Something about switching to a cash only lifestyle is screwing with me. I’m less than five days into an experiment where I’ve put away all my credit and debit cards, and replaced them with the good ol’ US dollar. There are a multitude of reasons for eschewing the digital dollar: people tend to spend more with credit, tip more with a swipe, and purchase discretionary products.
Cash should be easy. I’m looking to be more frugal, and all the research suggests that cash (which is concrete) is harder to spend. Instead, I’m floundering and fishing for ways to better acquaint to cash. The reality: I’m having some trouble with the classic currency.
1. Cash Reminds Me Of High School
It’s been a long time since I touched the green paper known as cash. In fact, I haven’t really used cash since high school. I’m a Millennial with keen eye towards the digital world. I’m an avid Mint.com user and Ally Bank customer. Something about cash just doesn’t mix.
Cash is painfully slow for tracking purchases and spending habits. Whereas credit cards feed all the spending right into my Mint.com account, I have to sift through receipts and cobble together some patterns.
2. Stores Don’t Honor Cash
While every store I’ve ever been to accepts cash; in reality, they don’t honor it. What do I mean by that? Well, cash saves corporations lots of money in transactions fees associated with swipe commissions. Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express all make a cozy living through transaction fees.
When you receive 1 to 2 percent cash back on some credit card, the issuer is just cutting you in on their profits. Cash consumers get the short end of the stick, though. As I carry in my awkward wad of bills, the store clerk accepts it at the same price as credit purchases. For instance, that $60 pillow at Target costs $60 in cash and $57 for someone with a RedCard (comes with a 5% discount). And even though a major corporation loses a significant amount of profits to credit card purchases, they don’t offer any incentive to use cash.
Likely, stores still benefit from tracking credit card numbers. Even though Walmart doesn’t have a store card, they track all purchases and try to predict buying behavior in its customers. If you use the same credit card, they can effectively track your every move. Again, cash consumers are punished and receive goods at a 3% premium.
3. Cash Is Cumbersome
Maybe I’m psychologically weak or overly complaining, but I hate carrying around cash. Not only is it a flight risk – anybody can walk up to you and steal your cash – but it just fills my pockets with an unnecessary jingle that reminds me of the Salvation Army working a storefront.
With credit and debit cards, my minimalistic dreams were wonderfully clear and easy. I could reach into my pocket and quickly grab what I needed it. Now, I’m sifting through bills and change – searching for the appropriate denomination. I’m clumsy.
4. I Need An ATM
It feels stupid searching for an ATM. Everywhere I go, I’m looking for one. Even though my checking account offers free ATM withdrawals anywhere in the country, I feel held back by the need to find one.
There have been a few times where I literally ran out of money, and without an ATM visit, was unable to make a purchase. Now, if this was an unnecessary, discretionary product, this would be the perfect example of cash’s frugal ability. Instead, I’m left choosing between groceries that I can or can’t buy.
5. Where’d The Time Go?
Cash transactions, ATM visits, and spending errors (at least early on) have slowed me down immensely. I feel like I’m losing time in my life by constantly dealing in cash.
Just a couple days ago I parked in a local lot. As I made my way to the exit and payment station, I had to go into a full “cashier” lane – bypassing two “credit card only” lines that were empty. The extra time seems exorbitant and useless. I find a particular frustration with the process.