The Demise Of The Penny: A Catalyst For Change?

February 4, 2013 was a day that changed the lives of Canadians forever. No, Tim Horton’s didn’t stop serving coffee (thank God). We didn’t change our national sport to curling. Ryan Gosling didn’t (officially) become President Of The Universe.

No. It was much more drastic than that. On February 4, 2013, the Royal Canadian Mint stopped producing pennies.


Yes, like old age security, military spending and that CBC show Little Mosque on the Prairie, the penny became yet another piece of collateral damage in Canada’s tightening fiscal policy.

Although I knew this day was coming (the announcement that the penny would be phased out came in mid- 2012), I couldn’t help but feel a bit sentimental. It seemed like the end of an era. Pennies had been a fixture in my life since childhood: I dove for them in swimming pools, landed them on the ledge of the PEI ferry, rolled them in 50’s to buy the latest toys.


What was going to happen now? Would a new denomination be arbitrarily deemed “lucky”? Or would luck just be much harder to come by? And what about thoughts? Would they be incrementally more expensive?

I should have been more prepared for this, given that it was not, as it happened, my first rodeo. Back in 1996, the Canadian Government pulled another fast one on me by replacing my beloved, rose-coloured $2 bills with a two-toned, Polar bear embossed coin embarrassingly dubbed the “toonie”
penny5As a semi-OCD 9-year-old, this change made me uneasy. I refused to accept this new imitation currency; and instead chose to hoard $2 bills in my piggy bank like some sort of depression-era housewife.


This obsession continued for about 2 years, until one day in grade 5, I caved and spent my last bill on a bottle of a questionable-looking carbonated beverage called Orbitz:


I still ask myself whether it was worth it.

Anyway, this whole penny situation reeked of Tooniegate 2.0. Plus there were all these extra complicating factors. Like what would happen if things didn’t add up to 5 or 10? Would the cash register just explode?

The Royal Canadian Mint released this helpful diagram to clarify:


but whenever I looked at it, I still felt as though I were being cheated.

It’s been about 6 weeks since the penny disappeared, and shockingly, not much has changed.

I expected my life to be significantly different: to be perpetually in a state of pricing vexation; or to feel the absence of copper in my hand like some sort of phantom limb. But to be honest with you, I kind of… well… forgot about it.

I think part of this is because I rarely pay for anything in cash. (Yes, I’m that annoying girl who whips out her debit card to pay for a $2 coffee.)

Luckily for me, my chronic inability to visit an ATM doesn’t impact my life all that much given that the world is becoming increasingly electronic.

This was reaffirmed for me by this week’s episode of 60 Minutes, which featured an interview with twitter founder Jack Dorsey. (I know. Reading books and watching 60 minutes. Who is this kid??) Dorsey recently developed a new product called Square, which is a small device that attaches to smart phones and allows vendors to accept debit and credit card payments.


Dorsey claims his product is the way of the future because people don’t really like handling money: there’s an inherent guilt and dirtiness about it, and it’s nice when it just disappears. It makes you feel like you’re being taken care of.

I get what he’s saying- I feel this way about buying books on Amazon. The website has all of my personal and credit card information saved; so all I have to do is click “order”. It eliminates (most of) the guilt associated with online shopping and makes for a much more pleasurable experience.

At the same time, I think removing all physical indicators of spending can also be dangerous. Not having that mental reminder can make keeping track of your spending much more difficult, and there are definited security concerns involved. Plus, just to say it: maybe we don’t really need more “guilt free” methods of spending given that consumer debt levels are at an all-time high.


I also don’t know if I totally agree that people don’t like holding money…or at least that’s the impression I get from music videos.


Maybe it’s the smell. Maybe it makes us feel more secure. Maybe it’s just the inherent Scrooge McDuck in all of us.


