I Gave Up My Debit Card For A Month — & This Is What Happened

Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
I never carry cash. Never. I’m a firm believer that plastic is perfect.

If I’m splitting dinner with friends, I drop my debit card in the center of the table like I’m dropping a mic. If it’s a $2 pack of gum at CVS, I swipe without a second thought.

Believe it or not, it’s not really that hard to live a paper-free life. In New York City, not that many venues are cash-only. Venmo, PayPal, and other money-sharing apps make it easy to pay back a friend. And Apple Pay has even convinced me to leave my wallet at home and run to grab coffee or groceries.

In my humble opinion, the future is cash-free.

Sweden
and Denmark are both toying with the idea of a paperless economy. And that made me wonder: Is the world becoming a harder place to live for people who are pro-cash?

So I decided to live the entire month of February without using my credit or debit cards. I turned off Venmo and didn’t rely on Apple Pay. I paid for everything with cash (and I was determined not to take out money from anywhere other than my bank’s ATMs). There were some exceptions — I didn’t change up the electronic systems I use to pay rent and other monthly bills. But the rest of the time, I was going to rely solely on the cash in my wallet.

I thought it would be easy. Instead, the month was frustrating — and not just for me, but also for friends, cashiers, delivery people, and anyone on Manhattan island who was forced to wait behind me in line as I counted out the change in my wallet. Here are a few things I learned while living without plastic for a month.

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