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Straight Cash – The Conclusion

The cash challenge has reached its conclusion. I learned a lot during that month but my main takeaways from it are:

  1. If you don’t have money, you can’t spend it – that sounds horribly simple, but carrying multiple credit cards means I have thousands of “dollars” the credit card companies are willing to loan me hoping to get 20% interest on it at my disposal at any time. What usually kills my budget aren’t $5, $10 incidentals – it’s the big ticket items ($50 or more), and during the month, since I didn’t carry more than $30/$40 at a time unless I had a  plan to purchase something specific, not having credit cards available forced me to stay within my budget. Additionally, I’m a far more compulsive shopper than my wife: she almost never says, “Oh, btw, I bought this today.” Me, that’s a frequent statement, which I usually justify with “b/c it was on sale!” Finances can be a contentious issue in a marriage, and the cash challenge encouraged me to consult my wife prior to making a significant purchase, rather than after.
  2. Credit cards are a necessary evil – when we booked our stay in Ocean City, I needed to provide a credit card number to hold our reservation. Though I paid for the reservation in cash upon arrival, we probably wouldn’t have been able to lock-in the deal we got without the credit card. We get our gas at Sam’s Club and they only take credit cards at the pumps.
  3. Cash is KING for group dining – does this situation sound familiar? : you’re having a great time out with friends, then the check comes and everyone has to whip out their credit cards, write the last 4 numbers of their cards on the check along w/ the amount they want on it. Some people include the tip on that amount; others don’t. Some people pay cash. Of course all of this is given to a sucker one person who whips out their calculator on their cell phone and begins to crunch numbers. Inevitably, that person will shout out, “Hey! We’re $xx short!” and everyone has to pitch in another dollar or two. The $xx short is a function of the number of people in the group – I’m still working out the proof and specifics for the Distributive Tightwad Property, but it’s safe to say it’s an exponential function. For example, if you have a group of 10 and a $100 bill, you’ll be short $10, but if you have a group of 20 with a $200 bill, you’ll be short $40. Age is also a factor, so if you have a group of 10 under the age of 20 w/ a $100 bill, you’ll be short $50. That being said, having cash for once made things awfully convenient. But it also made it annoying when everyone was asked to chip in more $ and of course, none of the credit card people want to adjust their amounts.
  4. Bricks and Mortar = suck! Traffic, traffic in the parking lot, insane lines, inept customer service, store employees who know probably less than I do about where certain merchandise is located, store uniforms so undifferentiated that I walk up to anyone in a polo shirt for help, grumpy people, kids who are on leashes who are still managing to run amok, customer service people who think you’re a criminal when you bring something in for a return even with a receipt, etc…remind me why I love online shopping so much.
  5. I sure do miss the days when I used to have Chevy Chase Bank and you could find an ATM pretty much anywhere. Although I don’t miss running to the bank, scouring my ash tray for $4 in coins to meet the monthly checking fee when I was a poor college student.

So can yes folks, it is possible to live without your credit card, but it sure is inconvenient. But with credit card companies changing their terms so frequently these days, I think we’re going to minimize our card usage as much as possible. If you’re considering cutting up your cards without closing the account, be aware that some companies may be instituting inactivity fees, so you may have to start reading over correspondence from your credit card companies that say, “Important Changes to Your Account” rather than simply throwing them away – even if you use credit responsibly.

  1. Ina
    April 7, 2010 at 10:00 am

    I’m excited for you to work out your distributive tightwad property theory!! It’s so true!!!!

    • Pop
      April 7, 2010 at 10:03 am

      Just reading your post actually shed some more light – one issue is ppl are lousy tippers and in most groups, the gratuity is automatically added and it’s usually 18%. And it’s tough b/c I rarely dine in large groups at a fancy restaurant, usually just places on the Silver Diner, TGI Friday’s, etc…level and most wouldn’t ever consider tipping 18% at such establishments.

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