How Much Cash Should You Always Have on You?

dollar bill - keep me yo
I get this question a lot, and if you say NONE I’m going to punch you in the face ;) Haha…. nah, of course I wouldn’t do that to that beautiful face of yours. BUT I would like to hear your reasons why if you don’t think it’s important.

There’s been sooooo many times where I’ve failed to listen to my own advice and have been caught w/ my pants down, sorta speak.  Now, I ALWAYS do my best to at least have $10 or $15 on me at all times.  Although the more the better, within reason  (you don’t wanna be big pimpin’ with wads of 100’s in your pocket.) My magic number is usually somewhere around $20, and every paycheck I take out $100 in cash to make sure I’m topped off.

Here are my 4 main reasons for this:

  1. Not every place takes plastic. Like cabs, toll booths, and – more importantly – vending machines! :)  How many times have you been starving for a chocolate bar or soda and realized you had no cash on you?  It’s pretty frustrating.
  2. Not every place offers an ATM machine! (yeah, I saw your thoughts forming there Mr.) Yes, most places these days offer a way for you to get your cash, but unfortunately you can’t always count on it. And if it’s late at night, let’s say, and you’re a girl needing cash with no ATM in site, you could have yourself a scary situation.  Two of my guys friends have been held up at gunpoint for trying to make a 2 a.m. cash run before – it’s freaky!  And incidentally enough both these guys give me crap when I get on their case for never having cash!!
  3. You don’t wanna be “that guy” who is always bumming a few dollars for something. If you’ve got cash on you, you never have to borrow any!  Or pretend to borrow and then just forget to never pay the person back ;)  I know a few people like that and they drive me crazy!  And their excuse 99% of the time? “I never carry cash.”  Well start, dufus!
  4. Cash makes splitting the check easier. You know those times when you’ve gotta divide up the check by like 8 people?  Of which 7 only have credit cards?  Guess who’s gonna have an easier time dropping their portion ;)  Especially if you’re one to get outta there once you’re paid up (admittedly, I’m one of these.  it drives me cRaZy watching a half dozen people calculate and figure out who owes what – I’d rather drop my cash and be gone.)

That’s all I’ve got for your right now.  Are you convinced yet? :) Do you have more to add to it?  I’m interested in hearing what you think.  The last time I blogged about something like this I had a reader say safety doesn’t come in play whether you have cash on you or not.   I obviously disagree, but I couldn’t remember what her rebuttal was.  Also, I’d like to know how much cash you have in your pocket RIGHT this second!

Sooooo, let’s play a game called – “I have $___ in my pocket right now, and that is because _________ .” Ready? Go!

(Dollar dezign by J$, yo.)

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  1. Just Heather February 7, 2011 at 7:47 AM

    I carry my grocery budget in cash each week, just because it makes me more aware of how much I’m spending. I also keep a $10 bill in the car – I’ve been caught needing to pay for parking or some other random expense one too many times. This keeps me from wasting money on ATM fees grabbing cash on the go.

  2. PaigeSix February 7, 2011 at 7:48 AM

    I hate using cash b/c I find it harder to track my finances. Nonetheless, I do carry cash on me at all times.

    I have $ 30 in my pocket right now, and that is because I have it for emergencies and for paying for meals with co workers.

    I would love to put my meal on credit card, but as you pointed out, sometimes you just wanna get out there faster.

  3. Melissa February 7, 2011 at 7:57 AM

    I’m totally with you on this one. I know a ton of people that always spout off, “but there’s no need for cash in 2011! Ever!” and I’m like, do you just not leave your house? I would love to use my credit card for everything, but I frequently find myself in situations where I need cash and I have none (the whole “let’s be hanging out at a friend’s place and order pizza and, oh, Melissa, your share is $10, oh, no cash? Don’t worry, I got this one…” happens more than I’d like and makes me feel awful. Plus, I always need cash for coffee, drinks out (no one wants to pay for a drink at the bar with plastic), cabs, more coffee, public transit, parking, etc. etc. I don’t carry a lot of cash on me, because if I do, I just spend it, but I try to have about $20 – $30 on me at all times (because often a $20 bill will go straight to buying transit tokens).

