Why We Still Need Physical Money

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Money is at the heart of everyone’s lives. Even in ancient times, there has always been something that allowed the people to acquire whatever they desired by having to trade something in return. And the traditional definition of money says that it is a medium of exchange, a unit of accounting, and a store of value.

In today’s digital age, there is no scarcity of methods to spend money, whether it be the tap of a button, the swipe of a card, or the waving of your phone.

And then there’s cash. Even with all of the wonders of modern technology, there will always be cash as much as our modern society would like you to believe.

Physical currency, in the form of seashells, tobacco, or salt, has existed as long as civilization and is not likely to be discontinued anytime soon, but to be complemented, but not replaced, by new technologies.

But cash, as people use it today, comes with its own set of problems. It takes up space, is relatively hard to transfer from one person to another, and moves slowly through the financial system.

Apple, Samsung, and Google like to tell you that “all you need is your phone”. ABC, CBS, and The Wall Street Journal want to tell you that cash is literally dirty. People thought Bitcoin would kill off both cash and card. While, as if to revive a failing product, the Dept of Treasury is swooping in with a sensational rebranding, clearing Andrew Jackson off the front of the $20 bill and replacing him with Harriet Tubman.

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But for the card-and-phone-swiping consumer, the question arises: Will there be much need for cash by the time the Tubman bills are printed?

As a young adult who does not have a credit card, a job, or bank account of any kind, my only method of buying things is to physically go to a store and to buy what I want with cash, and I’m okay with that.

I turned down my parents offer of getting a credit card a while ago, as I thought I would be either have no use for it or be irresponsible with it. But now as I progress through life at a faster rate, I now see a need for all three of the factors I’ve mentioned.

While I do enjoy the modern convenience of online shopping and delivery services, I find dissatisfaction as a consumer to not being able to view the products in person before purchasing it or not being able to have it directly in my hands right after buying it.

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I enjoy going to stores to see products in person. I enjoy being able to touch and use it in person. I enjoy the smells associated with the retail store it’s in. I enjoy the sounds of my surroundings. I enjoy the overall experience of going to a store and being able to use all of my five senses to determine whether I would want that product or not.

The theory behind using only cash is that you’re less likely to make impulse purchases — you’ll buy more of what you need and less of what you want — as you have a limited amount of cash in your wallet. In addition to becoming a more conscious spender, you have to cross the barrier of the counter an physically hand over your money, watching it disappear into the register.

Sometimes cash is simply the easier form of payment, something I completely underestimated and never fully appreciated. While it will not be easy for many to convert from a credit card life to a cash-only existence, it might certainly be beneficial for you in the long run.

If you are interested in changing over to a cash-only life, take baby steps away from your credit cards. Start by leaving them at home when you go to the store. Slowly but surely, you too can learn to manage your life on a cash-only basis.