If you are a parent, think back to when you were teaching your child to count. Then fast forward a little to the time when you were teaching them about different countries and their language, culture and currency. If you don’t have children, you might have to think back to your own childhood and remember what you used to play with while learning these valuable lessons in mathematics and geography. If your family is like 77 out of 100 homes in the UK, you probably learnt about these topics while playing with foreign currency, whether that be coins or notes, dollars or euros or the long since forgotten franc or deutsche mark.
Most of us save up all year for our holidays. How much money to take with us is always a moot point. Where families are concerned, dad will invariably want to take more than mum. If you’re taking the extended family, granny will have her own little stash that miraculously appears from her purse every time she walks past a sweetshop with the grandkids although she claims she has no idea how to make a currency exchange.
Whoever you holiday with, saving up enough spending money is an important part of preparing for the break and you head off to the post office or bank, or book your currency online. Invariably, you then decide that most things should go on a card so that you don’t run out of cash. You don’t run out of cash. In fact, a significant proportion of it comes home with you. If you’ve had the foresight to keep it with you, small change goes into a pot at the airport where it can be used to give you a warm and fuzzy feeling and help out the less well off in the country you are waving goodbye to. But you keep the notes, because obviously you’ll change those back to pounds when you get home.
Except that you don’t. Most people don’t even manage to dump the coins at the airport. We walk round with foreign money in our wallets for a week or so to remind us of the holiday and with the intention of dropping in to change it back. Eventually we realise that we can’t really be bothered and the money goes in a drawer or a pot adapted for such purposes and the next time we dig it out, the children are playing with it as they learn about the culture of our long forgotten holiday destination.
The great British hoarder
And before you know it, British homes are collectively hoarding £3 billion pounds worth of foreign currency! The average family has over £100 left in cash when they get home. Two thirds of them put it away for next year. Obviously by next year it’s long forgotten and they start saving again for spending money for the same destination that will eventually join last years at the back of the drawer, and so it continues according to a study by Zopa.
So next time you’re planning a holiday, just have a root around at the back of that drawer, you know the one…