  4. tom February 7, 2011 at 8:00 AM

    I try to keep $40. I also travel for work and try to make sure I always have singles ready for tips. One cool idea I recently stumbled across was using $2 bills as tips.

    $2 seems to be standard for tipping someone for helping with bags, valet tips, etc. I had a few $2 bills in my wallet and gave them to a couple people as tips and they both were very excited to get them!

    Since $2 bills are still in production, I want to see if I can get my bank to request a bunch of them.

  5. jolie February 7, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    I always have cash with me, but the amount varies. Budgeting with money jars relies on this. I tend to have at least $20 on me (my spending money) unless I have taken money out of the jars to get groceries, gas or otherwise. I keep a bit of coin on me for coin needs and for those groceries stores where you have to ‘pay’ to use a cart, I keep a loonie in my vehicle.

  6. sarah February 7, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    One reason I the past that I chose not to carry cash was because it seemed like I was more likely to spend cash freely on unnecessary items then I would be to use my debit card. For me, not having cash, saved me cash. However, I am slowly starting to carry around a little cash, $20 or so, and I like the feeling. I can’t tell you how many times one of the kids needs a few bucks for this or that and I don’t have any! It’s embarrassing!

  7. Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog February 7, 2011 at 8:40 AM

    Although I do sometimes find myself in situations where cash would be helpful, I still dont keep any on me. I’ve found that if I do have cash on me, I tend to spend it a bit freely, and dont know where it went when it’s gone. If I do go to someplace that doesnt accept cc’s, I get cash out before hand (the most recent example is the farmers market)

  8. Slackerjo February 7, 2011 at 8:50 AM

    90% of the time my wallet is empty. But my bank account is full!

  9. Andrew February 7, 2011 at 8:56 AM

    I have $0 in my pocket right now, and that is because I don’t shop at places that don’t accept American Express. Period. Having all of my transactions in one place each month is easier than living on cash for me. Plus, I’m not willing to spend any $$ if it doesn’t translate into SkyMiles.

  10. Jennifer February 7, 2011 at 9:11 AM

    I have $60 in my pocket right now and that is because I have realized I don’t spend as much money when paying with cash. Whereas when I use my debit card, I don’t physically see how much money I am spending until I look at my bank statement. My New Year’s Resolution was to spend less money and I found I can do that by carrying more cash with me rather than using my debit card for everything and it is working so far! :)

  11. Dan February 7, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    I have about $160 now (including one $100 bill). I never spend it, because it’s so large, but I know that I have it if I’m ever in trouble.

    I was once in a restaurant that didn’t take credit and had to run to the ATM. Embarrassing. I had a similar situation happen after my “new” system and I was calm, collected, and less stressed.

  12. Beth February 7, 2011 at 9:26 AM

    I have $45. Normally I’m like you and have $20-30 on me, but I just recently got reimbursed at work from the petty cash fund. :) Normally I find I need cash a few times a month for things like my transit pass (I get it highly discounted through my university and they don’t take credit cards for that), parking, and splitting bills/tipping. In the summer, though, I carry more so I can hit up the farmers market!

  13. michelle February 7, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    i have $6 and some change because i commute to class twice a week. hooray for the lightrail and $3.20 round trip rides. the machines take credit, but i’m not a huge fan of using my card. it’s one of the few times. maybe cause i have so much loose change in my piggie bank lol

  14. Rachel February 7, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    I think right now I have $87 in cash… I like having cash more than a check card. It keeps me in check on what I am spending and forces me to budget accordingly.

  15. Leland February 7, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    I have $2.78 (all in change) in my pocket right now, and that’s because I spent my last bills ($15) in a football pool last night.

    I usually have a few bucks on me, but I’m really reliant on my debit card. I’m work some other commenters — I can’t (or don’t) track my money as well if I spend it in cash. I usually only hit the ATM before a night out with friends — it helps limit my spending because I’ll go home when the cash is up. I keep some money in my car for emergency gas or tolls though, and some change in my office desk for snacks.

