Financial News and Advice in Singapore

Money Confessions: I Am A Cash Queen And I Went On A Week-Long Cash Cleanse—This Is How It Went

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I tried a ‘7-day cash cleanse’ in Singapore: Here’s how it went...

Cash is king, or is it? In a bid to prove to my friends and colleagues that cash (still) reigns supreme, I decided to challenge myself to a week-long cash cleanse and this is how it went. 

I am a self-professed cash queen. 

There’s just something about holding on to physical notes and coins that makes me feel ‘rich’ and in control of my life. 

My love for cash has come to a point where my friends and colleagues treat me like their personal ATM. If we happen to be at a shop that doesn’t accept card, without even asking, they would transfer money to me via PayNow, so that I would pass them cash on the spot.

I’ve been working at SingSaver for close to two years now and given the nature of our business, I’ve been frequently schooled by my colleagues about my cash preference. The lesson almost always revolves around how I am massively missing out on cashback and air miles, and that cash is passé.

Before you pass judgement, I need to state that I am no boomer (technically a millennial) and have no qualms about using credit cards. 

In fact, I do have credit cards—four, to be exact. However, they are only whipped out when I’m making large purchases (e.g. fridge, laptop, television, etc.) or shopping online, to leverage on exclusive dining discounts or on the rare occasion when I do not have cash. 

To be absolutely honest, the main reason why I consciously choose to make my purchases in cash is because it is deducted immediately, which then helps me stay on top of my budget. 

In order to prove to my friends and colleagues that cash is undoubtedly king, I decided to embark on a week-long cash cleanse to find out what all the fuss is about and if there’s really more to gain by using cards.

To ensure that I don’t cheat get the full cashless experience, I came up with a few rules to guide me on this arduous cleanse.

Cash cleanse rules:

  1. No physical cash is to be used or exchanged during the week. This includes paying for drinks at coffee shops and groceries at the wet market, and friends returning me money for items that I had paid for first (e.g. dinners, drinks, etc.).
  2. As much as possible, transactions should be made via mobile wallet, charged to a credit card and not require me to reach for my actual wallet. 
  3. I am to figure out everything on my own, from set-up to actual payment, with only Google as my north star.

And with that, here’s how my week-long cash cleanse went. 

Day 1: The cash cleanse is really happening

First things first: I had to set up my Apple Wallet. 

Thankfully, setup was a breeze. It took me no longer than 10 minutes to figure it out and sync two cards (one credit and one debit). 

There was no need for any other setup as I’ve previously synced my Grab and foodpanda apps to a credit card, and they will be my secondary cashless payment lifelines.

Setting up my Apple Wallet took me no longer than 10 minutes.

There were no changes to the way I got to work since I pay for all my public transport fares with an EZ-Link card, which I keep separated from my wallet. 

My first hurdle for the day was to get my usual caffeine fix from the nearby coffee shop.

It was 8:15am and there was a queue, but I thought that it worked in my favour because I could use the time to locate the shop’s payment QR code. I scanned the entire shop, from cash register to fridge to collection counter and even at the section where they prepared toast, but I could not find anything resembling a QR code.

Although there was a good chance that I could not get my coffee, I stayed in the queue because I wasn’t going to give up on my daily caffeine fix so easily. 

When it was my turn, I asked the server if they offered any cashless payment options like PayNow or PayLah!. To my disappointment, the answer was a firm ‘no’ and it was accompanied with the most disapproving look you can imagine. I said ‘thank you’, wished I didn’t agree to a cash cleanse, and settled for free pantry coffee in the office. 

Yes, I may have saved a grand total of $1.50 on coffee today (and a total of $7.50 for the week) but lost out on liquid sanity (sigh). 

The rest of my day was peaceful and transaction-free. Lunch was a homemade salad and after work, I took public transport home using my trusty EZ-Link card. 

Dinner was the usual: anything that my helper prepared for my family at home. On most weekdays when I do not have prior appointments, dinners are always had at home. 

Day 2: No purchases

Day 2 was very similar to Day 1. I got coffee from the office pantry and had homemade salad for lunch. When work ended, I took public transport home. 

Day 3: I might actually adopt going cashless more often

Today, I had lunch with my colleagues. We walked to get takeaway salad bowls and snacks, and consumed them at the office pantry together. 

Along the way, one of my colleagues suggested that we should check foodpanda to see if what we wanted was available for Pick-Up, as it would save us 15%. 

After a quick check, the lunch I had set my gut up for wasn’t available, but my soon-to-be afternoon snack was. I placed an order via my foodpanda app, paid for it using the credit card that was previously synced and swung by to pick it up before getting lunch. 

Paying for lunch was a breeze as the salad shop I patronised preferred cashless payments. All I had to do was launch my Apple Wallet, tap my phone on their device and I was good to go. After my colleagues and I each got our lunches, we headed back to the office pantry to finally have our lunch together. 

I didn’t have anything planned for the evening so I went home after work. Along the way, I stopped at the provision shop near my house to pick-up some groceries. 

This is a traditional mom-and-pop provision shop, the sort that looks as if it were locked in the early-80s. I was a little apprehensive and did not know if they would accept cashless options, but I heard from my mother that they have recently started accepting PayNow. 

And to my surprise, they really do! A huge DIY PayNow QR code was staring at me the moment I walked into the shop. 

Walked around the provision shop and picked up two cartons of soy milk, a tray of eggs and a bag of potato chips (that I did not need), and proceeded to queue for payment. 

