The Shame in Using Cash

“That’ll be $32.45 please.”

My wife grabbed her wallet and took out the cash we had for the trip. Thumbing through some of the bills, she counted them to herself and then searched for some coins.

The line was getting longer now and the gentleman behind us tried to entertain himself by looking away at the magazines close by.

I could tell he was getting perturbed.

“What are the loonies and the toonies again?” my wife asked with a smile. “Sorry, we’re from the U.S.”

“Let me have a look at what you have.”

It was grocery-store rush-hour and we were right in the thick of it – holding up the line in one of the most picturesque places in North America.

And, we were still getting accustomed to the new currency we had our hands on.

“See, the toonies are two-colored and the loonies are one-colored. They kinda look like your dollar coins.”

“Ah, that’s right.”

My wife handed over the cash and paid the patient clerk.

Crisis averted.

The stigma associated in paying with cash

While this episode on a recent trip to Canada proved that we still have a bit to learn about foreign currency – we got a taste of what it feels like to pay in cash again.

I rarely pay in cash anymore. And, if I have it on me, I’ve almost forgot what to do with it.

Paying in cash almost feels shameful.
Paying in cash is such a rarity at the store that when I see someone doing it nowadays, I’m a little taken aback.

“You’re paying in cash!?”

“Why would you waste so much time?”

“Why would waste the other peoples time in line behind you?”

“Will the clerk even have bills in the register to provide change?? Are they gonna have to call up a supervisor. Oh geez.”

And, if the person whips out their checkbook: call security.

It’s amazing how things have changed since everyone has adopted plastic as the currency of choice. Paying in cash almost feels shameful.

Like it’s all been planned

I don’t know about you, but it feels like everyone is making it easier and faster to pay for goods today. Just swipe your card. Show your thumbprint. And even grab and go!

I believe that while these paying methods are making it more quicker to get through the checkout line, they are also teaching us to value money less.

When you don’t have to even think about the transaction process or feel the “pain” in handing over a loonie or toonie, the more removed we become with the money we have. And – as a result – the easier to detach from that money.

This is my guess anyways.

I’m trying harder to think more about my transactions and to process the hours I exchanged for that money. I’m also (much to the dismay of the folks in line), trying to pay in cash.

How about you? Do you sense the rolling eyes and “shame” attached to paying in cash? Or do you relish it?

After you’re done counting your cash, you may want to lower your cell phone bill. See how Aaron pays $11.40/mo for his.

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10 comments

  1. Maryanne says:

    I notice the way certain people whip out their credit cards in line at the grocery store. They treat it like a fashion accessory. I also notice the reaction of the people around me including the checkout people, if that credit card comes out of a designer purse that piece of plastic receives even more respect. Then I approach the line, hey I’m no slouch, but I actually need to pay attention because I’m going to pay with cash. The sweet lady at the counter tells me my total and sees me digging around in my purse. I apologize of course and tell her “sorry”. I don’t even bother looking for the change. I feel the time clock ticking away. I know the customer behind me perceives me in a different way. Please don’t use one dollar bills. I know that there is a tolerance of about 5 to 10. I’m waiting for the day when the sign goes up at my favorite grocery store that says ” we don’t accept cash, credit cards only”.

  2. Mable says:

    I have always paid with cash, except for huge expenses like having our furnace replaced. I believe that being aware of where every penny is going has a lot to do with my being pretty good at avoiding impulse purchases and not buying anything until I think about whether it is a want or a need. I do buy wants, but ones that have been reasoned out, not thrown in the basket (not just grocery basket, the online baskets) thoughtlessly and sold a few years later at a garage sale for 1 cent on the dollar.

  3. JM says:

    Great blog you have here, guys. Very informative. Perhaps post an article on other ways Canadian currency differs from US currency. They got rid of small denomination paper notes and replaced them with coins. Coins cost more to mint, but they last much longer in circulation because of durability. Also how Canada stopped using pennies and it worked out fine. Currently, the US government produces pennies that cost 1.5 cents each to produce.

    Thank you,

    • Aaron says:

      Excellent idea. As an American, I appreciate a lot of the thoughtful / inventive(?) ways that Canadians are so efficient – from signage to your money. Was curious why all the clerks at the gas station were forgiving me of my 2 or 3 cents overages! Then we discovered – as you say – they did away with the penny. Thought it was because they were all so nice. :)

  4. I’m guilty of being that person in line that gets annoyed when someone in front of me pays in cash/change, and I cower when I see a checkbook. There is a huge convenience to paying with a card, and I do so especially for the benefits – I’ve exclusively paid for airfare with points for the past few years.
    I do agree though that increasing the convenience of payment can reduce the value of money for some. If I had been introduced to credit cards at a younger age, I would’ve developed a very different idea of money. Even for those who rely on credit, like me, it’s important to be aware of your daily transactions. That’s why I log into Mint multiple times a day, so I always have a sense of how much is in my “wallet”.

  5. Kiki says:

    I will always pay cash. I have an envelope with the amount I can spend for the month. I will tell everyone I can the value of paying with cash!!!!

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