Spark

Video: In defence of cash

Sometimes it's still king.
Listen3:29

As we continue our series about the future of money, one thing that keeps coming up here at Spark HQ is cash. With all the technologies available to manage our money, a lot of us still prefer to use actual bills and coins. Paying with a card or an app is certainly convenient, but is there a downside to all the paperless transactions we do on a daily basis?

On the first episode of our series From Bartering to Bitcoin, we talked to Dr. Moira Somers, a clinical neuropsychologist with a specialty interest in financial psychology. She said that, "it seems that we are much more aware of the value of money when we fork over cold, hard cash. And we don't feel quiet the same about handing over credit cards or debit cards. So when people are trying to bring their relationship with money into line with what  their goals are... one of the first things that I often ask them to do, or suggest that they do is to go very low tech, and to get back into handling cash again."  

Spark Senior Producer Michelle Parise is on the cash team as well. "I can't tell you the last time I used my debit card to pay for something," Michelle says. "I go to the bank machine, I take out $300 at a time, and I just use that. Then I know exactly how much I'm spending on silly little things like coffee, snacks, the Dollar Store, or going out, that kind of thing."

According to Spark producer Kent Hoffman, spending cash can also be a fun social experiment. "It's funny because I go into a store, and hand people a 20, and they look at it like you've given them a cold.  And they're like, 'I don't have change for that!' and I'm like, you don't have four 5s in your till?"

In Austria, Switzerland, and Germany, cash is still the number one way to make purchases. The Germans even have a saying --  "geld stinkt nicht" which literally translates to, "money doesn't stink" and more practically means "there's nothing wrong with money."

"Geld stinkt nicht"

--German saying, meaning "money doesn't stink"

According to recent estimates, 79 per cent of financial transactions in Germany are settled in cash. Compare that to North America or Great Britain, where it's well under fifty percent. Hardly anyone walks around talking about a "cashless society" in Germany. They're happy instead to walk around with an average $123 in their pockets.

So what do you think?

Are you still a stalwart who'd rather hand over a 20 then tap your credit card for that $4 latte? Or do you think carrying around cash is a thing of the past, and you're able to manage your money just fine thank you very much, even though you only make digital purchases.

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