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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Bye buy

Suddenly, cash is back. Shoppers are planning on cutting back on Christmas this year. And when they do buy:

A shift to cash is one of the changes in consumer behavior that has emerged since the financial meltdown that could depress consumer spending this holiday season and affect shoppers' habits long afterward. Analysts think Americans are likely to stick with buying only what they can afford, just as their parents or grandparents did after the Great Depression.

That's an Indiana story. There's a national one in much the same vein. I'm not sure what to make of it, since I'm one of the new converts to a cashless society. I resisted for a long time -- I felt naked and unprepared for the day unless I had at least $100 in cash on me. But then I finally started using a debit card, then I got an account for online banking to pay the bills. Never mind paper money -- I barely even use a checkbook anymore.

There is something, I don't know, ethereal about going cashless. It sometimes doesn't feel like real transactions in the real world. I'm not spending money, I'm just signing my name or clicking the mouse button, and that makes the numbers go down in one column and up in another one. There's no sense that I'm now exchanging the hours I worked for the goods or services produced by the hours somebody else worked.

If the return-to-cash thing catches on, maybe it will be one good result of this meltdown in the long run. We've needed to give up our live-for-today-pay-for-it-tomorrow mentality. Maybe we can build an economy based on saving and investment instead of consumption:

The only good thing that I can possibly think of about this financial crisis is that it may break the rat race of constantly ratcheting consumption, which has surrounded most Americans with nice things that don't really make them happy.

This may be a pot-calling-the-kettle-black kind of thing. I've spent a good many years waiting for the newest toy (children's and adult) to come along, and I still like my electronic gadgets. But at a certain point in your life, you realize that stuff is just that. If my house caught on fire, I'd grab the cats and my laptop, and maybe some photos if there were time. But the rest? A momentary regret or two, then move on.


Mon, 11/24/2008 - 1:18pm

Let's see if Megan McArdle's walk matches her talk when the next iPhone drops.

Leo Morris
Mon, 11/24/2008 - 1:28pm

As I said, even those of us who finally get to the "enough with the stuff" phase stumble on the walk-the-walk part occasionally. I've read her enough to know the iPhone is definitely her skeleton in the closet. Mine is probably the cell-phone-book reader-mini laptop-GPS-music player-still and video camera-coffee maker-cordless drill convergence machine that will drop to $300 and weigh 6 ounces the week after I pay $1,500 for the 10-pound version.

Either that, or a much nicer house than I can possibly afford with more room that I will ever need.

Larry Morris
Mon, 11/24/2008 - 1:30pm

God, do I want one of those, ...

William Larsen
Mon, 11/24/2008 - 2:47pm

I did away with credit cards over a decade ago. I got tired of campanies sending me a statment detailing what I had charged for the year. When I did away with credit cards and went to cash, my junk mail decreased dramatically.

Credit cards are inflationary and cash work every where.

Bob G.
Mon, 11/24/2008 - 5:01pm

While I haven't totally "done away with" credit cards, I do have a THREE card minimum with SEARS being one fo them (for the TOOLS..what else is there?), and use them only for online purchases and auto repairs...period!
Everything else is basically cash or check.

And I have to admit that our credit score (me & the missus) is nicely entrenched in the 800s, so there's not a problem securing a line of credit for "that emergency" that will always crop up when least expected.

I always keep a look out for "Murphy", and his law.

Junk mail?
I still get a piece now and then, but I always get random junk mail for my mom-in-law who moved to TEXAS...OVER 12 YEARS AGO...(talk about a NEED to update one's records).

It does however allow me to keep in practice with my "nastygrams" to the offending company sending said mail...lol.