Well... if I give it a bit of thought, cash isn't so bad, really. True, I have to stop at a bank or ATM to get it, but once it's in my wallet, I am more aware of how much money is visibly passing through my hands. Handing over a card makes it really easy to lose track of what's being spent. My eldest daughter has been learning that the hard way.
Then there are those nasty little mostly hidden costs called service charges that come with bank and credit cards. Every time I pay for something with my ATM card, I get dinged; a small amount, yes, but over time, small amounts accumulate. Even worse is the interest rate on credit cards. Did you know that most retailers, in order to pay for the privilege of credit sales, have to mark up their prices around 3%? So perhaps those places that give me a deal when I pay cash aren't really giving me a deal -- maybe they're just charging me the true price "before credit," if there is such thing as a true price.
Then there's the whole credit addiction thing. We caught a glimpse of the high cost of credit in 2008 with the North American financial meltdown, and we're seeing more with the debts of Greece and the U. S. in the news these days. Canada has plenty of debt, too. But even before debt became newsworthy, I had coffee with a friend, and she told me, with some distress, that her credit spending had gotten away from her to the point that she had to take her Visa card and cut it to pieces. Worse yet, she had to admit to her husband, from whom she'd been hiding her bills, that she owed more money than she was making, and she needed help. Unfortunately, it's a rather common occurrence in our consumption-driven culture. For a lot of of us, it's much too easy to go overboard, and charges listed on a piece of paper just don't impact us as much as empty pockets do.
The thing about paying cash is that it forces me to live within my means. There have been times where I've walked into a store sans credit card, attracted by something I didn't really need, and when I looked into my wallet, I discovered that I didn't have the necessary cash. By the time I had the money in hand, that purchasing impulse was gone because I realized that the item wasn't necessary -- or in keeping with my desire to live simply and sustainably. Cash (or its lack) can help in the category of "checks and balances against living beyond the planet's means to sustain life."
If I don't have cash, I generally don't go shopping, as my credit card is reserved for "emergencies only." What works for you?
P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.