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Cash is King: How Paying in Cash Highlighted My Values

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Most of the time, I am a fiend for points and cash back. I love nothing more than feeling like I’ve outsmarted a company by figuring out a way to make money off my purchase.

However, this morning I decided to go old school and rely only on the cash I had on hand to get me through my shopping.

And after listening to a podcaster share the value in paying attention to what we pay attention to, I decided to observe my spending habits.

My first purchase was actually a hybrid- a coffee paid for with a debit card followed by a cash tip. It’s New York City, sometimes paying cash is just a huge inconvenience to your barista, especially early in the morning. This particular woman was friendly and polite but she also meant business. Making change would have slowed her down and my obsession with efficiency kept me from doing this.

But I decided to put cash in the tip jar instead of adding it to my receipt.

I’ve always been skeptical of the tips added electronically — do the employees really get their fair share? Or are the corporations puling a fast one on all of us? (I hope my cynicism is unfounded).

And aside from this point, cash tips are instantaneous — a physical action resulting in an equal, opposite reaction. (Yes, that is stolen from Hamilton, what of it?)

This hardworking woman, probably up before the sunrise, deserves to feel appreciated, right in that moment. I hope she felt valued and that it would give her more energy to carry on her day.

After polishing off my iced coffee and spending some time people watching in Madison Square Park, I made my way down Park, on the lookout for a Duane Reade. I had finally run out of allergy meds and would have to fork over the 40 dollars for a new bottle.

I do know those meds are vital to things like my playtime with my god-dog, Milo (yes, you read that right), and thus worth it. But it that price tag still hurts!

I also splurged on a card for my friends’ wedding this weekend. Even though I’d already sent a gift, this is a couple I’ve known since freshman year of college. They have given me seven years to watch them grow as people and a couple. They showed me healthy happiness before I had any idea I could achieve it myself. I can suck up $3.95 to tell them that.

The silver lining to, aside from clear nasal passages, was my change! I love change!

It is a secret savings plan that does not nearly get the credit it deserves. As a child, summers at my grandma included counting her coin jars and cashing them out for Toys R Us gift cards.

To this day, getting a quarter feels like I won the lottery.

And in my change today, was a five-dollar bill. Eureka!

Another one of my little saving habits is to set aside every five-dollar bill I get, stocking up until the cash merits a deposit.

I’m currently at $125 from this year alone.

Please with my purchased, I made my way towards the subway and came upon the Union Square farmer’s market.

All the fresh flowers made me think of the ugly, giant empty vase sitting on my kitchen island.

But wait, what’s this? A bunch of sunflowers costs $10, which I have exactly in my wallet?

To say I felt like a hero giving the vendor exact change is an understatement.

As I finished my tour de force, flowers and Claritin in tote, I decided it was finally time to head home.

But God had one more plan for my money.

Situated near the subway entrance was an extremely peppy fiddler.

Street performers are part of what makes New York New York. They are why I cram into a 300 square foot apartment with my fiancé, why I tolerate the smell of hot urine in the summer. He was giving my day the soundtrack movies would kill for.

And to top it off, he was wearing a tie.

So my last dollar gladly went into his fiddle case, thanking him for his service. He responded to with an enthusiastic riff on his instrument.

As I sat on the train back, I saw that I was out of cash but filled with happiness about how I’d spend it. Money can’t buy happiness — but it can deliver it.

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Emily Barbara

Emily Barbara

20-something in Brooklyn writing for her own sanity. Relationships, Money, New York and more, all sprinkled with some loose-lipped anxiety.

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