I read in the paper recently that they intend to replace our current bank notes with plastic ones. New Zealand and Canada already have them, so I guess if cash in your pockets finds its way into the washing machine, it won’t matter so much any more (I will refrain from any laundering jokes).
It does however open up a whole new concept on the “Cash or Plastic” issue when you come to pay for your purchases.
Not so long ago, I emptied my purse and found to my dismay (or amusement) that I actually had over 20 bits of plastic in a variety of colours and patterns, the only thing in common being they were all the same size. Everyone’s at it! Cards for clothes, cards for groceries, cards for discounts, cards for being a pensioner, driver’s licence, medical card, even cards for cards! Most of the loyalty cards were a con though, only getting the promised discounts if you spent £50 or more in one go on a particular day or only related to certain items anyway (see the tiny print when you get yours!).
Have you ever wondered why you’d get different promotions or special offers in your quarterly newsletters to your friends with the same loyalty card? I always did, until I saw a TV programme that confirmed the Companies kept details of all your purchases electronically. These ‘discounts’ encouraged you to spend more money within a certain time frame than you may have done, and boost the store’s profits in the process. I ditched one such card having received terrible service, shoddy produce and for their general attitude to Joe Public, having great satisfaction in calculating that we were NOT spending three to four hundred pounds there every month. Our ‘cash’ vouchers were usually to the value of about £12 each quarter, so as we’d been awarded one point for each pound spent, and each 100 points equated to one pound monetary value, this indicated 1200 points. I find it almost impossible to believe we spent this much on our shopping then, as these days our food bill is between £100 and £140 a month and fuel around £60. Just goes to show that those special offers probably aren’t!
Unfortunately the bank card in your wallet is your access to money rather than a guarantee of some kind. Payday comes along and you decide to buy something, but because you are using your ‘card’, it doesn’t register as real money until processed through your account and you can easily lose track. If you forget or mislay a receipt, the first you’re aware you’ve overspent is when you go in the red. Credit cards are also the Devil incognito, as you can spend merrily away so it’s not until you get your monthly statement that you discover how much those impulsive purchases have cost you and you have a massive bill to pay. We all do it, so as not to miss out on any bargains.
With changes to our finances and way of life several years ago, my attitude to that little piece of plastic has changed dramatically. I still keep a manual record of everything, but the Credit Card is used only in emergencies now, and is more of a cashflow tool than a spending one. The debt is cleared every month so no interest on the balance is ever applied. There is no annual charge for it either, so the Bank isn’t making any money out of us for having one (yet, as this may all change shortly in which case we will review the situation) .
On payday, I go to the ATM and take out enough cash to do my shopping, having made a list with a rough price guide. I ’round up’ as you can only take multiples of £10 out of these machines now, so hopefully there’ll be a little left over for me. If the items on my list are more expensive on the shelf, then I either buy less or don’t buy at all so as to keep within budget. I have limited cash, so there is no way I can overspend. We have our basics, but we also have a BOLO list for the big stuff like washing powders, toilet rolls and dog food, so as to take advantage when they are on special offer. They always go on the list (with a price) at least a month before we need them so we can take our time and look around each time we shop. Again, this helps our budget.
I burnt all of the clothes shop cards, membership cards, expired cards and the like, leaving me with just 4. I can cope with that and can actually close my purse now without a struggle.
Each time I go into a shop though, I’m always asked if I have their loyalty card. I say No and they ask if I’d like one. My standard reply raises a few smiles:
‘No thanks, I’ve already got more plastic than Barbie!’
And as for the question Cash or Plastic?
They’ve got round that already with ‘Cash or Card?’