  16. John E Stone IV February 7, 2011 at 9:47 AM

    I have $30.00 in my pocket now because we switched from using debit cards for thing to using cash. Helps us not to overspend in one budget item and “borrow” from another budget item.

  17. CityFlips February 7, 2011 at 9:49 AM

    I have $3 in my wallet and $3.57 (in change because I dumped my pockets last night) in my desk. I’m actually pretty horrible about having cash in my wallet from day to day. I’m good at planning ahead though. If I’m going on a trip, I take about $20-50 in cash or if I’m going out to eat I tend to grab a $20 from the ATM. Generally I agree with all your reasons for having cash on hand, but if I have cash I tend to spend it. Unless I have a huge wallet full of envelopes with labels (which I’ve done and did well with), random cash doesn’t stay in my wallet for long. Here’s a little tid-bit…vending machines at our university takes credit cards.

  18. Lulu February 7, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    Really now J? I carry $0 in cash on me and have for YEARS and have not run into those situations.

    1. Vending machines? Nope. I don’t use them.
    2. Split the bill. I always ask for a separate check from the moment we order. I think trying to split the check is too difficult.
    3. I guess I am lucky to live close to work so if I ever needed a ride I could get one from a coworker and when I go out I don’t go alone so there is always a friend to help me out if needed. If I am on the highway then I call a tow truck.
    4. Bumming for a few dollars? Nope. I am prepared to buy what I need to buy and have not been in a situation where something came up where I needed to buy but could not use my credit card.

    So I don’t think there is an amount of cash that you ‘need’ to keep on you at all times as a few other commenters have noted. It is a personal thing….I guess MY need is $0.

  19. Karen @ Oldfangled February 7, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    I am with Lulu on this one. I don’t use vending machines (unless I just happen to have change in my pocket, but I don’t keep money on me just for that purpose) and I drive myself to work (I live in a small town and work in a smallish city, so buses aren’t possible and I don’t take cabs). I don’t go places late at night unless I have a plan in mind (in which case I would take cash with me) and I don’t bum money (if I don’t have money, I just don’t buy stuff.) If I do eat out, I take cash with me for that purpose. (I don’t eat out unless I have planned to eat out.)

    So, I don’t carry cash with me all the time — just when I have plans to spend it. And if I don’t plan to spend it, I don’t spend it.

  20. LaToya February 7, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    I have $10 on me at all times because you just never know. Once my hubby and I started the DR envelopes we decided $20 per month in blow money was sufficient. I keep $10 in my personal account (iTunes habit) and $10 on me at all times. That way I feel a little carefree while staying on budget.

  21. Wade February 7, 2011 at 10:25 AM

    I usually try to keep around $40 in my wallet. The reason for this is that some places I go to, like a tavern for a $4 burger, do not take credit cards and I do not feel like making it a $6 burger after a $2 ATM fee. On top of that, it helps create a comfort level knowing that if you need to use cash that it is there.

    One time, I went to a place to get an oil change for my car (a place that has always taken cards) and their credit card machines were down. Due to this, they required a cash payment and it was nice to have the cash on me for it.

  22. Investing Newbie February 7, 2011 at 10:31 AM

    I have $18 in my pocket and that’s because I took money out of the ATM to take a dollar van to work.

    I usually try to keep $0 in my pocket because I don’t like walking around with money. You have brought up some excellent points about why you need cash except. However, I’ve made it a point to not patron places that don’t accept debit thereby decreasing my spending (somewhat…I’m tryna make a point here!). The only situations where I wish I had cash are splitting the check (yup, ppl tend to groan when I’m invited only because they know that I don’t have any cash) and borrowing money (I didn’t have $4 last night to pay the group back for Super Bowl pizza order). But then, I woke up this morning and I was happy again.

  23. Grace February 7, 2011 at 10:47 AM

    I have about $45 in my wallet right now, and it’s because I’m a thrift shopper, and some thrift stores are cash only!

  24. retirebyforty February 7, 2011 at 10:53 AM

    I have about $40 in my wallet! I use cash for almost everything so $40 is a nice number for me. You spend less when you use cash, it’s been proven. ;)

  25. Molly On Money February 7, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    I have $100 in my pocket right now, and that is because I always carry cash.

