The Minimalist Budget – Cash, Cards, & Cryptocurrencies…

In my never ending quest to continue to downsize as much as possible in all aspects of life, I’ve finally minimized my use of cash.  Not because of a shortage of said cash, mind you, but simply to avoid using it as much as possible.  Why?

Physical cash is a pain in the ass.  It needs to be carried around, taking up space in pockets, wallets, and other containment devices.  It needs to be counted.  It attracts unwanted attention, particularly if there is a lot of it.  It’s dirty.  Darwin knows where those coins and bills have been before you laid your grubby little fingers on them.  Cash is just plain inconvenient.

Governments are understanding this and many are moving towards a cashless society.  But, governments being governments, their reasoning is not always on the level.  While going cashless means not spending money to print money, transporting it to the banks, and staying on top of counterfeiting, it also means governments and corporate warlords can track all financial transactions, whereas using cash is still relatively anonymous.

Nonetheless, personally I have tried to go as cashless as possible.  I no longer have a pile of loose coins lying around gathering dust.  Pennies, which I either give back to the sales weasels or throw away, are worthless.  Nickels and dimes ain’t much better.  Quarters at least come in handy at times should the need for a laundromat come up, but beyond those few instances, coins have no use.  Bills tend to get torn up and attract too much attention if one breaks out a wad of them in public.  So, for me, cash transactions have become rare.

For the last few months the only two things I have had a need for cash has been to pay the rent and buy my monthly bus pass because MauiBus has not joined the 21st Century when it comes to financial transactions.  Rarely do I need to grab any cash for anything else.  Mayhaps on occasion if I am going to something like a farmers market or some event, I’ll pull a few dollars from the atm.  When I do travel I keep about $100 handy just in case.  Otherwise, I rely on the inter webs to conduct any financial deals.

Checks are hardly worth the effort either.  My current bank account doesn’t even have checks as a payment option.  My family still uses the damn things.  Checks and cash are about the only thing they trust without fully understanding how electronic finances work.  One person I know back in the hills of Pa. will buy stuff all day long on Amazon with a credit card yet refuses to pay his cable bill with the same card, preferring to go in person and fight the crowds and rude cashiers.  When I tried to ‘splain said credit card would work the same way as on Amazon, all I got was the infamous condescending head shake and tsk-tsk.  Fine dumbass, keep writing those checks.

For now, my payment of choice is my trusty debit card from my bank.  It’s easy to use, easy to carry, easy to replace, and there are no extra charges, nor do I have to pay any interest.  I have an up to date record of every penny I spend making the budget keeping much more better.  The card is accepted just about anywhere, except the bus, for small as well as large purchases.  Should said card get compromised, the bank has my back, alerting me if a suspicious charge occurs.  Should I do travel, I let the bank know so if say, I go to Florida and use my card, the bank will know it’s legit.  And if I do happen to lose the card, I have back up.

If any of you have an iPhone then you are probably familiar with Apple Pay.  If you have some other brand of phone, do some research and see if they have a similar contactless pay system.  I love using Apple Pay as it is just so damn convenient.  Pull out the phone at the cash register, point it at the reader, type in my super secret code, done!  The items are paid for, the vendor has their money, but not my personal info, the card is tucked away safe, out of site so nobody can hack it, simple, easy, and it makes one look like they know what they are doing.

The only downside for now is there are not a lot of places out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean which accept Apple Pay.  Whole Foods does, Safeway appears to be trying to, but the one time I tried it their reader wouldn’t work.  A lot of the coffee shops and fast food places use it, but I rarely go to those places.  Even Orbitz, my go to for travel uses Apple Pay as an option.  More companies will adopt Apple Pay as time goes on, along with other contactless methods of payment, as it becomes more mainstream.  New tech is always slow to be adopted by corporations until they can figger out how to best exploit it.  Nevertheless, I still prefer Apple Pay over all other payment methods and will continue to use it as much as possible.

So I have nearly completely eliminated the need for cash or checks in my finances.  The debit card and Apple Pay work for most of my needs.  A credit card will not happen.  No need for it.  Another successful step in downsizing.  But wait!!!

There is more…

As you may have noticed in the title to this sure to be an award winning post, I mentioned cryptocurrencies.  What are cryptocurrencies?  You may have heard of them, namely the most famous of which is Bitcoin.  Before I delve into this anymore let me say I know virtually nothing about cryptocurrencies.  But I’m learning.  (Always be learning).  I decided this year to start said learning about cryptocurrencies, how they work, are they the future, and can I use said cryptocurrencies in some way.  There is a ton of information out there and it will take a while to really get to know what this is all about but it looks very interesting.

