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.