    I’m one of those statistic who spend less when using cash vs. a check or credit card.
    It makes no logical sense but I value my cash over that piece of plastic.
    Saying that, after not using my credit card for a year I am using it more so I can earn reward points. I’m trying to be a big girl now!

  26. leslie February 7, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    Every cab in NYC takes credit cards now… just sayin’

  27. Simon Zhen February 7, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    Cash is a great cushion for spontaneous activities. It can cost more to not have a little cash as you may end up having to use an out-of-network ATM to withdraw cash – tacking on ATM transaction fees. I carry no more than $30 because it is just enough for things that require cash.

    Regarding the risk of losing my wallet, the amount of cash is small enough that it doesn’t pose a huge loss. Worrying about debit card and credit cards is another story.

  28. Erin February 7, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    I usually have $30-$100 on me. There’s nothing I hate more than getting slapped with an ATM fee because I need cash and can’t find one of my bank’s ATMs. I have friends who ONLY use debit cards, and that drives me crazy. If you’re going to use debit, make sure it’s not hooked up to your savings account … if a thief gets his hands on that card, he can empty your bank accounts and (unlike with credit cards) I don’t think there’s much you can do about it.

  29. leslie February 7, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    @Erin: This belief about debit cards being risky is outdated. I use PNC and their debit card is just as protected as any credit card. “If your card is ever lost or stolen, you’re not responsible for any verified unauthorized non-PIN purchases. Plus you enjoy 24-hour fraud monitoring.”

  30. Sarah February 7, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    $100 always, at least. I have something like $103 in my wallet, but i need to hit up the ATM today. No specific reason, just kind of a safety net in case of emergencies. My dad just raised me to always carry $100 emergency money, so…here I am :)

  31. Erin February 7, 2011 at 11:56 AM

    @leslie – sweet, thanks. I should bring my dad up to date … although I wonder if all banks have the same policy. You’d think so.

  32. fd February 7, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    our self-defense teacher always taught us to have a bank note in our pockets to just hand over, ‘grab cash’ he called it, in case we got mugged. he said most muggings are by inexperienced people desperate for just something to tide them over and can be fobbed off if you just hand over some cash. i’ve no idea if this is true but i’ve always liked the idea i could get out of a mugging (and losing all the cards etc) and have better personal security by carrying a small amount of cash somewhere easy to get at.

  33. Cristina February 7, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    I have about $90 in my wallet right now. I always try to have cash for splitting checks, taxis, and small stores that don’t take credit cards. I always go to the ATM when I get below $40-$50.

  34. J. Money February 7, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    OOoooh wow, never thought about that Mugging situation! Good one fd – I believe that. If you can appease a mugger right there on the spot and then he/she leaves you alone and runs off, mission accomplished! My fear is that you give them an ATM card or credit card and they force you to go to an ATM and withdraw the maximum…. it doesn’t scare me to hand over money, just the idea of BEING with the muggers for that long is freaky. Bleh.

    But yeah, I’m sure some people spend more money w/ cash than without too. I still want to try 1 week with paying thing sin cash only :) Just don’t have the patience for it yet (I already know it’s going to annoy me! haha…. I like to swipe my credit card for super convenience).

  35. Ally February 7, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    I don’t usually carry cash – it is gone a lot quicker than I like.

    I cashed 2 rebate checks this morning; so I had $20.. went and got coffee at Caribou. So then I have $15 and change. Then I get hit up for GS Cookies by a co-worker. Ok, not I sit at $12 and change. And I am sure another co-worker will hit me up for cookies (1 box per co-worker that asks – I will not seek you out!). So that will leave me at $10 roughly.

    I agree though J Money, easier to carry the card and just swipe! Especially since a lot of places if the total is under a specific amoutn you don’t even sign anymore!

  36. Alotta Lettuce February 7, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    I think having cash on hand for vending machines is dangerous territory, because it makes it that much easier to impulse spend on things like chocolate bars and potato chips just because you’re in the mood for them.

