It’s a new year, and guess who is still using cash! That’s right!! What started as an experiment has turned into a great way to keep some of our discretionary spending under control. Each week, my husband and I (oh yeah, he’s doing it, too!) agree to the amount that we’ll each get for eating out or picking up extra groceries. This includes Starbucks, lunch with a friend, fries “for the kids,” a mid-week rotisserie chicken–any food that we didn’t buy during our once-a-week grocery shopping. Knowing that I have a limited amount for the week, I make fewer impromptu trips to the grocery store (sometimes none at all!). A few times I’ve had some cash left over at the end of the week. Imagine that!
Before, it was easy to think I wasn’t spending that much, just a little here and there. Meanwhile, my husband also thought he was just spending a little here and there, and it all added up. But now that we’ve reduced our debit card spending, we have fewer surprises when we check our account balance. 🙂 So, our cash-for-food program is probably here to stay, but I know the cards are going to stick around, too. Paper and plastic both have their advantages and risks.
Convenience: Swiping a card at the checkout is definitely more convenient than going to the ATM beforehand. But in my own experience, too much convenience often leads to too much spending.
Tracking: I can always go back and view my card purchases online, which allowed me to see not only how much money I was spending but where. However, I did a little searching and found at least one app that tracks cash spending. I haven’t used it and I have no idea how good it is. But knowing that the tools are out there might make it easier for you to at least give cash a try.
Safety: If I had written this a few weeks ago, I probably would have touted the safety of cards over cash. If you lose a debit or credit card, you can contact the issuer and have the card cancelled. Most likely, you will not be held responsible for unauthorized purchases. Then millions of credit card numbers were stolen from one of my most frequently-visited merchants, which was a reminder that you need to watch your money no matter what form you spend it in. If your cash is stolen, your loss is limited to what was in your wallet. If your card, or even just the card information is stolen, the thieves may be able to keep spending your money until you notice that it’s gone. As I said before, you will probably get it back (if you report the theft within the prescribed time), but it’s still a hassle that no one would want to deal with. So if you frequently shop with plastic, consider finding out what account alerts your bank offers. Some banks will send you a text message or email when:
- Your balance goes below a predetermined minimum.
- A purchase exceeds a predetermined maximum.
- A purchase is made without the physical card being presented (e.g., an online purchase).
- The bank deems recent activity to be “suspicious” (e.g, high volume, or based in another country).
Some other ways to safeguard your credit or debit card account:
- Review your transactions regularly or read your monthly statement. If you see something you don’t recognize, check it out. (But don’t panic. More than once, I’ve exclaimed something like, “Who spent $50 at 7-11???” Then I remembered that one of the local gas stations is also a 7-11. :))
- Do not give your account number to a caller claiming to be your bank. In fact, I prefer not to give my account information to anyone who telephones me. If it’s a charity, I ask them to send me a donation request in the mail. Even if a creditor called to collect a payment, I would still be reluctant to give them my information. I would probably hang up, then call the business back using the number I have in my records. If it’s a legitimate call and I explain my concern, I hope they would understand.
- Do not write down your online banking password. Many of us have numerous passwords to keep track of and I admit to writing some down, but not the passwords for any financial institutions. And don’t use the same password for your bank as you do on other non-financial sites that do not have the same security requirements.
- When entering your card information for online purchases, look for “https” at the beginning of the URL (Internet address), which indicates an additional level of data security.
- Keep your antivirus software up-to-date, but beware of pop-up warnings claiming that it’s outdated; sometimes they are actually links to scams.
This is not an exhaustive list of precautions, and it should not be considered a guarantee by me against credit or debit card fraud or theft (had to put that disclaimer in there :)). Of course, we can’t prevent all bad things from happening. But whether we use paper money, plastic, or both, it’s important to be wise and careful managers of whatever the Lord has given us.
Thanks for stopping by!