After the recent economic meltdown, a lot of people decided to cut up their credit cards and go to an all cash lifestyle. Whether it was self-preservation or just anti-big banks, a movement that started at least a decade ago has really picked up steam and been the subject of a lot of press lately. I’m a big fan of credit cards, for all of their conveniences, and it’s sometimes harder for me to see the reasons for going all cash, but I know that there are plenty.
If you think I’m here to say “learn to use credit card responsibly and you get all the benefits!” – I’m not. First, I’m not so arrogant that I think I should ever tell you what to do. Second, I recognize what credit cards are and the reality that they aren’t for everyone. Credit cards can be a very useful financial tool and they can be a very dangerous financial tool. The fact that there are people with $10,000 in credit card, let alone $20,000 or $50,000, is a sign that credit cards can be far more dangerous than they are helpful.
A lot of personal finance writers like to liken it to a tool like a shovel or a hammer. I think that gives credit cards too much, well, credit. I think credit cards are more like alcohol. When used responsibly, both can make life easier and more entertaining (though neither are required for a more entertaining life). When used irresponsibly, the results are disastrous. Having $10,000 in credit card debt isn’t like accidentally hitting your finger with a hammer, it’s more like waking up hugging a toilet after a night you can’t remember. People get addicted to charging everything to plastic, much like they are addicted to alcohol, no one is addicted to digging holes in the ground with a shovel.
That said, I can’t imagine going to an all cash lifestyle but I want to better understand why some people choose to be that way. If you’re an all cash adherent, please share your experiences and your motivations! If you’re not, tell us what you feel about going all cash and why you choose to use credit.