  37. Drew February 7, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    I keep $100 cash in my wallet and an extra $100 in my checking account in case an unexpected expense comes up (which is not uncommon).

  38. DIYMILF February 7, 2011 at 1:59 PM

    J. Money, I think you’re reasons were so-so. I think the biggest reason for using cash is this (and some people touched on this already): YOU SPEND LESS when using cash!! That’s the truth, whether people want to believe it or not. Test yourself– go a full month using cash only, and you’ll be suprised how much less you walk out of the store with when you only have $30 in cash versus the $70 you would have dropped if you were using your check card. Cash just makes you more AWARE of every penny, becaues you physically see it, and if you only have that amount to spend, you only have that amount.

    But here’s something I heard recently from Suze Orman, and I’m going to try it: Try using only cash for a month, but not just cash– use only paper money. And all the change you accrue, use it to pay down debt, etc. For example, if something costs $5.05, use a five-dollar bill and a one-dollar bill, and pocket the $0.95. At the end of the money, that extra $30 or so that you have in change, you can apply it towards whatever– debt, savings, etc.

    Now, I might just have to try that………

  39. LB February 7, 2011 at 2:16 PM

    I always keep cash and about $6 in quarters on me. I like having money for parking meters, parking lots, the DMV, or other places that don’t take credit or only specific credit. Because of the online bank I have, I can easily find a free ATM for cash, but I like to have some on me to save time.

    I wish everything took credit to make my life easier, but there are just some places I don’t trust enough to give my credit card.

  40. Sassy February 7, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    I have $144 in cash in my wallet because I spent $37 this morning on gas. The rest is for our groceries, which I plan on shopping for after work.

  41. Jenna February 7, 2011 at 2:33 PM

    I’ve got a $5 in my wallet right now. But I normally try and keep at least a $20 there. For the reasons you mentioned above. I hate being that “girl” and it makes grabbing dinner with friends easier for you and the waiter.

  42. Donna Freedman February 7, 2011 at 3:09 PM

    I carry no more than $20, usually less. In part that’s because I just don’t buy that much. But it’s also because I use a rewards credit card as often as I can.
    The less cash I have, the more likely I am to question whether I need to spend at all.

  43. Melissa February 7, 2011 at 4:06 PM

    I have 345 Euros in my pocket which won’t buy me a darn thing from a vending machine or my favorite diner in the U.S.

  44. Debra February 7, 2011 at 4:55 PM

    I don’t have any cash in my wallet right now. Whenever I do, it seems to disappear. I am more inclined to make small impulse purchases (and they add up quickly) with cash than using my debit or credit cards. And some of those small impulse purchases, like those through a vending machine, not only affect my financial goals but my health goals too. For example, my husband and I went to a free hockey game on Saturday, where we enjoyed a free meal. I contemplated buying a soda or water, but I didn’t want to have to put it on my debit card or pull out cash from an ATM. I easily talked myself out of it. Besides, I get cash back rebates monthly when using my debit or credit card. And if I ever need cash, I can use any ATM free (I will be reimbursed by my online bank for using any ATM), so that’s not a worry for me.

    I do have a small amount of money pulled out of my bank account for emergencies, but I don’t carry it around with me on a regular basis. Usually, at most, I will carry a small amount of change on me if I need it for parking. However, where I live, many places that do charge to park use debit or credit, and the places I frequent do not charge to park. I also don’t have to pay for cabs or buses or toll booths, so that’s not an issue.

    And I don’t bum from my friends. I plan for expenses and either carry cash (if necessary) or my card as the situation dictates. This also helps me avoid impulse purchases. It’s so much easier for me to personally say not to something when I don’t have the money on me. That includes the people who approach you asking for “gas money” (we just had someone approach us the other day).

  45. krantcents February 7, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    99% of the time, I do not need cash. For 1% instance, I usually plan for it. I always carry my credit cards and some change. My routine does not necessitate carrying cash, I take my lunch and go straight home after work. When I don’t I very rarely need cash that is unplanned. It works for me.

