How many times in life do we hear the words, "where does all my money go?" We live in a society that makes the spending of our money easier than ever. With the advent of debit cards the consumer needs only to swipe a bit a plastic and be on their way. The money is deducted from the bank account and the transaction is complete. A person can spend money without really giving it much thought.
The burden of additional self-control is created if an individual wants to save more and spend less.
There is one method of using money that a person can use to help minimize this detachment from money and actually save more. That method is cash.
While the virtues of cash are many, I want to highlight 3 reasons specifically why using cash can be superior to the use of debit cards.
1. Limited Supply - Think about the differences between cash in your pocket and a debit card. The cash in your pocket exists in limited supply. What you have is what you have until such time as you decide to withdraw more from your account. A debit card only represents money that is held in a bank account and often times this is more than you would feel comfortable carrying in cash. One cannot look down at a debit card and see the balance of the account to which it is linked. Both the availability of more money and the "out of sight, out of mind" quality available with a debit card make spending easier. Cash can help an individual actually spend less because the amount available to spend is limited.
2. Tangibility - Often, I believe, when a person holds an item in their hands, feels the texture, and judges the weight; a different relationship to the item is formed. We are less likely to give up that which we own and can touch than that which we own and cannot. The same is true for cash. With cash, we actually develop a more intimate bond with our money because it is something we can touch, count, give, and has substance. This bond can often bestow greater value to the cash and thus make a person less likely to spend it.
3. Purchasing Power - The use of cash can actually save a person money when it comes time to purchase. Cash can help give a person negotiating power in a transaction that a debit card would not. The merchant might be willing to lower the price of an item for the possibility of having cash immediately on-hand. Also, merchants usually pay a transaction fee to have money electronically transferred in a debit system. The use of cash avoids this and can make both parties involved walk away feeling satisfied. This usually does not work at big-box retail establishments, but it is great at car dealerships, furniture stores, and smaller "mom and pop" retail stores.
A person should have a debit card with them, but treat this more as an emergency item than a method of purchase for everyday needs. Think of cash as money intended to be spent and your debit card as money that is held in reserve. Avoid the temptation to spend more than you have available in cash at any one time.
The next time you go to the bank, consider taking out some cash for your purchases. Run the experiment for yourself. See if the act of limiting your access to your own money by using cash will help you save more over time. When you do have cash in your hand see if you feel a greater sense of attachment to it than you feel towards your debit card. Lastly, see if you can leverage the benefits of using cash in your next purchase. You may be pleasantly surprised.