more. 🙂

  29. I can totally relate! It is the worst when there is a line and it is something small like 12 cents. I laughed out loud reading your post because this just happened to me (again) today. Of course, it doesn’t help when there is only one cashier lane open!

  30. I’ve fallen victim many a time to “Change Panic”. I can recall a few instances when I had my change ready to pay for something, only to panic once I realized I was a few pennies short!

    But I think given how Western culture can be a lot of rush rush rush – it’s almost a given to feel that sort of panic as you’re counting change. It’s part of the reason why I very rarely carry cash with me – or if I have some I’ll just give a bill to get even more change! It’s a vicious cycle really…and I don’t want people shooting laser beams at the back of my head if I’m too slow counting…

    PS: I very much enjoyed your “Six Things I Don’t Understand Post” – it was very entertaining! Congrats on the Freshly Pressed!

  31. I would venture to guess that the change itself isn’t your problem. Everyone experiences a little twinge of anxiety when they’re standing in a line and it gets to be their turn. You feel pressured to get things done quickly.

    The pressure is something we put on ourselves, because we spend OUR time waiting thinking things like “I hope the cashier knows what he/she is doing.”, “Come on, hurry up, I have to be across town in 20 minutes.”, “Oh GOD, someone is paying by check! Who does that?”. So when we get in that position, to avoid being hypocritical, we put truckloads of pressure on ourselves to not be the annoying one who is holding everything up.

    It’s a psychological response to our own time-obsessed mussing while sitting in a line. I recommend trying to join the longest line you can find. This can help reduce the chances people will get in line behind you…

    Or you could make sure to always pay with paper bills, and make use of the change for savings. You’d be very surprised how quickly all those quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies add up. Just take them home, put them in a jar, and turn them into your bank once every month or two. They have a machine that does all the counting in like 5 seconds, so you won’t have that anxiety at the bank.

    Am I right in guessing you experience this sort of “panic” while doing other things as well? I know I do sometimes. I actually hate to use the “cash-back” feature of my debit card for this exact reason. It takes extra time, and makes me look like the old guy who can’t pick out a lottery ticket.

  32. You are definitely not the only one! Where I come from we only have coins of 5, 10 and 25 so it’s really easy. But I’ve moved to the UK 2years ago and you can imagine the sort of panic I get every time I need to pay. It’s terrible the amount of coins there is and I swear there’s some that I still haven’t used at all! But I’m starting to get in control.. just a tiny bit more!

  33. Great blog, i taut it was just me. I have to cash up each evening and i’m constantly rechecking and getting different totals then i get so confused. Its like i’ve forgotten how to add up or subtract. How do I fix this.

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