How Much Cash Should You Carry On You?

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More of us are relying on debit and credit cards to get through our daily lives. A study from the researchers at the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) found that Australians are using cards more often than cash to pay for things.

While this may be the case - thanks to things like PayPass and tap-and-go - not everywhere will accept cards, so how much cash should you be carrying?

While we’re not quite at a cashless society yet, a good old $5 note still comes in handy. So, how much cash do you need to keep on you day-to-day?

As with most money questions, there’s no right or wrong answer, just what you’re comfortable with or have found works for you. Personally, I’ll take out anywhere from $40 to $60 per paycheck and wait for that to run out before I take out more, unless I need cash for something specific.

That’s usually enough to get by in the city, where corner stores rarely accept a card for purchases under $10 and some takeaways are still cash-only.

This Reddit thread offers various rules of thumb:

  • “Carry enough to get home. If that just means a taxi across town, then $20 - 40. If that means buying a new tire in the boonies, then it means $300.” - StructuralGeek

  • “My rule of thumb is 120% the cost of a tank of gas.” - AstroturfingBot

  • “I keep $20 in my wallet, and $20 in my glove box for gas emergencies.” - duotoned

  • “Good rule of thumb is to carry at least $500 in 1s so you can make it rain.” - hazpat

Beyond emergencies, there are other reasons to carry cash:

  • You’re using the envelope budgeting system

  • You need to tip someone (cash is always preferable)

  • Your cards are suspended/you frequently overdraft

And a million other random occurrences in which cash is preferable to cards. What’s your cash rule-of-thumb?

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@lifehackerdotcom. Moneysmart.gov.au


Comments

    I subscribe to the tank of fuel one. Used to be about $50 but it's now more like $100 :( Even if you don't need to fuel up it's enough to cab/uber somewhere, get a meal, buy groceries etc. Which leads to my reasoning...

    I normally try to ask myself "what am I doing in the next 24 hours". The recent bank outages (well a few months ago now) reminded me that going cashless isn't always a good thing. $100 in the wallet will cover most things I'm going to need to do in a 24 hour period. So that's what I try to keep in the wallet.

    If I was going to the casino or to a fancy restaurant or something else, I'd aim to have enough to cover that and still leave roughly $100 in the wallet after those expenses.

    Side note: I only really review the amount in the wallet once a fortnight (Payday) or when I have something planned. Not like I check it every day and go for a trip to the ATM the moment it drops below $100.

    It is also an idea to carry it in lower denominations ($10s/$20s). Not every place you go to will change/'break' a $50 note.

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