I really can’t say. Just like I can’t say what will happen to the fate of cash-money. It’s federal budget day here in Canada, and for all we know, the nickel could be next on Jim Flaherty’s chopping block. Maybe the penny will become a catalyst for change- or maybe it will just be some other weird Canadian convention, like the CFL, or half hour timezones. In any event, I don’t plan on hoarding my bills just yet.

Question of the Day: Do you always carry cash?

…. or are you chronically cashless like me?


Coffee Talk

Did anyone else automatically think of Linda Richman when they read the title of this post?


No? Just me?

So I flew into Halifax around midnight last night and crashed on my sister’s couch for the night.

I was then  awoken at 6:30 a.m. (that’s 5:30 Toronto time) by my 8-year-old niece Lola standing approximately 10 centimetres from my face, whispering “BREE” emphatically.  I jumped about a foot, and was justifiably freaked out before realizing it was her.

“You grew your nails long”, she remarked. “They look nice.”

She then proceeded to hop up on the couch with me and start downloading games on my iPhone.

The culprit

Ahh, the joys of home.

Needless to say, after that lovely little wakeup call, I needed some caffeine, stat.

At home in Toronto, I’ve got a Keurig, which my (other) older sister bought for me as a gift during a recent visit. I had mentioned to her I wanted one, and she went out one day while I was at work late and picked it up for me.


I cried when I got home and saw it. Long-term stress can do these things to you.

Anyway, since then Mr. K (a little term of endearment I like to use for him) and I have been in an intense love affair. Together, we have almost entirely eliminated those painful 30-60 minutes between initial wakefulness and walking through the door at Starbucks.  Now, I have Starbucks  on  tap (or in k-cups, as the case may be,) 24 hours a day.

Does life get any sweeter?

Now, if I could only figure out how to eliminate all those alcohol-less moments between 9-5.


I even bought a travel mug for ease of transport. I hope the world doesn’t end tomorrow, or that will be a colossal waste.

And I don’t even mind that the damn machine takes up approximately 78% of the counter space in my 500 sq foot condo. Since coffee holds about 78% of my heart, I feel it’s proportional.

Anyway, this morning, I had no such Keurig luxury and instead was forced to bundle up and walk my tired ass to Starbucks in the freezing cold. (if you think I didn’t wear my pajamas for this endeavour, then you’d be wrong).

I grumbled to myself as I walked, cursing the snow and the damp Nova Scotia weather. Had I sprayed these new boots already?  I hoped so.

But I was actually pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed my Starbucks experience. Granted, everyone in Nova Scotia is at least 10 times nicer than everyone in Toronto (sorry, Torontonians), so I really shouldn’t have been. The barista met me with a smile and a cheery good morning, and when I asked for Soy milk in my coffee, he responded “Sure. After all, it is Christmas!”

like this but a guy
like this but a guy

I left happier, more energized, and significantly more caffeinated.

On the walk home, it hit me: I think I actually miss the take-out coffee experience. When you live alone and work long hours, you start taking pleasure in the limited social interactions you have every day.  Even if they are with complete strangers. And while my new Keurig has added a level of convenience and hyper-caffeination to my life, it has also served to cut out yet another connection I used to maintain with the outside world.


I thought about all my homies at my local Starbucks in Toronto. I hope they are doing well. Maybe I’ll start dropping by for the occasional latte on the weekends or something, just to say hello.

I guess it’s really just another byproduct of our generation: the more technology we create, the less face-to-face interaction we maintain. It’s all a little bittersweet, and I’m a little melancholy about it.

What I should really be focused on, though, is the fact that in a couple of days, I will be off to my parent’s house in a small town where the closest Starbucks is almost 2 hours away. How is this even possible?? Instead, I will be forced to drink the cigarette-butt infused tepid bathwater that is Tim Horton’s coffee (sorry, all other Canadians), and two chocolate glazed timbits to wash it down with. I’m willing to bet, however, that the small talk at the drive-thru will still be worth it.

Question of the Day: Do you make your coffee at home, or get takeout? What’s your favourite kind?

