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Jayda Leder-Luis

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This whole experiment of not using my debit card has made me more aware of each cent I spend. Literally.

I always carried a few pennies and dimes in my wallet, but after a week I’d stash them away in a change jar at home. It’s practically empty, considering how little I used cash in the past, but after these past two weeks I’ve notice substantial growth.

My bank has a “keep-the-change” policy, so that every time I use my debit card the purchase gets rounded up and the change is deposited into my savings account. While this feature is basically the electronic version of my change jar, I never noticed its effects. Seeing the physical jar containing actual money creates a mental note of all my purchases and ultimately has a bigger impact on my spending and saving habits. 

Since I stopped using my debit card, not all of my change gets dumped in the jar. I use it every chance I get and frankly it’s made most transactions easier.

Take the example of a $2.64 cup of coffee. I can either hand the cashier exact change, or pay $3.14 and get 50 cents back.  Keeping exact change for times like these means I don’t receive burdensome amounts of change back, or better yet can control how much I do get. By doing a little math each time I was at the register I was able to collect enough quarters to do a whole load of laundry. It only took me four days and didn’t require a separate trip to see a bank teller.

So far there has only been one downside to using up my change. A few days ago I was in a fairly long line and it was getting longer by the minute. As I reached the counter, ordered and began to pay, I heard the gentleman behind me grumble something about wasting his time. He had his debit card out and was ready to swipe and dash out of there, but my minute-long transaction was too long for him. When I received my change I slid to the side to let him order while I put my change back in my wallet. He was done before I was, and gave me a look that screamed contempt. 

Yes, cash transactions tend to take a bit longer, especially when the cashier has to count change back. It’s still money, though, and using it makes a lot of sense to me.

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Jayda Leder-Luis is the Communications Coordinator at the Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation.

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