The man I prefer to be always has cash on hand.

By Greg Marano,
The Man I Prefer to Be

Yes, it’s the year 2019, and it’s perfectly acceptable to put a postage stamp on your Visa card, wave an Apple Watch to pay for a cup of coffee, or Venmo your share of the dinner tab to your friend across the table. I’ve done all these things and marveled at the convenience inherent in handling money that, being digital, I know has never been stored in someone’s running sock or used as a tissue.

But still: I always insist on keeping at least some cash with me. When I don’t, I get jittery.

Having cash means having options. The option to:

  • Buy a glass of lemonade from those kids in front of their house. Or not, because you don’t think they washed their hands before they squeezed the lemons (and are they really stirring it with a twig?).

  • Stop unexpectedly at the garage sale you see on the way home from work because they’re selling the perfect bookshelf for that space in your living room, but the seller is an old man who thinks Venmo is a Sesame Street character. Or keep driving because you didn’t notice the mold damage on the shelf until you inspected it up close.

  • Lend a couple bucks to a colleague who’s short today. Or not, because he still owes you the couple bucks you lent him last week.

  • Put a dollar in the tip jar at the coffee shop. Or not, because seriously, do you have to tip everyone these days?

  • Stop by the florist shop to schedule a flower delivery tomorrow for your wife, without tipping her off in case she reviews the credit card activity log this afternoon. Or not, because would a rose by any other payment method not smell as sweet?

  • Give to the homeless person on the street. Or not, because you already donate enough to other community organizations in whom you have more confidence.

  • Buy cookies from the Girl Scouts selling at the mall, because they don’t want the plastic; they need to see the green. Or not, because cholesterol and sugar and “healthy lifestyle choices.”

  • Bribe the parking attendant at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas to let you in anyway, even though this lot is just supposed to be for hotel guests, or slip a 20 to the bouncer to let you and your buddies into that exclusive club. Or not, because come on, man; aren’t you getting a little old for that kind of stuff? Seriously.

  • Purchase something without creating a digital neon footprint that will follow you online for the next month, invading your Internet browsing with ads for things you’d rather not be reminded you bought. Or not, because Amazon and Visa know what you need, like a kindly fairy godmother who survives off your transaction fees and interest payments.

  • Roughly measure anything, knowing that a dollar bill is 6 inches long and 2.5 inches wide. Look at you go, Sherlock MacGyver!

  • Not have to think ahead to make sure you have money to tip the bellhop, drop in the church collection plate at that Baptism nest week, or slip into your nephew’s birthday card. If cash is always there, it’s always at the ready, even when at ATM is not.

You don’t need to walk around like a bigshot, flashing a gold money clip with $100 bills on the outside for the world whenever you buy a bagel. Keep too much in one place, and you risk losing it all (speaking of: I hope whoever picked up my wallet on a beach in San Diego this summer and made no attempt to return my $200 stepped on a jellyfish and lost at least $201 worth of vacation enjoyment as a result).

But keeping old-fashioned currency on your person at all teams means you keep control of your spending choices.

And keeping control means you have options.

And the man I prefer to be always maintains his options.

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