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Johannes Holmberg

UI developer & designer

Around 2 years ago I was almost in a state of complete lack of "real-world money" (those you have in your pockets.) All my expenses went effortlessly and invisibly from one account to another by the swiping of plastic chips as my intermediary benefactors.

Life was easy. If I craved something I could usually have it relatively quick just by approving a machine or a person the inspection of my card.

I didn't have a single penny in my pockets because there was simply no need. I thought: why carry around abundant pieces of paper and a heavy load of metal when I can just show my card to get what I want? I didn't overspend though, I was definitely aware that somewhere in the periphery there was actual money being taken away from me with every transaction.

But then came a curious incident about little over a year ago. I was riding a taxi in the middle of Switzerland and when I had reached my destination, I reflexively hauled out my card as customary as usual. The taxi driver looked over the card and then he stared at me with anguish in his eyes. He shook his head apprehensively and didn't accept it.

I was nonplussed. What could I do? I didn't have anything I could offer as payment. After some staggering attempts of conversation in German he furiously took me to the closest ATM. I made a withdrawal and could at last offer the man his payment.

That incident stayed with me long after it happened. There was something peculiar about the way of handling and paying with those paper notes. I played with the thought further. There was a newborn sense to it, something I hadn't perceived before. It had to do with independency as well as it had to do with resistance. I kept pulling the thread that now so ubiquitously tangled me.

First of all I feared to put myself in the same kind of situation again, that feeling of total helplessness. The second thing, I thought, is that right now I'm giving in to most of my cravings because there's no friction. If there's no friction, it's easier ending up doing a thing; as in my case, spending.

I started conducting some experiments. I sat up a timeframe consisting of 2 weeks and then I grabbed a relevant sum of money that should sustain me during that period. "This is what you have to live on, spend it well." In the beginning I left my card at home, so every time I reflexively searched for it when I got a craving, I had to think twice. There was no card, just the "real money". There's another type of resistance about having paper notes in my hand, I feel the actual loss when they slip out of my fingers.

I liked this newfound bulwark against spending so I stuck with the scheme. Now I enjoy watching most of my infatuated cravings diminish with just that little wall I've set up by primarily using paper money. It's an interesting realization, admitting reflexes to find out how many things one doesn't actually need. I also like the honesty about paper money, it can be used everywhere I go and it doesn't need an external link between me and the trader for it to work, that offers more independency.

I can't say that this is the easiest and most convenient way of handling transactions of money, oppositely it's pretty cumbersome and inconvenient at times. This is not simplicity in its regular sense meaning it evens out the rough edges of life and makes it smoother. But from time to time, doing things the long, hard and stupid way can actually be the right way.