Sometimes, there’s just no substitute for cash

Personal finance

Yesterday, I went to the mall to buy a present for my husband from Williams Sonoma. (He loves kitchen stores, but I can’t write what I got here because there’s a chance he actually visits and reads this site from time to time.)

Since our anniversary, Christmas, (the Latin/Spanish version of “Christrmas”), and his birthday all fall within a 3-week period, I usually get one “big” present for him and a few small ones.

Instead of wrapping an odd-shaped object, I decided to use the seasonal gift wrapping services at the mall. They charged a small fee ($7) which went to a local charity organization. Of course, I didn’t realize they only took cash, or that I didn’t have any in my wallet at the time until they’d already started wrapping. I went to two ATMs at opposite sides of the mall, resigned to pay the $3.00 fees, but after trying both 2-3 times each to no avail, I finally figured out that neither ATM had sufficient funds (!!) after other people tried to withdraw money and ran into the same “invalid transaction” message. I asked at a few fast-food restaurants if they gave cash back via debit, but none did.

I’m telling you, it felt really surreal to be “trapped” in a mall with stores everywhere that took plastic and no way to extract a few cash dollars.

In the end, I gave up, got back into my car to find a nearby bank, got money out, found parking at the mall again, and paid for the wrapping. Something that should have taken 10 minutes to do ended up taking closer to an hour.

All this time, I kept thinking of the seminar that I’d attended a month ago about how keeping cash was critical even in the nearly cashless society we now live in. At least this wasn’t an emergency situation…what would that chaos have looked like?

So, you might not use cash often anymore, but there’s no easy substitute for it, and when the need for a few $ crops up, you might end up spending far more time, money, and energy than if you kept a few bills in your wallet at all times.

Well, I’ve learned my lesson!


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One Feedback on "Sometimes, there’s just no substitute for cash"


I usually have about $40 in my pocket for occasions like this (only cash is acceptable) and charge everything on credit cards whenever possible so I don’t spend the cash. It’s true that sometimes even a small amount of cash can cause lot of headaches. But I think keeping too much cash in places other than banks isn’t a good idea. If there’s indeed an emergency, the cash we reserved probably isn’t enough anyway.