In the US we never spent money. I carried around the same five 20 dollar bills in my wallet for years, literally. So how did we exist? With credit cards, of course. At one point I think we had 7 of them. Now before you call Credit Counseling Anonymous for us, I should say that we used them for convenience and paid everything off at the end of each month. It was just difficult to resist the offer of 50,000 air miles or 400 dollars rebate after the first use, for example, on a card that was free and you could then cancel a year later without penalty. That’s now all changed…or more correctly, change.
An advantage of using “play money” as Bill calls it is that you never have to worry about having cash or getting back lots of coins to carry around. In France, credit cards aren’t nearly as popular as in the US but, in contrast, a debit card is in almost everyone’s pocket. If your bank balance won’t support your purchase then it’s denied and we’ve seen that happen more than once.
We too have a carte bancaire (debit card) but have opted to go the old-fashioned route to staying within a budget by using cash. If the money’s not in your pocket then you can’t spend it. One disadvantage to this approach is that you get a lot of change back when you pay with euro bills; so much so that it can start to weigh down your pants. Bill’s on the last hole in his belt just to keep them up but some of that may be due to lots of walking and eating even more vegetables than we did before in the US.
Since prices here at the supermarket, for example, include the sales tax, it’s easy enough to dig through all of those coins ahead of time to find the right combination to pay. At the open-air market, though, when the vendor weighs your produce and then you hear what sounds like “blah-blah-blah-euro-blah” it’s so easy to hand them a 5 or 10-euro note and get back a handful of heavy coins to deal with later.
Bill’s ordered a couple of coin purses that we think might help the situation. Since we live in a medieval town, I wanted him to get one of those leather bags with a tie string at the top where we could appropriately store shekels, but he opted for something more chic that lots of other people seem to carry. No matter what style we’ve ended up with, I just figure that it will now make it easy to dump the contents of the pouch/purse into the palms of our hands from where the vendor can choose the correct coins. Why resist “change”, right?