An unexpected windfall

A super awesome thing happened to me yesterday that I thought I’d share here. Here’s the thing about me and my spending: I use my credit cards for everything. It’s easy to keep track of, and depending on which card I use I’m either getting cash back or travel rewards points; not much but still a bit of a reward for making purchases. That comes with the huge caveat that it is SO IMPORTANT to pay off your credit card balances in full each month—credit card interest is a horrible beast that will absolutely negate any perks/rewards from using a card and will get out of control ridiculously quickly. Also sometimes yes, it’s easier to spend more money when you don’t have to physically hand cold hard cash over to someone. But for now I hardly ever use cash for anything. Even if I have cash it tends to stay in my wallet in favor of my credit cards until I’m sick of it being there and finally decide to use it.

My mother’s been telling me lately that I should save some cash just in case, especially on the trip when she paid me back in cash for something small that I bought before the trip and I mentioned that I was going to deposit that $20 when we got back. “You know, it’s not a bad idea to keep some cash on hand,” was her reply, but honestly I never use cash for anything and if I do need cash some day because I can’t use a credit card, I’ll go find an ATM. The beautiful thing about Uber or Lyft is that if I find myself in a situation I need to leave, my credit card is already in my account and I don’t have to worry about not having the cash. I think most other examples of reasons I’d need to spend money in an emergency are similar.

But despite my heavy reliance on credit cards, I am someone who has historically kept some cash tucked away somewhere on the off chance that I need to use it for an emergency. I don’t know why, and it’s honestly not a huge amount (okay, $80-$150 is not an insignificant amount, but it did feel like a lot more even a few years ago), but it’s a thing I seem to have always done, even as far back as high school.

I’ve come to the conclusion that somehow in the process of moving out sophomore year before studying abroad in Chile, I left a box of my favorite books in my dorm room. I’ve replaced most of those in the intervening years (after making my parents search every inch of their attic multiple times just in case the box magically turned up on a subsequent look) but I’m 98% sure I had at least a couple of $20 bills stashed in one of my books in case of emergency. After all, who was going to be flipping through my copy of Jane Austen’s Emma and stumble across that cash? I’m still mad about losing that money for no reason (plus the money I spent replacing my books, although I did buy used, not new), dammit! After that unfortunate incident, I kept cash tucked away in a small container I use to transport all my earrings when I’m moving and stowed that in a dark corner in my dorm room/apartment.

Now that I’m an adult, I have emergency money in the form of a savings account, which earns not a ton of interest, but is still better than having cash that loses value every year due to inflation. I couldn’t remember if I’d actually deposited all my emergency cash at some point in the last few years or if I’d kept it for some reason. Clearly this money was out of sight, out of mind, which is not a bad way to go with your emergency fund! But because depositing cash has been on my mind lately (I also overpaid last month for some specialist appointments because I didn’t know I’d hit my health insurance deductible and got that reimbursed as cash which I just deposited last week as well), I decided to go searching through my room to see if I found anything.

Lo and behold, I got an awesome surprise:

Oh hey there!

I suspect that this was graduation money and the first (and so far only) time I’ve ever been in possession of a $100 bill, which is maybe why I saved it instead of depositing it. This logic does not make sense because a) what is functionally the difference between a $100 bill and 5 $20 bills other than that the $100 bill is harder to break/use at places? and b) either way that $100 in cash was sitting in my room for three years and not earning interest.

Needless to say, I absolutely went to my nearest Capital One this morning to deposit it as soon as possible-carrying around a $100 bill actually isn’t a comfortable feeling! It’s tempting to send this straight over to my credit card to help pay off the trip, but I kept this money around for emergencies so I’m going to honor that and transfer it to one of my savings accounts instead. Paying off an international trip is emphatically not an emergency and some day I will be glad I had an extra $100 in savings.

So I encourage anyone reading this to look through their home for any cash they might have tucked away in a book, under the mattress, in drawer, etc for emergencies and might have forgotten about. You might be surprised what you find!

2 Replies to “An unexpected windfall”

  1. Despite the fact I am using my CCs and do some churning, I always keep cash in my wallet. Why? It’s easy, sometimes I can get much better deal for paying cash instead of using credit cards. For example, I got 20% discount for paying cash when I bought a saddlebag for my motorcycle. Instead of paying $100 I paid $80.

    But if I can’t get any cash discount I use my CC and earn miles and/or sign-up bonuses

    1. That’s a good point about paying cash for things, and if I ever buy anything in person other than groceries (most of my shopping is done on Amazon), I’ll ask about a cash discount. And then run out to the ATM to withdraw that amount!

      Thanks for reading!

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