About Money: The (Dangerous) Digital Cash Revolution

A.M. Swearingen

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If you’ve been paying attention recently, you might have realized that a lot of people (me included) are using things other than paper money to pay for — well, pretty much everything. 

1) Credit cards and debit cards

Okay, those are a given—not really newfangled there, but they are a LOT more common; not just more common than they used to be, but also more common than cash these days.

2) Phones

This a bit newer. I haven’t even tried it out yet: Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay and whatnot. You set up your credit card info in your mobile wallet, and you’re ready to go, your money in your phone! Super convenient. Unless, wherever you’re trying to pay isn’t equipped with an NFC system. Then all you have is your phone.

3) Apps

There’s a lot of these. Different than a mobile wallet, most of them connect directly to your bank account. I’m most familiar with Venmo, which makes life a whole lot easier for me. I use it to split amenities with my roommate, split restaurant bills with my friends (because for some reason Boston restaurants don’t do that), and pay people back if they lend me a couple bucks here or there.

So, in my mind, it’s obvious that cash is becoming obsolete. There are arguments against this theory that reason that black markets and under-the-table businesses avoiding taxes will keep paper money afloat. Valid. But, as I have never been nor plan on being part of an illegal cash business, I’m just going to come out and say the majority of the law-abiding world is moving towards digital transactions.

Great! But also… not great. 

Digital transactions give us more convenience, which is awesome, but it makes it a LOT easier to spend money. “But that’s the point, right?” you think.

Sure. But what about when you don’t want to spend money? The easier it is to spend money, the harder it is not to spend money.

Previously, when carrying cash was still commonplace (not that long ago), buying something was an actual exchange. You want to buy a hat. The hat costs ten dollars. You actually had to dig through your wallet, pull out the ten dollars and give it to the cashier. You had to part with an actual physical object. It is so much easier to keep track of your spending when you physically feel the loss of your money. You watch it deplete. You feel your wallet getting lighter. You know when you’re close to spending too much.

Not so now. Now, you swipe a card, tap a phone, push a button. Nothing ever actually leaves your possession, which makes it difficult to keep track of your spending habits. 

As you can imagine, this is potentially dangerous for a lot of people. If you don’t have the willpower to keep track of your finances, you’re going to have some problems. And it takes a lot more willpower to curb your spending these days.

It’s just so convenient.

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