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?