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Cash or Credit?

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In the 1980s there was talk of paperless monetary system. Credit cards were spreading like mushrooms and debit cards were on the horizon. With electronic transfers and the ability to order online, who needed “paper and coins.” My first credit card was for Gulf Oil, in case I had an emergency while driving the nearly 500-mile trek between my parents’ home in Lewiston, Maine and my university in Villanova, Pa. It didn’t get much use. I applied for a Sears card, also during my college years, but was rejected. So, unlike today’s young people, who are inundated with credit card offers almost from the minute they arrive on campus, I never really got into the habit of using credit to make purchases.

I have begun to realize, though, that I am an oddity in this respect, a throwback to another time. I pay for 90% of my purchases with cash. I look for “cash only” lines at the supermarket, and get frustrated when I am behind people who pay with credit or debt cards or checks. In my perfect world, retail customers would all use cash, and clerks could all make change.

But perhaps I’m actually ahead of my time. I recently read that more and more people are returning to cash to help them to be smarter with their purchases. With the economy stagnating for the last several years, and banks imposing hefty overdraft fees on those who have forgotten, in this digital age, how to balance a checkbook, more people are beginning to realize that living only off of the cash in your pocket can go a long way toward eliminating the kinds of impulse buys that can get them into trouble. Not paying outrageous credit card fees is also better for one’s financial health.

I’ll happily confess to being a cash only (almost) guy. How do you handle your finances? Do you still throw caution to the wind with plastic money, or do you find yourself making more trips to the ATM machine these days, and paying with mostly cash?

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1 TheMaineMan { 07.25.11 at 5:59 pm }

I don’t like to carry cash, so I usually use a credit card. However, I always make sure to stay under the credit limit, and I always pay the bill in full by the “grace period” so that I never pay a cent in interest. I also get occasional rewards from my card. When you lose cash, it’s gone forever in most cases, but if you lose a credit card you can call up the company, report it lost/stolen as well as any fraudulent charges. Using credit cards certainly requires responsibility, and I think that many young people are too impatient/undisciplined to use their cards responsibly. Many older people as well. For those who need the extra discipline, I certainly agree that cash is the way to go. In some cases though, you can profit off a credit card rather than pay extra. ALWAYS check the terms though, and always keep an eye on any notices of change. All it takes is one missed payment for them to wipe away your grace period and hike up your interest rate.

2 JLorae { 07.23.11 at 12:09 am }

I prefer cash.

3 Haley Wolfe { 07.22.11 at 7:22 pm }

I make a point not to have any credit cards–at all. I figure if I don’t have the money to buy something right now, I’m probably not going to have the money when the credit card bill comes, either. That said, I do use a debit card and rarely carry cash. I treat the card like cash, and I keep track of my balance so I don’t overdraft. I find that if I splurge on something with my debit card, I feel guilty later when I see it deducted from my account online; when I carry cash, I’m more tempted to spend it. Funny how minds work differently!

4 ian mccloud { 07.22.11 at 12:48 pm }

Credit cards have a real positive value in convenience at gas stations in that you don’t have to go inside to pay, also with some retail stores you receive free shipping and reduced prices with their credit card. In addition a very brief phone call will inform you of your credit card balance. There is absolutely no excuse paying those high overdue payments if you are accustomed to tdhe simplest personal respsonsibility!

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