Cash or Credit

For fun, my wife and I have been saving up our change for the last few months.  We started in November and were using an empty igloo water jug.  I had once been told that if you could fill one of those up with coins - you’d have about $1,500 in there.

Anyway, we wanted to buy a nice flat screen TV, so rather than withdrawing the money from our bank accounts or charging it, we decided to test the theory on saving our change.  If anything, we thought it would be fun to see what happened.  Since then, we never purposefully stuffed the water jug.  We simply emptied our pockets at the end of each day and put whatever coins we had in there.  It kind of became like a game - how much change did you have today, dear?

Last Saturday, after six months, I took the water jug to the coin counter.  We had $503 in there.  The TV we wanted was on sale for $513.  Sold!  Just to be funny, I took the roll of cash (that I had just received for the coins) with me to the store.  I wanted to finish the coin saving game I guess.  I went up the register and said, “Sir, I’m going to pay in cash.”  I pulled out my gangster wad of money (mostly 10’s and 5’s) and laid it on the counter.  The employee said, “Whoa, look at that roll of money!”  I quickly explained the experiment my wife and I were conducting.  He then said, “Nobody pays in cash anymore.  I’m going to have to get a Manager to skim my drawer.  Wow, this going to be the story of the day here.”

His comments really got me thinking.  Is it that unheard of to pay for something in cash these days?  It may be different from what other people think, but we don’t use our credit cards unless it is an emergency.  And we spend within our limits.  We enjoyed playing this game and saving towards a nice TV.  But with the way this employee was acting over me paying in cash, you would have thought that people only use credit cards and spend what they don’t have in 2009.  Whereas my feeling is that I’m not going to charge one stinking thing or create anymore debt than I absolutely have to.

I’m not making this a political discussion.  Instead, I’m wondering about consumer spending habits.  Am I really in the minority by having a good budget and by operating strictly in cash (or debt card)?

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12 comments to Cash or Credit

  • Dan

    I think the employee was overreacting for some reason. I often pay in cash too and don’t think too much about it. But if you charge, that’s fine with me too. I would say, in general, that many people probably spend beyond their means.

  • That’s an excellent story. We usually don’t have change since neither of us carry cash very often, we use our visa check card. Usually the change we have lying around goes to but the kid milk or ice cream at school for their lunches. Bravo on not using your credit cards. My wife and I have not borrowed money since 2001, and the only time we’ll ever sign a loan again is for the next house we buy. We just don’t borrow money, and we have not had a credit card since 2003!

  • It’s good that you are living within your means! We use our credit cards where we earn miles or points and we pay them off at the end of the month so we don’t pay interest.

  • Jane

    Reforming Geek, I know a lot of people who do what you do. Especially those who travel and such for work. But like you said, I think they key is keeping the balances slim to none.

  • Jane

    Sorry, I meant “the key” above. It’s too early!

  • Tristan

    After 30 years of debt driven prosperity, cash has a way of becoming pretty scarce. This is just evidence of that. It is standard operating procedure to spend next month’s income to make ends meet.

    Half the population wouldn’t make it two months without income. 28% wouldn’t make it two weeks. We’re collectively little more than a paycheck away from ruin. Figure in about 16% “underemployment” (and climbing) and it gets pretty ugly…

    Unfortunately, the general consensus seems to be to punish the responsible individuals for the benefit of the irresponsible. Sorry, CC…

  • I’m with Dan - I think Cashier was kinda dramatic. I’m surprised he didn’t go: “What’s this you’re giving me? How do you pronounce it? Cu-cu-currency…? Doll larrrs?”

  • I never use cash, especially $500. I would always use my debit card for that. I’m guessing that is what he meant, actually handling $500 in cash rather than debit. I could be wrong though.

    We have a pretty low credit card balance each month, usually bills for things that like to bill that way (YMCA, Post Gazette) If I am it debt, I’m feeling panic. That’s no way to live, for sure.

  • CC - My husband and I do the same thing. A friend of mine was selling Avon and had a change counter piggy bank. Drop the coins through the slot and the total is displayed on top. I purchased it and my husband and I said we’d save our spare change and use that money towards our next vacation.

    It’s a lot easier to save money (change) when your country doesn’t have 1 or 2 dollar bills. We have coins. Every day when we come home from work we go to the kitchen counter and drop our change in there and we watched the total add up (rather quickly too). From March to May we managed to save nearly $700 in change. We put that towards our vacation that we just got back from in Cuba and it really didn’t hit the pocket book very hard. Instead of having to with draw $2000 from the bank account we only needed to take out $1300.

    In general though we pay using both cash (or debit) and credit cards. We only use the credit card in order to get points towards travel, cash back or whatever the reward is and we pay off our balance in full every month. (Our credit card lets you choose the option of either air miles or gift certificates to a handful of stores. We are currently renovating our basement and one of our options is Home Depot! It’s great to know that you can spend(within your means) and get money back towards something you actuall NEED!).

    I do think the cashier overreacted but they certainly wouldn’t be the first and most def not the last to do so. They aren’t used to seeing that much in cash anymore. They are used to people charing on their credit cards or using debit cards. You should have seen the look on the car dealers face when my father walked in and bought two cars in cash. They just about had a heart attack!

  • When our daughter was expecting her first baby.. her Dad and I put all our change in jars,, for nine months.

    We presented the cash to her the day she took the baby home. She said she did not have to pay for diapers out of her pocket for an entire year. There was enough cash from the jars, to cover that and the baby food. I thought that was kind of cool.

    Now, we put all our change in jars and unload it twice a year. We average $800 each time. $1600 a year. We put it in an account for the baby’s college fund. Just our little way of helping them out.

  • How great is that! Nice work TCC, what would you do with your end of the day change before the igloo jug game?

    I try to use cash when possible, if not than it’s he debit card.

  • I like the new bank cards that do the “bank the rest” thing. When you use your debit card and the transaction is $15.45 it’ll charge you $16.00. The additional .55 goes into a high yield savings account so your bank actually goes the “igloo jar” for you.