How Much Cash Do You Carry ?

My wife and I used to make a small withdrawal of cash each pay day to fill a few envelopes for our envelope budget system.  Over time, we’ve become less disciplined (or worried) about the day-to-day spending categories, deciding instead to take more of a “big picture” approach to managing our finances.  The downside to this was that we rarely had any cash to carry on us, and we relied heavily on debit cards.

Why Carry Cash?

There are times when you just need to have a little cash on your person.  Here’s a few recent examples when I was glad to have some cash in my wallet:

  • Tips
  • Kids’ lunch money
  • Office contributions for flowers, meals, etc. for coworkers
  • Vending machines (I know I shouldn’t get anything from them, but sometimes you’re working late and you must as a last resort)
  • Some gas stations give you a discount for paying in cash

How Much Cash to Carry?

Naturally, there is a fearful side to everyone that keeps them from opting to carry cash. But seriously, the chances of getting mugged are pretty slim. And if it does happen to you and you lose a hundred bucks, but get away without injury, consider yourself lucky.  Besides, I’d almost give $100 not to have to contact five credit card companies to report my card lost, dispute credit card charges, and spend countless hours dealing with their customer no-service people.

I think it is prudent to keep between $100-$200 on your person. This would be enough to handle an emergency cab fare out in the middle of nowhere, or similar small-to-medium sized emergency.  If you do have to use your cash for an emergency, replenish your wallet from your emergency fund and build it back up again.

I just looked in my wallet and I have exactly $67, so I guess it’s time to beef up the back pocket a bit.  Actually, any other time I’d be feeling pretty rich to have over $50 in there.  Most of the time the only thing occupying the lining of my wallet is a business card or two, and some receipts (explaining where my cash went).

How much cash do you carry, as a general rule?  Or do you prefer to only use debit or credit cards?

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