Week 34: Cash or (No) Card?

This past week we were not allowed to use our debit cards! Cash only was our mantra. We wanted to see just how much we rely on our cards rather than trying to always have cash.

We thought we already know the answer to this question. We had actually been paying close attention, the past few weeks, to this very thing whenever we make a purchase. Neither of us keep cash on us very often – or at least not much cash very often. It is so much simpler to carry around one card instead of a wad of cash and hope it’s enough for whatever we need to purchase.

Something else we hoped to realize even more this week is that paying with cash makes us stop and truly think about the purchase before finishing it. We have to stop and analyze. Do I really need this? Is this purchase essential, and if so why? The problem often comes when what we are purchasing is FOOD – in which case the answer is almost always yes! This is essential! But this week, we challenge ourselves to make sure we always have cash on hand so that when food is a necessity, we have the means to purchase it.

Another potential concern came for Bethany regarding filling up her gas tank. Bethany has an app, called GetUpside, that gives her cash back for every gallon she puts in her tank. It’s very simple to use: simply select the offer at the gas station you’re going to, fill up, print a receipt, and then take a photo of the receipt. However, you must pay at the pump, and none of the gas stations around here let you pay with cash at the pump. Luckily she filled up a few days before the week started, so Willoughby (her car) was fine. She did not miss out on any cash back opportunities. (Which truthfully would not have been a big deal but still worth mentioning in this blog post!)

Our culture is a culture of convenience. Whatever is quickest, easiest, and requires the least amount of work is what society tends to gravitate towards in 2019. Using a debit card is one of those things that we hardly even think about any more. You just pull it out of your wallet (or phone case) and swipe or insert without a second thought.

If we lived in a world where cash was the only way to purchase items, there would be no online shopping, no paid apps, countless companies wouldn’t even exist . . . and maybe life would be simpler. Maybe our culture wouldn’t be so consumed with consuming. Maybe we would stop believing lies about using debit and credit cards and start understanding the value of what we earn.

An article from The Guardian asks, “Does the way we pay for things change the way we spend?” The writer goes on to say, “With an allocated amount of cash to spend each week, I find I’m spending less because I am not just mindlessly tapping my card every time I want to buy something. A finite amount of cash in your wallet changes how you spend – it makes you less reckless and more deliberate. My friends throw their cards down at brunch, scarcely looking at the bill. I look and carefully count out my cash.” Source

This week we were able to challenge ourselves to live without debit cards. There were a lot of small, inconvenient moments. There were times where we didn’t have enough cash and we had to decide to shorten our order in some way or find a bank to get out more cash. It was inconvenient and at the same time we loved it.

We enjoyed the intent, thoughtful planning that went into our purchases. There were a few things (like bills) that we did pay online this week. There was no other option. But simply carrying cash and using it in as many purchasing scenarios as possible helped us save a bit of money, plan our spending, and intentionally choose where and how to spend our cash. Having to use cash and actually see how much we spent – instead of just swiping a card – was sobering!

Living without our debit cards was inconvenient. But maybe it is the kind of inconvenience we need to experience more often.

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