When Cash Is King

When I lived and worked in Spain under the regime of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, cash was king. When I later moved back to North America, I continued to use cash whenever possible. You will not find me downtown with less than $500 on my person; and if I’m on a flight overseas, I’ll have much more. Here are a few advantages to paying cash:

  • Temptation avoidance: You will not make impulse purchases that you cannot afford. (It is much more difficult to make an “impulse” buy if you have to take cash out of your pocket to pay for it.)
  • Savings: You will pay no monthly payments on loans, no credit card interest and no overdraft fees from your bank.
  • Lower prices: You’d be surprised at how much you can save by asking for a discount in return for paying with cash. For example, the next time a self-employed mechanic, plumber or electrician quotes you a price of, say, $1,200 plus sales tax, make a counter offer of $1,000 cash. More often than not, you’ll get that discount.
  • Protection against identity theft: Obviously, if you don’t use a credit or debit card, you won’t be asked for a driver’s license that may (horror of horrors!) display your home address.

Furthermore, here are five reasons to secretly (repeat: secretly) keep major amounts of cash on hand:

  1. When the banks in your area eventually shut down due to a power outage, terrorist attack, catastrophic computer malfunction or any other reason, you’ll be like the one-eyed man in the Kingdom of the Blind.
  2. If you spot the used car of your dreams at night or on a weekend, you’ll be able to beat out any other prospective buyers by offering cash on the spot.
  3. Should you be caught far from home when all airports shut down (as they did on 9/11), rent-a-car agencies will run out of vehicles in a flash. But with cash you can pay a taxi driver whatever it takes to get to your destination, or you can even buy a used car and get there on your own.
  4. If your former or current live-in lover turns against you (yes, Virginia, this has been known to happen), he won’t be able to go after your cash when there is no clue that it exists.
  5. Suppose you get a heads-up call from a friend at 2 a.m., telling you that someone is out to get you. Time to get outta Dodge! You grab your passport, all the cash you’ll need, laptop, cellphone and hit the road. (Don’t forget to either remove the cellphone’s battery or wrap it in aluminum foil that so it cannot be pinged.)

As long as you can maintain silence, you should keep some major cash at home for any coming emergency. There is, of course, no such thing as a burglar-proof home, nor is there a security system that cannot be bypassed. However, the average burglar is inside a house for less than 10 minutes. Your goal will be to prevent your cash from being found for more — much more — than that length of time. Burglars will almost invariably head straight for the master bedroom, so I suggest you keep a small amount of cash there, perhaps hidden beneath some underclothes in the bottom of a chest of drawers. Leave enough to pay for a drug fix or to make the intruder think that he’s already found whatever cash you keep in the house.

Burglars aside, your goal should be to hide money from anyone who might be after it — whether visiting relatives, party guests, repairmen, babysitters, a kleptomaniac parent, a teenage son or daughter on drugs, or a spouse who attempts to exercise iron control over every dollar you spend. Can safes are a great way to hide money from all such persons.

Can safes, also called diversion safes, are for sale all over the Internet. They are manufactured from actual cans of such items as Yuban coffee, Heinz Baked Beans, Bon Ami, Ajax, VP Spray Starch, Scotch Guard, Pledge, STP Oil Treatment and JB Radiator Stop-Leak. The bottom of each can unscrews.

In addition, if you have a tightly-packed three-drawer file cabinet, use one or more of the file folders for holding cash. Title them with dull names such as “old tax receipts” or “travel brochures.” Or if you have a lot of books, use a box cutter or a single-edge razor blade to cut the center out of some dull book you no longer want. (Outdated computer books or AAA travel books are ideal for this.) Mix them in with others in your bookcase, or store them in a box of books kept out in the garage.

For smaller amounts of money, bills can just be scattered among the pages of a heavy and uninteresting book. Here’s an interesting example provided by Ellen who is 88 and lives in Kalispell, Mont.

“I have a grandson who used to come and visit me in my apartment sometimes, but I couldn’t trust him because he’d once stolen some money from me. I had a very old Bible, one of those big ones that take up half a coffee table. I knew my grandson would never open a Bible, so I hid a dozen $100 bills in the pages of Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. One night, some crazy old coot in the building fell asleep while smoking and the whole building caught fire. By the time the fire was put out, everything was damaged by fire or water. My old Bible was scorched around the edges and waterlogged, but my money was still OK.”

If you have a freezer, another great way to protect your cash is to open a bag of frozen vegetables. Stuff the empty container with rolled-up bills, glue the opening shut and put it in the bottom of the freezer.

You can also hide bills inside window shades, water hoses, fuse boxes, fire-alarm bells, dog houses, abandoned plumbing fixtures, ironing board covers, plastic rolling pins, wall clocks, paper towel tubes, clothes hampers, kitchen containers, wall phones, clothespin bags, bed posts, upholstery, golf bags, toys, stuffed animals, board game boxes, false-bottom baby carriages, Christmas decorations boxes, trophies or even hollowed-out stairway posts.

All of the foregoing assumes, of course, that you have some cash to hide. If you normally live from paycheck to paycheck, something is terribly wrong. But that’s a subject for another day.

–J.J. Luna