Confession time: for years I was the annoying person laughing at all the people still clinging to cash to conduct their daily transactions. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Why handle a bunch of weird, germ-infested pieces of green paper when you could much more easily just swipe a piece of plastic? Why deal with coins that merely jingle around in your pocket and inevitably fall between the couch cushions or under your driver’s seat? Who in their right mind would subject themselves to this unnecessary daily hassle?
Over the past year, however, I have found myself switching sides. In some ways it was an automatic transition— like a local burger joint that refused to support electronic payments of any kind, or a community event where the remote and utterly disconnected location couldn’t have processed a credit card transaction even if it had wanted to— but in other ways it was a conscious decision. Slowly but surely, the amount of cash that I carried in my wallet increased, and all day-to-day transactions became cash-based.
I know you’re skeptical, but let’s look at some of the reasons why cash is so great:
- Because companies simply cannot be trusted with our financial information. Take, for example, Sonic Drive-In’s recent data breach. Or Arby’s. Or Chipotle’s. Or one of any of other dozen recent high-profile breaches. It’s not that the companies are necessarily incompetant (although…), it’s just that cybersecurity is difficult.
- Because it eliminates creepy tracking. Assuming, of course, that you don’t pair it with a loyalty card or any other piece of personally identifiable information, paying with cash is anonymous and can’t easily be traced back to you. Call me crazy, but I really don’t want Google or other major advertisement companies getting a list of my purchases from credit card companies or banks and using it to target advertisements directly to my tastes. No, thank you.
- For me at least, being able to hold the money in my hand makes it easier to visualize how much I’m spending. With credit cards, it’s all invisible space points as far as I’m concerned. I have x number of invisible space points in the bank, and I just can’t let the number hit zero. But with physical bills, which I can hold and feel and smell and see, it’s clearer with every purchase I make that the amount of my money in my wallet is decreasing. So far I’ve found that it helps me spend less, and less often, but we’ll see if the trend continues.
- Because it’s nice being able to just hand people money right when they need it. You hire a plumber to fix a leaky pipe, or pay a guy to come do a yearly inspection on your heat pump, or get some neighborhood kid to mow your lawn because you’re too sick to bother this week. It’s nice being able to just hand them the cash directly without having to worry about security, or whether or not they have a working network connection, or if you both have the right apps installed, or payment processors taking a cut. It’s just “here’s your money dude, thanks a bunch.”
That said, I should point out two major things to keep in mind with cash:
- Cash sucks with online shopping. You pretty much have to use a credit card (or a cryptocurrency, but that is a topic in and of itself). And I know what you’re saying: “if you have to use your credit card online anyway, why not use it in real life, too?” Because at the very least you’re limiting the number of places where your data could be tracked or stolen, and for another, all the reasons listed above regarding convenience and tracking spending.
- Saving tons of cash is not a good long-term plan. When it comes to saving your money and investing it, storing it up in cash leaves it subject to inflation and at a tremendous risk due to theft or natural disasters. For long-term storage, don’t use cash.
Am I crazy? I don’t know. But I tell you one thing, my wallet sure feels thicker.