Pick Up What People Drop: Strange Ways to Make Money

An easy way to make a little extra money is to simply watch where you walk and pick up the things that people drop. You’d be surprised at how much money people drop, either by accident, because they can’t be bothered with it, or because they simply don’t know what they have. Here are some things to look for as you walk about town.

Cash: This one’s easy and obvious. People drop plenty of change. Some good places to look include parking lots, malls, drive-thru’s, and around cash registers. You’ll find everything from pennies to dollars. I’ve been lucky enough to find $20 bills twice.

Coupons: As people leave the grocery store, many simply drop the coupons that are printed out at the register. They can’t be bothered with them but if you can use them, they are free money. Any other sort of found coupon is also free money. If someone has left a coupon that they can’t use on top of a product display, you can pick it up and use it. More free money for you.

Gift cards: I frequently find dropped gift cards outside of stores and restaurants, particularly around the holidays. Most cards have phone numbers on the back that you can call to check the balance. Most cards I’ve found have had a few cents or dollars on them and I assume they were dropped because the holder used most of the money and didn’t want to bother using up the remaining thirty-two cents. But I don’t care. I’ll use whatever is left.

Betting slips: If you live in an area that has off-street betting parlors or racetracks, you can make some money if you’re willing to pick up discarded tickets and run them through the validation machines yourself. Sometimes people simply drop winning tickets by accident. Other times, people thought that their ticket was a loser and discarded it prematurely, but if there is an inquiry into a result, the loser could become a winner. Many more tickets will be losers than winners, but sometimes you get lucky.

Lottery tickets: Lottery tickets must be easy to lose. I see tons of them on the street every year. Some are scratch off tickets that are clearly losers. Other times, I find scratch off’s that haven’t been scratched or that have been scratched and are winners of low amounts like $5. I guess people can’t be bothered to claim the smaller amounts, or they dropped them by accident. I also find PowerBall and MegaMillions tickets. I always take them home and check the numbers. I haven’t found a winner yet, but maybe someday…

Caps/game pieces: I’ve found dropped Coke Rewards caps that I’ve taken home and entered into my account, thus getting me closer to free gift cards or merchandise. I’ve found dropped game pieces for free food at fast food restaurants, or pieces that I’ve been able to take home and use to complete my collection for a larger prize. Any time a company offers a game or promotion you might find some of the pieces lying on the ground. Don’t walk past them. Check to see if you can use them for free stuff.

Salable items: Sometimes you get really lucky and find something you can sell. Lost jewelry is a common find. (If I find jewelry I will take the time to try to find the owner by placing a classified ad listing where I found it and asking people to call and describe the item. If no one comes forward, I will sell the item.) I’ve found books in airports that I’ve been able to turn in at the local used book store for credit. After a baseball game, I went around and picked up all the free giveaway seat cushions that people left behind and sold them on eBay. I found a tool once that I had no idea what it did, but I was informed by a more knowledgeable gear-head that it was worth $200. I sold it to him for $100.

You probably won’t get rich picking up other people’s lost items, but anything you find is really free money. You didn’t have to do anything to get it except bend over. Just keep your eyes peeled and see what you can find.

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6 Responses to Pick Up What People Drop: Strange Ways to Make Money

  1. ND says:

    Nice Article.

    I started picking all sort of coin and paper bill since 2009, so far I collected $90. Regarding paper bill, one time I found $20, three times $5, two times $1.

    Same goes with coke cap. Using coke rewards, I collected One T-Shirt, $20 coupon, Two DVD and still counting.

    One time I found the abandon book, which I sold to Amazon.com for $3.

  2. Bridgette says:

    Recycling :) Good savings on bottles, cans, glass and especially scrap metal. Sides of highways and roads (i live in the desert and it’s common) People litter

  3. Oh Dear says:


  4. Ryan says:

    You don’t even know the amount of money I’ve found in the theatres.

    I work there, cleaning stuff they left behind from watching the movie.

    I may have picked up their trash, but I’ve also picked up 40 dollars once. And you can’t believe the amount of quarters you’d find.

  5. BRB says:

    If you ever take a cruise, hang out in the casino when the ship hits rough seas. There is usually a “gravity” quarter game where you drop your quarter through the gauntlet where it bounces downward and lands on a narrow ledge. If the sweeper arm hits it right, gravity will drop a bunch of quarters into the bin. During rough seas……got it?

  6. Joe Doakes says:

    Betting slips remain the property of the track even when they have been dropped or apparently discarded on the floors. Security is quick to stop anyone from picking up the slips.

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