The Joy of Paying with Cash

My aunt always kept very meticulous records of her expenses throughout her life, and made solid investments, resulting in a stable financial situation for her now in her later years. For me, this kind of personal financial responsibility has been slow to surface.

Since March of this year, I have embraced the opportunity to meet with a financial advisor regularly. This has strengthened my resolve to take personal responsibility for my financial health. I now carry a small notebook with me to note all of my expenses, and how I pay for them (cash/debit/charge) each day. The days that No Money is spent, I note that as well, with a "0”. And there ARE those days. (They’re usually the days the car is parked).

In May 2008 I was offered and accepted a low interest loan through my bank for $15,000. I’d heard a tip about improving credit ratings by having credit card balances below half the credit limit. I was eager to do this. The day I received the cheque, I had just enough time in my day to deposit it at my bank and transfer $2,000 to my high interest savings account, to top it up from recent ‘borrowing’. The next day I had a half hour window in which to make two credit card payments. Rather than shuffle numbers through telephone banking, I decided to have some fun. How often do we actually handle the money in our major transactions? In the middle of a Friday afternoon I visited three banks that had no line ups! My fun was blessed. First I went to my own bank where with smiles the teller happily filled my request for two envelopes: one filled with 8,000 cash, and the other with 3,800 cash (all hundreds). She sealed and stamped them. I drove across the highway to the next bank, and presented my bill to the teller. I said I wanted to make a payment, after I did one thing first. I fanned out the 80 one hundred dollar bills on the counter between us, while she nervously looked around and exclaimed, "I have never seen anyone do this before”. Needless to say she’d never seen someone then photograph it either! Minutes later the bills were gathered up, automatically counted, bound/clipped and tucked out of sight. The result: credit card # 1 paid off to almost half the credit limit.

I then drove down the highway to the next bank, again no line up, and my teller was a tall cheerful man who had the exact same refrain, "I’ve never seen anyone do this before” when I fanned out 19 hundred dollar bills on the counter between us (face up this time, to contrast with the first fan). After I made that photograph he agreed to take a photo of me smiling with the cash fan, "happily paying my bills”, and in this case, paying off the entire outstanding balance (photo shown here).

Since the bank was quiet of customers, I offered to make a "teller photo”, and as far as concern for bank etiquette went, the manager wanted to be in the photo! By that time one of the tellers had a customer, so I had them all gather around her to include her in the portrait. As I was leaving their bank, I got the manager’s business card from one of the tellers who remarked, "you sure brightened the day for us, thank you!”

The next day I was walking through the forest on the property where I live, on the way to pay my rent. I realized it would make a lovely backdrop to a fan of 50’s, 20’s and a 10 – and so another photograph was made, again celebrating the fun of sharing the enjoyment of cash flow in my life.

I am thankful for the encouragement to stretch beyond the familiar bounds of attitude (of whining and sadness) about paying bills and having expenses. One of the things I have noticed about writing down all of my expenses each day is that besides being much more organized with my receipts, I am more grateful than ever to witness how much cash is flowing through my life. How novel it is these days to pay with cash. To me it’s like taking the time to choose colourful stamps for my letters and parcels in contrast to the white postage meter stamp.

I read a quote this week by Les Brown:

"If you take responsibility for yourself, you will develop a hunger to accomplish your dreams”.

Lynn Thompson is host and producer of the radio show "Living on Purpose", heard on, Womens and