Basically, cryptocurrency is a way of exchanging money peer to peer over the inter webs.  For example, say you wanted to purchase one of my not so best selling ebooks.  You can follow the link on the Fritter, go to Amazon, or Apple Books, pay with your card or PayPal, and done.  However, all these vendors charge a fee for said transaction, meaning they take a percentage of the cost for their own.  Granted you get their marketing, store front, etc, in return but in most cases, not just with these ebooks but in most transactions, there is a middle man, be it a bank or whatever, getting a cut of said transaction, and moving the money around.  Plus it can take a few days for said money to arrive where it was sent.

Cryptocurrencies eliminate the middle man.  Say, I decided to accept Bitcoin for payment on my ebooks, one could do so (and yes, I am looking at this option), there would be no fee, and the transaction would happen instantly.  The reason is the underlying code which makes cryptocurrencies work, namely the Blockchain.

Blockchain is essentially a open source code of ledgers which allow all cryptocurrency transactions to take place.  It’s not hidden so one can see all transactions, and it is not centralized in one place but hosted by thousands of computers around the world.  It is virtually hack proof and very secure.

I won’t get into much detail here as I am still learning this myself.  But I’ve found enough info to really pique my interest.  I’ve even been playing around with creating a Blockchain on Xcode just for fun.  I doubt I will ever actually develop anything but I am interested in the tech behind all this and how it may be utilized down the road.  One start up has already begun developing a blockchain for ebooks which could revolutionize distributing the written word and more.

Cryptocurrency and Blockchain tech are still in the beginning stages but it don’t take a rocket surgeon to see this is the future of finance and beyond.  I would liken it to where website tech was back in the 1990’s.  Everyone could see what was coming but few people were ready to commit to building a website.  Now, imagine having a business without a website.  I still remember my first website build about 20 years ago.  It was just a simple site with some family pictures on it, but when it went live I was really excited.  I’m feeling the same way about cryptocurrency and the blockchain.  And it’s interesting to learn about it.  However, right now there are downsides.

Cryptocurrency is experiencing a lot of growing pains.  For one, being largely unregulated, the value of digital coins like Bitcoin is more volatile than President StableGenius™ when he runs out of cheeseburgers in bed.  The price has been as high as $19000 a month ago and as of this posting is now below $8000.  It is not an investment for the weak of heart.

While Blockchain tech is very secure, storage of the digital currency is not so hackers are everywhere trying to steal and in some cases succeeding.  As with any new tech involving the possibility of vast profits, thieves, conmen, and governments are out there.

As I mentioned before, cryptocurrencies are not centralized meaning no government nor financial institution has control over them.  This drives said governments and financial institutions crazy.  They believe they should control all money and finances, so they are doing what they can to slow down the growth of this new tech until they can figger out how to control it.  As a result, new regulations are invoked all the time.  In some places, cryptocurrencies have been banned outright.  The claim being the digital money is being used for the purchase of drugs and other illegal items or it’s too big a financial risk.  Like nobody has ever done anything illegal with cash.

The problem is governments and corporations usually run about 5 to 10 years behind any cutting edge technology.  A look at any government website will reveal how far behind the times they are.  So, what they don’t understand, they regulate or ban until they can control it themselves.

But, based on just the little bit I have learned, it’s going to be difficult if not impossible to stop cryptocurrencies and blockchain tech from becoming mainstream.  From what I have read we are still about 10 years away from really kicking this shit into gear.  Where it goes from there, who knows, but it is exciting.

If you are under 50 you would do well to start investigating cryptocurrencies and blockchain tech.  If you are an old fart like me, it might still pay to just keep up with what is going on so when the day comes your Social Security is paid out in Bitcoins you’ll be ready.  But please, don’t invest in what you don’t understand, nor can afford to lose.  Right now it’s the wild west out there and it’s real easy to lose everything if you are not careful.

Never take what I write about here as sound financial advice.  Except the part where I tell you to buy my ebooks.  I am only relaying what is working for me and what I have learned so far.  Your mileage will vary.  Never invest what you cannot afford to lose.

What works best for you?  Cash? Checks? Apple Pay?  Or have you already started using Bitcoin?  Whatever is working best for you, keep up with all the coming changes.  Don’t be afraid of new tech when it comes to finances, but learn before you jump in.  Things will be changing fast in the coming years.  Be ready.  But be smart and minimal.

Capt. Fritter

2 Replies to “The Minimalist Budget – Cash, Cards, & Cryptocurrencies…”

  1. We each have a credit card we use because they give us cash back. We pay the bills in full every month to never have interest charges. Dave monitors the account frequently so he catches any fraudulent charges even before we get notification of them so they never cost us anything more than waiting for a new card to come in the mail. But, the time my iPad died while I was out of state caused some hassles while trying to buy a replacement one since I had not notified the company I would be traveling and this was late on a Friday just before Christmas.

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