Going cashless

I rarely carry around cash with me these days. Coins are stuck in a pot somewhere and I can’t remember the last time I went to an ATM. Everything I pay for I pay either by card or on the net. Simple. If I want to give some money to a friend, we have a money-transferring system in Sweden, called Swish and that’s all done on you phone.

In fact according to this article,

Sweden is closer than any other country on Earth towards the goal of cashlessness

But that may not be such a good thing. Writing in The GuardianDominic Frisby argues that a cashless society has all sorts of problems.

There is a problem of power – a cashless society hands more power to banks and that may not be a wise move.

There’s a problem of privacy – in a cashless society someone knows what you do with your money. Not all governments or banks are equally trustworthy with your data.

There’s a problem of progress. A cashless system requires people to have bank accounts & a fixed address and income. Cash allowed the poor to buy mobile phones and start doing business.

However there are risks with both but most of us tend to make decisions based on convenience and for me, in Sweden, cash is often inconvenient.

What that means is, that often I have no money to give to those who beg and that I can imagine a future where the beggar will have a sign with their Swish number, asking me to send them money via their phone.



Photo by BankSimple


I notice this too actually. I usually don’t have any money on me, and my husband is much less easily swayed than me by beggars (not because he is better, I never have a good attitude about it, I always feel guilty and give from that perspective not one of generosity – my husband on the other hand just believes that it’s better to give to well vetted charities than beggars since you don’t know who is a professional beggar and who is in genuine need), and secretly I find it very relieving to always think “well I have no money on me so I have nothing to give”. But of course when it comes to buying chocolate bars for myself I may have money on my card!

And I think a lot about how the excess fat on my body is the visual image of all the times I (harmfully) gave to myself instead of giving to others. Like, I never needed those chocolate bars. I had a craving for them, but I didn’t need them, while other people actually had needs that went unfulfilled while I stuffed my face. I think that is why its so shameful to be fat. But at the obesity group I go to, the women there are such lovely people, it feels very bad to speak of it that way. Like they have been “selfish” with food the same as I have (although one of the women is old and short and can’t exercise because she needs a hip operation which she can’t get till she loses weight – she stays the same weight for weeks and weeks on a 1200 calorie low carb diet – she will get tearful about eating a bag of crisps as if that was some massive terrible shameful thing and not something that most people do fairly often – I don’t think I’d put her in the same category for that, she’s just old and so needs much less food than socially appears to be “normal”) – but in other areas of their life they are some of the most giving people I ever met. A lot of their problems appear to be that they get so stressed out serving the other people in their life that they have no energy left to be rational about food and then they end up eating mindlessly or by instinct (which is driven and heated up by the ubiquitous advertisement and promotion of highly palatable foods in our society).

Interesting to see how far Sweden has gone down the cashless route. Phil you have identified the main issues that arise from not using cash, except for the one that CAP here in the UK identified for me – it is that we spend more when we don’t actually have the cash in our hands. I didn’t feel that was right but when I switched to a cash system, taking out money each week I did discover that it is true. An added bonus is that when I am spending less I also have more to give to the homeless and beggers.

Don’t know the reseach personally, but you could ask them capuk.org but in my experience as a fundraiser we invariably found people gave more by credit card, than by cash or cheque. I think it is something about no seeing the actual cash or bank balance.

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