  46. eemusings February 7, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    Unusually, I actually have about $3 in my wallet. Usually I have nothing, or close to nothing. Cabs take eftpos (not that I ever catch them), so do toll booths (again, we have only one for going up north, and there’s also a free detour) and I don’t use vending machines. We never order in, but if we do (and the only place I can think of offhand here that delivers is pizza) the delivery guy has eftpos or you can pay over the phone when you order. So yeah, I’m basically never stuck needing an ATM!

    It’s a pain for splitting the bill, but again, that’s a situation we’re basically never in. Restaurants are happy to split transactions here and nobody tips. Also, one of my best friends has an annoying habit of insisting on paying for everyone and sometimes sneakily footing the bill behind our back.

  47. J. Money February 7, 2011 at 5:31 PM

    It’s cool seeing how everyone operates :) Thanks for the honesty everyone! Keep it coming…

  48. Arina February 7, 2011 at 6:05 PM

    I have about $50 in my wallet right now because I work at a bar and all my tips go into my wallet (sadly, many of these tips get squandered on next-day lunches, alas!). But I always have cash on hand. I just… coffee, man.

  49. Alex Matjanec February 7, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    “I have $10 in my pocket right now, and that is because I spent the rest on lunch.”

    Though I try to bring a lunch to work everyday, I sometime indulge and buy. It is probably because my from home lunches are pretty boring. So when I get take out, I always spend a fortune on things I don’t need. To ensure this doesn’t happen, I always carry cash on those days to limit myself to a budget.

    Also I always carry cash for the exact reasons listed by J.Money, as well as for emergency purposes.

  50. The Passive Income Earner February 7, 2011 at 8:28 PM

    I have 0$ in my wallet right now and it happens way to often. I can go a few days with ZERO. I do pick up money before going somewhere unforeseen but I will usually carry 60$ – 100$. I never really need more than that.

  51. fisherman23 February 7, 2011 at 8:51 PM

    Great post. I very rarely have cash in my wallet unless I am going to eat or while traveling. If I have cash, stopping at that candy machine or coke machine is too easy and 90% of the time, it is something I don’t need to be eating or drinking anyway. I take out cash once a month and that is my spending cash for the month. When it is gone, it is gone. Time to cook what’s in the kitchen and clean out the fridge.

  52. Donny Gamble February 7, 2011 at 9:03 PM

    I carry $20 at the most because I don’t want to spend any more money than that

  53. Jaime February 8, 2011 at 4:16 AM

    I don’t always have cash on me, but when I do its usually about $20-40. I don’t feel that its necessary because everywhere I go in Omaha takes my Visa check-card (debit card). I love my debit card. I don’t have to deal with cash, transactions are much faster that way. Its not on credit.

    Most businesses here take plastic. I feel that since I have my routine down that I don’t always need to take cash with me. Although it does come in handy when you travel, I too have encountered toll booths mostly when I’m traveling. I just see cash as a hassle.

    However I know its handy to have some cash on hand, but that’s not something that I need to worry about in my everyday routine because like I said I have my routine down and most people here take plastic.

  54. Catherine February 8, 2011 at 7:34 AM

    “I have $0 in my pocket right now, and that is because I live in the UK and they don’t take $.”


    seriously though I think I have 15p in my bag – change from a guest at my work yesterday and they didn’t want the change. Not worth exchanging back into norwegian money I guess.

    I don’t carry a wallet anymore, as it will only encourage me to use my cards and shop. Not useful for budgeting or repaying debt having your credit card with you always!

    I however am one of those non-cash carrying folk. I have a weird tick about money and hate anything lower than a 50p. I’ll tolerate 20p and 10ps but I don’t like small objects, especially metal ones – they feel unclean. But technically most money isn’t clean anyway! So that’s one reason I don’t carry change. Also it weighs a ton, and can take forever to count out at tills which is embarrassing. I also find using cards means you spend a precise amount, rather than taking out a round sum from an ATM, spending some of it on what you needed to buy and then frittering away the change leftover because its too small to put back into the bank.