P.S. Don’t forget to enter my holiday mixtape giveaway!!


And jut to eliminate any confusion, the “mixtape” title is pure hipster irony. It’s actually a CD. There may have been less manual labour involved, but I promise it was still made with plenty of love!

Technology Diet

What would you do if you had to spend one week without technology? Would you go crazy? Would it be a welcome reprieve?

This was the issue facing the one and only Tom Haverford in last week’s episode of Parks and Recreation.

Tom (played by the hilarious Aziz Ansari) was sentenced by a judge to a week without screens of any kind after getting into a car accident while tweeting. His negligence was proven by his pre-accident tweets, which included:

“Four green lights in a row. #blessed”

…….and this one:

A self-proclaimed techaholic, Tom is completely beside himself over this sentence and even goes so far as to make an imaginary Pinterest board and an iPhone out of paper.

Photo via Hulu

Eventually, Ron decides that enough is enough, and offers to take Tom to his cabin in the woods for a little serenity and detox time. While there, he encourages Tom to list out everything he does on the internet to get it out of his system once and for all:

Tom: “Okay, I start everyday by hitting up Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. Sometimes I like to throw in Linkedin. For the profession shawwwties.Then I like to go on Reddit. Reddit is great because it has all the important links…..”

………..”Wikipedia is mankind’s greatest invention. You can learn about anything. We all know Ray J. We all know he’s a singer. He’s Brandy’s brother. And he was in that classic sex tape with Kim Kardashian. But, did you also know he’s Snoop Dogg’s cousin AND he was in the 1996 Tim Burton movie Mars Attacks? Suddenly, you’re on the Mars Attacks page!”

…………..”I love gChat, you can talk to anybody! I hit up brad.pitt. It wasn’t the actor. It was actually a guy named Brad that’s a teacher in Pittsburgh. We don’t have a lot in common, but we chat quite a bit.”

……..”Podcasts! There are a million of them and they’re all amazing! Jean Ralphio and I have one called “Nacho Average Podcast”, where we rate different kinds of nachos.”


In the end, Tom admits that he relies on technology so much because things in his life aren’t going that great, and he’d rather play Doodlebots than think about it. I can sort of relate. Except that for me, technology is more of a crutch for my unwavering and crippling loneliness. I definitely notice a marked increase in my social media usage the lonelier/sadder/more homesick I am feeling… and maybe that’s a bad thing. But hey, at least it’s not heroin.

I took a quick mental tally of all the types of technology and social media I rely on. The verdict? Bad, but not as bad as Tom.

Things I love and use all the time:

  • TV (!!!)
  • My iPhone:
Yes this is a picture I took of myself looking wistfully at my iphone. And no, there is nothing sadder. Except for maybe how many takes there were of this.
  • Facebook
  • Youtube
  • Twitter – I rarely ever tweet, but I do heavily twitter-stalk Seth Meyers, Joel McHale, Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham, Aziz Ansari (see how this all came full circle?) and a handful of other celebrities I like to pretend I’m friends with in real life.

  • Instagram-I only have like one follower though. Follow me! @ breezyk1. I can’t promise much, besides self-pics and coffee cups…
  • Blogging- obvi.
  • Buzzfeed – Strictly for the high ratio of cat to human pictures.

Things I don’t use:

  • Pinterest (I want to maintain some semblance of a life)
  • Gchat
  • Iphone games like Angry Birds, words with friends etc. (Again, with the life thing).
  • Skype (waaay too awkward for that noise)
  • Kindles/E- Readers (I like the whole “trophy case” effect of a bookshelf. Plus having a lot of books around just makes me look SMRT. )
Not my house

I actually thought about attempting a week without technology as a sort of blog experiment. But then I realized that was just the Pinot grigio talking and thought better of it. I’d miss all my gadgets and you guys would miss my quirky online presence. I’m sure of it

Question of the Day: Could you go a week without technology? Which types of technology/social media do you use the most?

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