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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Bryony Gordon: Beware, this cashless society could leave you ... well, cashless

Like many people I know, I get to the end of most months and wonder where all the money has gone.

I am quite sure I haven’t spent it on anything other than the necessities – mortgage, childcare, food, Netflix subscription – yet my bank balance suggests otherwise.

It hovers perilously close to its overdraft limit.

Every month, I am mystified as to what has happened. Is some crook plundering my account? Do I suffer from a rare affliction known as sleep-spending? Am I simply going utterly bonkers?

My bank statement reveals all. No, I am not being defrauded; yes, I really am that profligate. As I scroll down the page, the mystery is unravelled: I am almost unconsciously spending, through apps on my phone, not to mention my contactless debit card.

My money is going into a giant invisible electronic purse that hovers all around me. A taxi ride here, a nice cosy jumper there, and, bloody hell, those lattes don’t half stack up.

For the purposes of this column, I went to my Amazon app and had a look at all the “1-click” orders I had made in the last month – things I have bought without leaving my sofa, or in some cases, my bed.

limits

Five kilos of Epsom salts (don’t ask); a pop-up ball pit; 100 balls for said ball pit; a Little Tikes four-in-one trike (it was reduced – I couldn’t afford not to!); a Finding Nemo sticker book; some vacuum bags; a Kindle case and eight books for my Kindle.

Despite their being (thankfully) limits on contactless payments I am still spending money like it is going out of fashion, which, in a funny way, it is – certainly where cold, hard cash is concerned.

The average cash purchase dwindles with each passing month and it is estimated that the use of bank cards now accounts for three quarters of all spending. You can pay for things with your phone.

Cash is no longer king. It is vulgar, it is dirty, it is untrustworthy. It’s what criminals carry around in suitcases for the purposes of money-laundering.

Yet I can’t help wondering if the demise of cash is really such a great thing.

Yes, it’s mighty convenient that I can use my phone to buy everything from Epsom salts to ball pits, because I used to find the process of going to a shop and putting my hand in my wallet exhausting, really I did.

But does this convenience come at the expense of common sense?

Children can now go on their iPads and convert invisible cash into shiny digital tokens to spend on games. Do you know where else you can convert money into tokens? Casinos, that’s where.

CENTS

If they can’t physically count the cents in their piggy banks, how can we ever hope for our kids to be able to look after the euros?

For all the talk of the consumer convenience of a cashless society, in reality the people it most benefits are the ones who work for the banks and big businesses.

And for all the talk of the consumer convenience of a cashless society, in reality the people it most benefits are the ones who work for the banks and big businesses.

Companies such as Amazon can now analyse your spending habits and target you with “offers”. Money is no longer simply a method of payment it is tied into our very identities.

I am not a luddite, and I don’t foresee myself burying all my cash under a mattress. But money doesn’t grow on trees, as my beloved grandmother used to tell me.

We would be wise to remember that nor can it be found in keyrings, wristbands or mobile phones.

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