Maybe it’s a sign of age, but I cannot bring myself to make small purchases with a credit or debit card when cash money is still available.

I know that there are many people who carry no cash at all, and pay for everything from coffee to clothes with a debit or credit card. The only advantage I can think of to that policy is that it offers an easy out when accosted on the sidewalk by someone wanting a dollar: you don’t have to lie to say “I don’t have any cash on me.”

But I can’t do it: how would I ever balance my checking account with a hundred little plastic exchanges per month?

I guess that may be another sign of age: I still balance my checking account at least once per month. Many others just trust the bank and don’t even keep a checkbook or record of expenses. Can’t do it.

I’m just more comfortable when I have some cash in my pocket. I typically get a couple hundred dollars from an ATM and use it for small purchases until it runs low, then I get some more. I reserve the plastic for larger things like groceries, restaurant meals, and online purchases.

Sometimes that makes cashiers uncomfortable, such as when I want to pay for a $6.21 bill with a ten, a one, and 21 cents so I can get a five back instead of three ones and more change. Making change seems to confuse people who have never had to do math in their heads.

A few weeks ago, I managed to spend all of my cash and had forgotten to replenish it when I was driving by a Wendy’s and had a hankering for something cold. I went through the drive-through, ordered a small Frosty, and drove to the window to pay my $1.07 tab — only to discover that I had just twelve cents in my pocket.

I was mortified. I took out my debit card and apologized profusely for having to use it, but the girl in the window waved it off as it nothing. Apparently she doesn’t see much cash.

A week later, I was driving to Georgia to visit my parents when lunchtime came. I pulled into a Hardees, went into the restaurant, and ordered a small burger that cost something like $3.12, if I remember correctly. I gave the young lady three one-dollar bills, then starting counting out my change.

At that point, she said, “Oh, you don’t look that old, but I’ll give you the senior discount” — which dropped the price to $2.80.

I guess age does have something to do with it.

Ordinarily, I’m not opposed to change, but when it comes to the change in my pocket, I’ll resist as long as I can.
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