You all may remember when Madison hosted a writing contest here at My Dollar Plan in order to find staff writers for her site two years ago. I was one of the winners with my post The Automatic Poorhouse , where I detail how my husband and I self-inflict living paycheck to paycheck because I automate away all of our money to savings and bills. Everything is so automated, in fact, that green pieces of paper  (that smell so good!) are a rare commodity in our household. By the end of the article, I vowed to begin carrying around an incidental amount of cash ($10) in my wallet to open up my spending a little and play around with it (after closely analyzing its color, fibrous texture, and overall feel since I haven’t seen cash in so long).
And you know what? This new habit has not stuck. Here we are two years later, and cash is as foreign an object to me as an iPod is to my grandmother. Rather than cash, I see printed numbers on bank account websites, on credit card websites, and I see transfers flip-flopping through all of our accounts.
I love our credit cards, especially since I can get fantastic sign-up bonuses and reward points for money I was going to spend anyway ; but it can be annoying to not pay for things in cash. From my experience (the experience of someone who will do just about anything to wiggle out of having cash in her wallet), below are the most annoying parts.
- You Can’t Take Advantage of Cash Discounts. There is a small trend growing of both small and large stores who will give you a discount if you pay in cash. In Houston, Spec’s Wines Spirits and Finer Foods will give you a 5% discount, our foundation repair company promised us a 3% discount if we pay in cash, and I even passed a gas station several months ago that gives a price for people paying in cash versus paying with credit.
- Showers and Raffles at Work are a Pain. I work in an office with several hundred people and there are always baby showers, bridal showers, retirement parties, birthday lunches, and the occasional raffle auction going on. It is always a struggle to get money together for these events because I don’t carry around cash, and the donation amount is typically not worth going to an atm.
- Parking at Events Isn’t Fun. Many venues have machines where you can take a parking pass to and pay with your credit card . But I am here to tell you that several do not, and it is not fun to get stuck in a line of cars with no cash.
- Playing Toll Chicken. Have you ever had that slightly sick feeling in your stomach because you didn’t know if the toll you were about to go through (and could not avoid) accepts something other than credit cards and EZ Passes? Once when I was a teenager this happened to me and I had to go into the red brick building that is connected to many of these toll booths and fill out a form so that they could send me a bill for the toll.
- Incidental Purchases are Embarassing. It is hard to look someone in the eye when your total is $0.55 at CVS (I play the drugstore game ), or $1.29 at a convenience store and you whip out your credit card to pay. Merchants have to pay a fee for each credit card transaction , and these fees can make small purchases completely void of profit.
- Meeting Minimums is Annoying. There is a cafeteria downstairs where I work and they have instituted a $5 minimum charge for credit card purchases (for the reason stated above). While I completely understand the need to do this, it is quite annoying to have to add on a candy bar, two drinks, and a muffin in order to get that bag of chips afternoon snack you really wanted. The same happens at non-chain convenience stores.
You would think that all of these inconveniences would change my habit of not carrying at least $10-$20, but sadly it has not. If I ever do change my habit, I will certainly let you know why and how!
Do you carry cash? How much?