What's easier to spend with?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Bit of a conundrum here.

As part of my role as a cashier, I offer cashback to the customers.  Essentically, I'm a cash machine with a human face.

What puzzles me is that at least once a day after posing this question I am given this typical answer: "Oh no, I'd better not, I'll only spend it!!"

Firstly, I have to question their self control.  Is it literally a case of putting a £20 note in their hand and they'll simply rush to the nearest shop because they have an uncontrollable urge to spend it?

I had some cash on me!  So I spent it!!
How is it easier to spend using cash than it is a credit or debit card?

Surely, with a card it's easier to spend and (by default) lose track of what you're spending?

I recently went to a museum exhibition and purchased a book.  It was an impulse purchase but it is on a subject I'm very keen on, so I felt it worth the money.  Not having any cash in my wallet, I used my card.

Then I went into a shop that was due to close down in a few days time.  Again, I made a purchase using my card, this time on a dvd that I had had my eye on for a while.  I know I may have been able to get it online cheaper but it was there in front of me and I had my debit card.

That was £20 spent in one afternoon without meaning to.

I like having cash in my wallet.  It actually works to curb my spending because I can see how much money I have.

If I go out with £50 in my wallet, I will look at it and be reminded that this is how much I have to see me through the month, I can not waste it.  Having it physically there helps restrict unnessecary purchases.  Had I had cash in my wallet when I went to the museum I may have hesitated on buying the book.  If I'd had enough I probably still would have got it, but then I most likely would not have got the dvd as well.  I would have looked online to get it cheaper. (Annoyingly so, I could have got it for just under £7 on Amazon with free delivery - yes, I kicked myself.)

Having made one unexpected purchase, I would have looked at the reduced amount in my wallet and put up a mental block on any more purchases.  I do not aim to spend everything that is in my wallet, I aim to keep it in there for as long as I can.

So why do some people feel that by having cash in their hands they ought to get rid of it?   Don't they feel anything when all the money is gone?   How is it easier for them to spend hard cash than with a card that is constantly there in your wallet, with no clear indicater as to how much money is available on the card?

Do you know how much is in your account before you hand your card over?

Is the mentality "Oh I have some money!  I can buy this nice thing!  Oh, I've wanted that for a while, I have the money on me so I can get it!" ?

Amongst the replies I get to my enquiry are comments such as "Oh I'll only spend it on rubbish", "It'll be gone before I leave town!", "Better not, I can't afford to buy anything else today!"

Honestly, where is the self control?   Whenever I've mentioned that I am the complete opposite, I get a mix of admiring looks and mild sceptism.  "Really? Wow, you're really good, aren't you?" , "Oh I don't know how you can do that."

It's really quite easy.  I know I have very limited funds. I prefer to use cash whenever possible because it's too easy for me to lose track of what I've spent if I just hand my card over all the time.  I use my card when I fill my car up (typically paying at the pump so I don't go inside and get tempted with anything they sell inside) or when purchasing something online.

I have an envelope of cash on my bedside table containing nearly £150 pounds, acumalated from Christmas and birthday gifts, all of which is earmarked for my new glasses.  It has been there, untouched, for a month and a half whilst I have been looking for frames I like (and getting quotes on lenses).  I did not recieve the cash and sprint to the shops to spend it all in a day, which is something I've overheard a lady say she'd done:

"I got, like, £200 for Christmas?  Now I'm, like, broke?  Dunno what I spent it on!!"

I'm busy scanning her overpriced shampoo and mentally shaking my head as it was only the first week of January.  How can you not know where a few hundred pounds has gone?  The odd fiver perhaps but that much money surely doesn't vanish without trace.

Does this look familar to you?
I am genuinely concerned that I'm in a very tiny minority.  In spite of the economy there are still a lot of people who have not got to grips with looking after their money.

Which tribe are you in, I wonder?


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