  55. Mike @ debtdewd February 8, 2011 at 9:01 AM

    Great post and topic of conversation. I hate to admit it – but I am always THAT GUY that doesn’t have cash on him. SO, this year I’ve made a conscious effort to at least have something.

    I’ve also found it useful to keep a handful of ones in the center console of my car….

  56. Your Own Retirement February 8, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    I have found just having a debit card on you allows you to often times spend much less than you normally would. As soon as I have some extra cash on me it seems to disappear.

  57. Lorena February 8, 2011 at 1:25 PM

    I’ve got $16 in my wallet right now, but up until recently I was a “no cash” kind of gal. But, that changed once I got pregnant — that small amount is my “urban survival kit.” Whether it’s transportation (“emergency” bus fare since my husband and I share a car) or food (occasional snacks or my weekly lunch with co-workers at the local, cash-only farmer’s market), it’s the security that I need most. It also helps me visually keep track of how much I’m spending — sometimes I feel like it’s too easy to spend using my debit card without “feeling” the true economic impact. When it’s cash, I can see exactly how much I’m spending and I’m more careful with what I have.

  58. J. Money February 8, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    @Catherine – Haha, yeah I hate lugging around coins too. Us men don’t get the nice option of carrying a purse ;) well, I mean I guess we could, but that opens up a whole other lot ;)

    @Mike @ debtdewd – GOOD job!!! Being “that guy” is no fun.

  59. Murlu February 9, 2011 at 12:14 AM

    I try to keep at least $10 on me at all times because it’s just small enough that I’m not going to blow it on something and it’s just high enough that I have a bit of flexibility with it such as grabbing something to eat or getting a bit of gas when I may not have been paying attention – it works perfectly for me :)

  60. thewanderingbudget February 9, 2011 at 2:19 AM

    I actually have about $450 in my wallet right now. It’s more than usual, but normal these days is still about $300. That’s just because I don’t have an Australian bank account so I pull money out of my Canadian account every two weeks. I could use my visa, but for some reason every once in awhile it doesn’t work. Out of fear I always carry cash too, because otherwise I’m screwed!

  61. AnonPoster February 9, 2011 at 5:58 AM

    “starving for a chocolate bar or a soda”? Really? I find it amazing that in a personal finance blog, you wouldn’t have prepared for this in advance. And if you really are starving, can’t you find a more nutritious way to solve the problem, like keeping a snack in your car or desk? And if you plan ahead, you will seldom find yourself “starving” anyway!

    I keep usually between $5-$10 cash on me in case I forget my lunch, which happens about once every 6 or 8 weeks.. The downside of NOT using cash is that I never have leftover coins any more to put in my coin jar, which gets emptied once a year or so and deposited in the bank. The upside is that I am much less likely to spend money on small items, choosing to forgo the purchase instead. Saves money!

  62. Valencia February 9, 2011 at 5:55 PM

    This post is spot on. On the days you don’t plan, cash is the alternative.

  63. Brooke Imes February 9, 2011 at 6:34 PM

    I always have 2-3 $100’s on me……have a few tx’s that you never want to go to the ATM during.

  64. KimOnYourSide February 11, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    I have $60 in my wallet. $30 to get deposited for next months credit card bill (I split dinner with a friend the other night – she paid me cash and I used my credit card). $30 is the leftover from my allowance. On my bi weekly payday I am now taking out my allowance for two weeks (instead of one) to practice living on cash. I give myself $80 per pay to use for lunches, coffee, etc. Since this “cash diet”, I have been bringing my lunch a lot!!! Which is good for my net worth, and my waistline.

    I put all of my change in a jar at nigt (as does my husband) and we deposit that money into our vacation savings account.

  65. J. Money February 11, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    I like that plan :) Esp that you give yourself X amount per pay period too, like I do. Keep rockin’ it out!

  66. Kay Lynn (Bucksome) February 12, 2011 at 9:57 PM

    I have zero dollars in my wallet because I spent all my cash yesterday and haven’t gone to the ATM yet. Thanks for the reminder!

  67. JMK February 13, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    I generally carry a $20 bill just for an unexpected situation that absolutely can’t be dealt with on my credit card. For fun I put a little post it note on the bill with the date it went into my wallet. Generally it will sit there for at least 2 months before being needed. The record was 14 weeks.

