1 Going Digital With Our Money | The Billfold

Going Digital With Our Money

“Money is anything you want it to be,” says David Wolman, the author of The End of Money, in an article in Stanford magazine. This is true, but what we want money to be has to be collectively agreed upon by a society of people exchanging goods. We once traded each other for things. Coins and dollar bills made it easier for us to exchange goods because money is fungible. Now, Wolman argues, carrying around coins and dollar bills has become less efficient than moving money electronically (i.e. debit/credit cards, or using apps on a smartphone to make payments), and the world would be a better place if we got rid of tangible money altogether. In Kenya, electronic payments have proved life-changing in a world where a robbery or a natural disaster can cause a person who lives on a cash-only basis to lose everything in an instant.

Going digital has certainly made my life easier. I can directly deposit money into family members’ bank accounts without having to mail them a check, or pay a company like Western Union to wire money. I was able to use the phrase “I’ll pay you back with Paypal when I get home tonight” after splitting a hotel room with a friend who booked and paid for the reservation at a wedding I was at two weekends ago.

But, I also have a soft spot for cash, because it helps me control how much I spend when I go anywhere. Handing over your credit card and opening a tab at the bar can be a dangerous thing when you’re out with friends, and your ability to make smart decisions decreases with each drink you have, which is why I have a cash-only policy when going to bars. Until someone invents an app that mirrors the same experience I get when I hand over money, and feel that tiny pang of “loss” and allows me to limit how much I can spend at any given time, I’m happy to have access to both hard cash and digital cash right now.


11 Comments / Post A Comment

Megano! (#124)

I almost always do digital transactions here. Like, it is a big to-do for me to even get cash where I live right now (the bank is super far), but even before I didn’t really. It’s just to much easier (not to mention lighter) not to have cash.

Dancercise (#94)

George is side-eyeing that pixelization so hard.

CubeRootOfPi (#1,098)

I tend to avoid carrying cash – it’s easier and I’m less tempted to spend. Also, digital transactions, IMO, are much more efficient.

wearitcounts (#772)

i’ve been trying the Mike Dang Method and taking out the exact amount of cash i hope to spend for my weekend spending estimate. so far it’s only had a 50% success rate in terms of limiting my spending to just that cash (to be fair, i’ve only done it twice), BUT it also makes me notice that i’m going over my budget, which i wouldn’t necessarily do if i were just charging everything to my debit card. i’m a fan of this method.

Megano! (#124)

@wearitcounts I just don’t keep more money than I need in my chequing account, though I’m not sure that most people’s banks let them do this?

wearitcounts (#772)

@Megano! i can have an anemic checking account if i want, but my bank charges fees on moving around of funds from savings to checking and vice versa, so i try to stick to my monthly scheduled deposits; but, i’m thinking of changing banks, so there’s another good reason.

ThatJenn (#916)

I love the combination of cash and digital money of all sorts. I manage my budgets and pay all my bills online, but I also have a $250/month “cash” budget, which I don’t track. It effectively means I get to swell my restaurant and entertainment budgets a little on a flexible basis without having to plan too far ahead. It generally pays for a few lunches out, a treat on the weekend for me and my dude, and also some dinners at restaurants that are cash only (as most locally-owned places around here are).

I’ll probably depend on the cash more now that I have a no-charging rule in effect through the end of October. (Automatic recurring payments can still go on my credit card as long as I pay them off in the following weeks, but not day-to-day life expenses. I find that having a no-charge month at least once a year makes me more aware of my credit card usage the rest of the year.)

Coins, however, especially pennies, just annoy me and weigh down my purse. They all end up in the gallon glass jar that will someday buy me the best LEGO set ever.

ThatJenn (#916)

@ThatJenn All that said – I actually find that I feel LESS like I’m spending money when I use cash than when I charge things, because as soon as I take that money out of the ATM I assume it’s gone and it’s deducted from my budget (after all, I can no longer use it for most of my non-negotiable bills). So basically, it feels a little like my allowance once it’s cash. Meanwhile, I check my credit card balance like 5-6 times per week and think about it a LOT.

@ThatJenn ALL OF THIS.

I don’t have much more to add, except there’s a few places around me that don’t split checks, so I like having cash on hand. And also that I’m going to have a credit-free October (and possibly November and December…) too! But that’s mostly because I had a credit-happy September and now have to pay it down. The only thing I’m going to allow myself to charge are my holiday travel flights.

deepomega (#22)

I assume we’ll eventually have some split – like a way to have “cash” in some cheap hardware that you can easily use to exchange money. Think a USB stick only it’s worth $XXX.

What I’m saying is, I read too much William Gibson when I was a kid.

Jack Daniels (#1,614)

I like the idea of keeping debit and credit cards in little sleeves with pictures of what you are saving for on them. That way when you take them out to use them, you have to consider your long-term goal in the moment.

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