How much cash do you carry?
You should always have some, so you don't turn into 'that guy.' (Hint: Nobody likes him.)
- Not every venue accepts plastic. Examples: toll booths, some cab companies, vending machines.
- You can't always find an ATM.
- Cash makes it easier to split the check fairly.
"You don't wanna be 'that guy' who is always bumming a few dollars for something," "J$" cautions. This is particularly true if you're also that guy who conveniently forgets to pay the money back.
Most of those who commented on his blog post tend to carry between $10 and $40. Some said they don't carry any cash, for several reasons.
"Andrew" won't shop at places that don't accept his American Express card: "Having all of my transactions in one place each month is easier than living on cash for me. Plus, I'm not willing to spend any $$ if it doesn't translate into SkyMiles." Post continues after video.
A couple of readers don't carry money unless they have specific plans -- and since they never take cabs or use vending machines, they don't worry about the lack of lucre.
On the other hand, several readers wrote that using cash keeps them from overspending. As their dollars dwindle, they know exactly how much they've gone through that day. A lighter wallet doesn't lie.
- Calculator:Is your budget in balance?
But "Leland" has trouble keeping track of cash. An itemized debit card statement works better. The only exception is when she hits the ATM for an evening out with friends: When she's out of folding green, it's time to say good night.
For me, some of each
I've been using cash more lately because I brought back a fair amount of it from my recent trips to Los Angeles and Phoenix. That could be because I overestimated how much I'd need. It could also be that spraining my ankle while I was away meant fewer excursions and therefore less money spent.
Generally I use cash only for small purchases, such as a book of stamps or a bunch of bananas. For everything else I use my rewards credit cards. Points from one of the cards helped pay for my Christmas gifts this year, and I plan to take another frugal trip to Alaska this summer with points from a second card.
But if I had a problem with impulse spending, I'd definitely go cash-only. Using plastic works for me only because I don't buy anything that I can't pay for when the credit card statement arrives.
Not everyone has that kind of self-control, which is why I'm concerned when people eschew cash entirely. Swiping a credit or debit card can give the delightful feeling of having obtained what we want without actually having to pay for it.
On a cash-only system you know that once your walking-around money is gone, it's time to go home. (Right, Leland?) Plastic makes it easy to announce, "Next round's on me, and let's get some appetizers, too!" You might not do that if you had to take actual money out of your wallet to pay.
In addition, cash can be a good reminder of how salary translates to spending. Suppose you're making $10 an hour. You want to buy a shirt on sale for $20. Hold a double sawbuck in your hand: It represents two hours of answering phones/throwing pizzas/pulling coffee. Is it worth two hours of work just to get another garment?
That goes for food, too. Using cash will remind you of a very depressing fact: With tax and tip, I just spent two hours' worth of salary on a burger, fries and beer. If you use plastic, it's so easy just to sign and forget.
On the other hand, paying with real money at least means you haven't turned into that guy.
Readers: How much cash do you carry? Why that amount? Does using cash help keep you on a budget? And if you're not sure, have you tracked your spending lately?
MSN Money columnist Donna Freedman blogs at Smart Spending and Surviving and Thriving.
More from MSN Money:
When I have cash it burns a hole in my pocket. I can't help looking at it like an allowance, i.e. "this is how much money I'm allowed to spend, so why not spend it all?" It's different for me when I know that each purchase is accruing on a bill that I know it going to hit me in the face every eighth of the month.
I can only think of two places I've been in the past year that didn't accept plastic of any kind. Even the taxis are equipped with card readers.
At any one time I will have a minimum of 100 on me and rarely do I carry more than 500 unless there is a specific reason.
Finally, since the cesspool known as Chicago is also a bastian of liberalism they intentionally violate my God-given and Constitutionally protected Second Amendment right to carry a concealed handgun to protect myself. Without protection my life and my wallet are not safe in this evil city. Therefore, I will not risk any more than is absolutely necessary.
I'm very annoyed with any seller that insists on cash, and if another seller is handy, I go to them. It's pretty lame that some people need to see the cash to be mindful of their spending.
If McD's and parking meters can take cards, so can every other seller...and card charges are a cost of doing business that needs to be spread across all buyers. Cash is antiquated; users should not be rewarded with a lower price.
The true reason why some only use cash is that no bank will take them as a checking/debit customer. Others are just technologically illiterate.
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ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
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