updated 1/23/2008 9:57:59 PM ET 2008-01-24T02:57:59

Vicki Armstrong has been saving her pennies for almost 19 years and she was making plans this week to cash them in at a bank — all 55,000 of them.

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She knows the $550 won't make her rich, but says the symbolism reinforced frugal spending habits. "It helped me be a little bit more conservative in my lifestyle," said Armstrong, who is planning to retire at the end of the year from Christus Schumpert Highland Hospital, where she works as a maternity technician.

Armstrong has been storing pennies in vases, bowls and the occasional shoebox. In 1993, The (Shreveport, La.) Times reported she had squirreled away 14,000 pennies. Armstrong resisted the temptation of cashing them in and kept saving.

Her co-workers and friends have chipped in over the years. "They all hand over pennies generously," she said.

Her husband, Melvin, said he's never interfered with her healthy obsession and confessed that even their bicycle rides have been interrupted by tiny treasure hunts.

"She would see a penny in the road and just stop. I would have to do circles just to let her catch up."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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