    Our utilities, insurance, groceries etc all go on the credit card. Mortgage and taxes are auto withdrawn from our bank account. We pack our lunches and I take a travel mug of coffee for the drive each morning. I keep tea bags in my desk at work. I can count on my hands the number of times in a year I would be “forced” to use cash. At Christmas I went out for lunch with some colleagues. Separate bills weren’t practical as it was a Chinese restaturant and we ordered several items to share. Everyone else tossed in their cash and I paid for the entire bill (collecting the fight miles, thank you very much). On the way back to the office I detoured to my bank’s drive through ATM and deposited all the cash.

    From the above posts it sounds like much of the requirement for cash it to compensate for either impulse spending or a lack of planning.

  68. Louise M February 14, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    I currently have $16 AUD. I get paid fortnightly and every pay I withdraw $40 as my spending allowance. I can spend this money on whatever I want but once it’s gone, that’s it. I’m “broke” until pay-day. I keep only notes and gold coins in my wallet, and any silver gets put into my piggy bank as soon as I get home. Each June before I do my taxes, I deposit the money in my bank account.

    I find I don’t have to check my balance as often and I don’t get hit with those nasty “Minimum EFTPOS” signs taped on the counter. Those are frustrating!

  69. J. Money February 14, 2011 at 6:33 PM

    @JMK – 14 weeks – that’s awesome. Kinda tempted to try it out myself :)
    @Louise M – Haha, you had me at “fortnightly” — haven’t heard that term in quite some time, love it! :)

  70. checky February 18, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    I have $19 in my purse right now because I try to never be completely cashless as it’s the safest waty to go, I think. If you get stuck somwhere and need to get a cab, or if you just need some bottled water and the only shop around is cash only, you won’t have to worry about finding an ATM. Also, if you ever get robbed and you have absolutely nothing to give up, not even a little cash, they may think you’re lying and you may get hurt.

  71. J. Money February 18, 2011 at 6:39 PM

    Yeah, that robber one has come up a cple times when I’m talking w/ people (and I think here in the comments too, maybe?). I hadn’t ever thought about that before but it kinda makes sense in theory. Freaky as hell though! :)

  72. Carrie July 30, 2011 at 12:39 AM

    I don’t think I’ve ever been in a situation where I absolutely needed cash….

  73. J. Money August 2, 2011 at 2:43 AM

    Really? That’s good I guess! Hope you never do :)

  74. Lori March 11, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    You are 100 percent right about needing to always have some cash with you! I’ve never left my home without at least a few dollars since I went into a gas station during a trip to pick up some aspirin for my headache only to realize I couldn’t pay for the medicine I needed because the place’s credit card machine wasn’t working. Great advice!

  75. J. Money March 13, 2012 at 12:05 AM

    Oooh another excellent reason to have it on you — good call!

  76. The Money Mail March 14, 2012 at 12:22 AM

    Carrying cash is always a good idea! So is never using an ATM after evening hours. When I go to the mountains, I carry extra cash because most of the stores and restaurants up there don’t accept any sort of plastic. With cash, I can still afford to do what I want to do during my getaways.

    Apologies for posting the previous comment from twice. – not a spammer, just two accounts. We liked the post and have summarized it for our readers here.

  77. J. Money March 14, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    Yes, agreed! ATMs late at night are HUGE no-nos, good reminder.

  78. BUDDY March 21, 2014 at 6:51 PM


    1. J. Money March 23, 2014 at 2:05 PM

      You got that one right, brotha.

  79. Jody December 28, 2015 at 7:12 PM

    Very good advice. I was out one time and noticed that one of my tires was low. I was near an air pump but it wasn’t free and it only took quarters. I was very glad to have a dollar in quarters on me at that time. I have also been in situations where I needed cash for something to drink out of a vending machine or cash to put in some other kind of kiosk.

    1. J. Money December 29, 2015 at 8:16 AM

      Yup, exactly!

      (And way to find an older post of mine – bringing back memories from 5 years ago, woo!)