True money stories from smart people: Cash is not a dirty word

Published by Jasmine Birtles on 10 July 2017.
Last updated on 10 July 2017

True money stories from smart people: Cash is not a dirty word

How much cash have you got in your wallet right now? Twenty quid? A fiver? A button and a 20p piece?

If you’re under 35, you’re probably wondering what a ‘wallet’ is and, for that matter, what cash is.

 Because cash is increasingly a dirty word in our society. And not only that, but there are determined forces out to get it. We may need to set up a ‘Save Our Cash’ Facebook support group.

Not only are the ‘yoof’ sneering at cash, but weighty economists are trying to stamp it out.

Cash is too helpful to criminals, according to American economist Kenneth Rogoff, who’s been dubbed the ‘number one enemy of cash’. He says that law-abiding citizens rarely have need for $100 bills, yet there are 34 of them in circulation for every woman, man, and child in the US. Logically, he points out, they’re in the hands – or briefcases – of criminals, and that ain’t right.

Of course, cash is also very good for people who are ‘careful’ with money. They can count it more slowly and watch every penny they’re spending, like my uncle, who was so tight he only opened his wallet for two reasons: either to put money in or to let the guard off duty (that is, he was so stingy and never opened his wallet, so if he could he would have had an alarm or even a tiny guard in it).

He had a virgin credit card – not one of Richard Branson’s – it was just never used.

And we all know that every bank note is contaminated with cocaine within weeks of being issued – it doesn’t matter which country you’re in. It’s slightly different with the new robust fivers. Their design actually makes it easier for party-goers as they can be used to buy, chop and snort your cocaine all in one.

Buskers love cash – how can we drop a coin in their hat digitally? I’m thinking particularly of the pipers on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile who walk up and down while playing, mainly so that no one can hit them.

And for the churchgoers among us, taking a collection would be very tricky with credit cards and a reader.

Also, although it’s true that criminals love cash because it’s anonymous, many law-abiding people like it for the same reason. Its anonymity gives us back a bit of power. Once you have taken the folding stuff out of the ATM, you can do what you like with it and no one can use that information against you. No one, meaning ‘they’… the invisible, all-seeing eye that is watching and recording every transaction and every move we make. That ‘big data’ that has already been used by dodgy analytics companies to influence general elections and referendums.

Any time we use a credit card, Oyster card, phone or other mobile device, our action is tracked and the information crunched, analysed and used against us – sorry, for us – by offering us things that ‘they’ assume we will be willing to pay for… or vote for.

This is why I switch off ‘location services’ on my phone if I’m going somewhere I’d like to keep quiet… like Bognor Regis; why I wouldn’t dream of using the ‘health’ app on my phone – frankly, I don’t have the energy to switch it on; and why I won’t have one of those listening devices in my home to tell me what the weather’s like in Arkansas (and then tell ‘them’ that I wanted to know). I won’t make it easy for them. If they want my details, they’ll have to pay me for them with really big wads of cash – proper folding stuff, not just numbers on a screen.

MoneyMagpie reader Nick Abel goes a step further. He says: “I’m single with no children or pets, but every now and then I throw in a packet of Pampers or a tin of dog food in my supermarket shop just to throw the data out. I don’t post on social media either because that’s too much information to give them.”

So oddly enough, in being rather ‘backward’ at adopting a cashless existence, Brits could be seen as prescient and ahead of the curve. A report by banking group ING last month found that out of 15 countries, the British are the least likely to want to go completely cashless day to day. In fact, we love our cash so much that since the Brexit vote many want us to go back to shillings and threepenny bits. Maybe we’d like to bring back rickets too?

So now that the old £5 note has been replaced by the bionic one and we welcome in a new £1 coin, let’s hear it for cash and stick it in the eye of those who just want our data. Cash is king, long may it live!

Jasmine Birtles is a financial journalist and founder of Email her at

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i'm a bit old fashioned i

i'm a bit old fashioned i guess but i would not venture out of the door without at leased £200 in my pocket.

Yeah well rickets is on the

Yeah well rickets is on the way back due to kids not being out in the sunshine as they play too much on computers and we're all (not all!) paranoid about getting skin cancer so we plaster ourselves in sunscreen (that contains some carcinogenic chemicals that get absorbed into our bloodstream to cause liver failure/brain damage ADHD etc.!) Ah; the good old days... (cynical? You bet!)

So if there were no cash, how

So if there were no cash, how would you pay the window cleaner, tip the hairdresser or the paperboy/girl? They tried getting rid of cheques & see how that worked out for them! Cash will always have a place in the world in my view.