Because I’m not careful about what I say on this blog, I backed myself into a bit of a corner when I was challenged by our VP of Message Deployment to put up or shut up: spend the next 7 days without the joys of modern technology, and then write about it. No internet. No cable TV. No mp3s. No TiVo. This was a bad idea.
We’re 36 hours into this thing, and it is costing me money.
As I’m talking to the folks in the studio about the trials and tribulations of my tech-free life over morning coffee, my friend Katy threw yet another monkey wrench into my life. Because that’s what she does. She said “You aren’t using your debit card to pay for stuff, are you?” It honestly hadn’t occurred to me, but she was right. The debit card should be off limits for this week. Now I’m not a person who usually carries even a small amount of cash. 99% of my financial life is conducted online. Gun-to-my-head, I could usually scrape together five bucks in loose change between my desk and my car, but anything more gets purchased with the debit card or requires a trip to the ATM.
So at lunchtime, I stopped by my local grocery store-based bank branch (for the first time in more than a year) to pick up some cash and the following conversation took place:
Me: I need to make a withdrawal from my checking account.
Teller: Sure. You know we have an ATM right down this aisle? There’s no fee if you are a bank customer.
Me: Yeah, I can’t use the ATM because I’m doing this blog and… oh never mind. I don’t have my debit card with me.
Teller: No problem. Do you want to go ahead and write a check and make it out to cash?
Me: Yeah, I don’t have my check book with me. (Truth be told, I never carry my check book either. I only write two checks a month. Both of them to my wife. She pays all the household bills.)
Teller: No problem. You can use a counter check. There’s a one dollar fee for…
Me: Wait. There’s a one dollar fee to withdrawal money from my account?
Teller: No, the fee is for the counter check, since you don’t have your check book with you.
To this point, she had done quite well keeping her happy, customer-friendly face in tact, but her facade was beginning to crack.
Teller: If the fee is an issue, you can always come back and use the ATM later this evening.
Me: No, the fee is fine.
Teller: How much did you want to withdraw?
Wow, I hadn’t thought this through. The last thing I want is to make half a dozen trips to the bank this week. So I started doing the math in my head… Wednesday is comic book day, I need lunch the rest of the week, the MMJ concert is this weekend, and as the total grew, I kept thinking “do I really NEED to spend that much this week?” So I did some quick subtraction from my list, got my cash and made a dash for the door before the teller’s mood could sour any further.
I guess I never really thought about how much I nickel-and-dime myself during the week and how there really is an emotional reaction to spending cash that just isn’t there with swiping a card. So as a result of this experiment, I’m thinking I may be making a change in how I conduct my financial life. And I will definitely be saving some money this week.
Things I missed out on today: I missed Modern Family, which was on at the same time as the World Series. Both a Netflix and a Gamefly envelope came in the mail today. I need to return a purchase to Amazon, but I can’t print a return shipping label and I’m pretty sure my 30-day window just closed.
Things I gained today: Stopped at Half Price Books on the way home and picked up a copy of The Heroin Diaries, which I read during the ball game. And I made a friend at the bank.
In the 1920s, a company called Burma Shave — producers of brushless shaving cream — started putting signs up that delighted and educated drivers. These