I Hate Cash, but I Carry It Anyway

The same conversation would inevitably come up whenever I visited my parents. My dad would ask if I had any cash on me. He wasn't asking to borrow money, he was inquiring out of curiosity. Out of concern, I guess. And whenever he'd ask, I'd scrunch my brow in thought, trying to remember if I did have any cash on me. "I don't know," was my usual response. Followed by "But I do know that I haven't used any cash in a while."

It's a generational thing, right? No one around me uses cash much these days. There's Venmo. There's Paypal. You can wave your Apple Watch to pay for your lunch at Whole Foods and send money via email and text messages. You can put anything on a credit card—and why wouldn't you, when you can get double points on purchases big and small? Some modern retailers, with their streamlined white Square point-of-sale terminals don't even accept cash, only credit cards. You can't use cash to pay for things like drinks on an airplane or for your Lyft across town.

So yeah, paper currency is dead. Or if not dead, then dying. You could say that it's been on its way out at least since 1949. That was the year two New York businessmen came up short when their lunch bill arrived and decided to start Diners Club, the world's first independent credit card company.

But back to my Dad. He'd urge me to put an "emergency twenty" in my wallet, at least. He'd often reach into his back pocket and pull out a twenty dollar bill from his overstuffed billfold and slip it into my slim card case, the kind without much room for a wad of cash. "Now if you use it," he warned. "Then replace it—you just swing by the ATM."

Sometimes, that crisp bill would hang in there, unspent, for months. But you know what? The time would eventually come when having cash was damn handy. When I was in a bind, when the store's card reader wasn't working or when I wanted to split the bill with a friend and didn't want to nickel and dime over who owed exactly how much. There's something really cheap about sending your friend exactly $18.62—and not a penny more—instead of simply handing over a twenty.

Plain and simple, a gentleman carries cash. Why? Because even here in the future, cash is still king. A while back, I upgraded that emergency twenty to a fifty dollar bill. It's in my wallet at all times. Along with at least a twenty or a ten spot. And I have to say, I've got an extra swagger in my step knowing that I'm never without the ability put down money for something I want or need. Call me old fashioned, but I like that feeling. It's a tad brutish, I'll admit. But it's an undeniable confidence booster.

Carrying cash offers you the freedom of choice. Why wait for the bartender to run your credit card (ever notice how slowly that process goes?) when you can lay down some cash and be done with it? No fussy back-and-forth. No signing a receipt.

Besides, there's something particularly entitled about choosing not to carry cash. A presumptuousness that the world should work around your own personal desires. I'm not saying you should stop using your plastic or apps or smart devices to conveniently pay for things or to quit beaming occasional transfers and transitions over the air directly from your phone. I'm just saying that you'll never regret having some cash in your wallet. It will make you feel more in control of your life, your finances and your destiny. And it might make your dad proud. It certainly did mine. But like I told him: Cash is one thing, but change is something else entirely. Because coins are dirty and noisy and I'm not letting those filthy metal discs rattle around in my pocket.

Frank Sinatra portrait

Stacks on Stacks

Frank Sinatra was known for never embarking on a night out with less than $10,000 in hundreds on hand, mostly for tips.