When it was my turn, I proceeded with payment via the POSB banking app on my phone. Once it went through, I showed the cashier my approved transaction and he nodded in approval. I took my bag of goodies and walked home feeling mighty proud of my cashless purchase. 

The option to Scan & Pay can be found on POSB app’s homepage.

Day 4: Anxiety, my old friend

Feeling slightly more confident going cashless now, I decided to try using my Apple Wallet in place of my physical EZ-Link card to get to work. 

My daily work commute consists of a bus and train ride. Easy peasy, just tap and go—or so I thought. 

Picture this scene: the bus arrives, doors open and I board the bus filled with pride that I had my Apple Wallet set up and it would work flawlessly. But as fate would have it, it did not. 

It could have been due to poor reception or maybe I had one too many apps open, but my Apple Wallet did not launch as expected and I held up the line. It was embarrassing and all I wanted to do in that moment was to bury my head in the sand.

Thankfully, it worked after I restarted the app. I made it. 

Having learnt my lesson, I kept the app running in the background while I caught up on social media on the way to work. I didn’t face any issues when I tapped in and out of the train station. 

The rest of the day was transaction-free. Lunch was a(nother) homemade salad and I went home after work in a GrabCar (charged the fare to a credit card that I had previously synced with the app).

Day 5: I think I can do this

Got to work today using my Apple Wallet to pay for my public transport fares, and I did not meet with any technology malfunctions (yay!). Learning from yesterday’s embarrassing situation, I launched the app before I left the house and kept it running in the background throughout my work commute.

And yes, you’ve guessed it! Lunch was a homemade salad. 

After work, I rushed home in a GrabCar because my friends were coming over for a friendly game of mahjong and Thai takeout (this was before Phase 2 Heightened Alert came into effect). To ensure dinner arrived on time, I placed my GrabFood order on the way home and even snagged a cool $6 off, thanks to a bank promo code

When the night ended, my friends transferred me for their share of dinner and mahjong losses via PayNow—yes, I was the ultimate winner! 

You might be wondering why I kept using Grab over other transport or food delivery apps. Well, I wanted my transactions to be charged to the particular credit card that I had synced to my Grab app (easier to track my spending), enjoy food delivery discounts and earn points on my transactions. To my knowledge, there isn’t another app that checks all these boxes. 

Day 6: Grocery shopping takes a turn

Today’s a Saturday, which meant a grocery trip to the wet market in the morning, followed by dinner and drinks with my friends. 

Since I was now a pro at paying for public transportation with my handy Apple Wallet, getting around today was seamless.

Household grocery run

You must be thinking, ‘cashless payments at the wet market, are you really going to risk it?’ Well, I had to give it a try. 

On my grocery list, I had pork, chicken and vegetables, and it was in that order that I would make my purchases.

I arrived at the wet market a little after 9am, and it was as you would expect: crowded, noisy and slightly chaotic. Rocked up to my usual pork seller and got in the queue. While waiting, I tried finding a QR code, but did not manage to see any. 

Payment QR code tucked behind a tonne of decorations (some of which were removed before this picture was taken).

When it was my turn, I asked the pork seller if he accepted cashless payments, to which he replied ‘yes’, and proceeded to shift aside some of his shopfront decorations to reveal a QR code. What a relief

I made my usual order, paid for it via GrabPay (Grab’s mobile wallet), showed him my approved transaction, and proceeded to the chicken seller. 

Luckily for me, I didn’t even have to search for the payment QR code when I got there as it was displayed prominently in front of their store. I gave the chicken seller my order and while waiting for it to be prepared, relaunched my Grab app to make payment. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

All shops who offer contactless payment options should really take a page from this chicken seller’s book and display their QR codes prominently like this.

Last but not least, vegetables. 

Sadly, both vegetable stalls I frequent did not accept cashless payments. Slightly disappointed, I made my way to Cold Storage (which I know for certain accepts cashless payments) that is just around the corner to get my week’s worth of slightly overpriced vegetables before heading home. 

Paying for my vegetables via contactless payment at Cold Storage.

Dinner and drinks

In the evening, I met my friends at our usual watering hole for some hot grub and well-poured pints. 

When the night ended, I volunteered to foot the bill first and asked the waiter if I could make contactless payment. To my surprise, I didn’t even have to walk over to the cashier counter to make payment. 

Instead, I remained seated while the waiter brought the wireless payment device to my table. With a few taps of my Apple Wallet, the transaction was approved and a printed receipt was passed to me. 

Keeping within the cash cleanse rules I had set for myself, the bill was split with my friends who then transferred me their share via PayNow. 

As it was getting late and I was feeling tired, I booked myself a GrabCar home. 

Day 7: No purchases

I stayed in to prepare lunches for the following week, catch-up on Netflix and made time for a run at the nearby park connector. 

My meals and snacks for the day were either from my store cupboard or something simple that I had put together, with ingredients from my freezer or yesterday’s grocery haul.

Conclusion

This week has definitely been an eye-opener for me, and I’ve learnt to enjoy the convenience of going cashless. Below, I’ve compiled a list of the pros and cons of going fully cashless for a week. 

Pros of going cashless

  1. You don’t have to bring anything other than your phone when you’re out because most purchases can be made via mobile wallet. 
  2. When you make payment using a mobile wallet, transactions are immediately captured on the app itself, which helps track spending.
  3. You will never worry about receiving wet notes or coins for change when shopping at the wet market ever again.
  4. You can earn cashback or air miles if you charge your purchases to the right card. By charging all my purchases for the week to a cashback card, I earned a cool $10 in cashback! #AdultingLikeAPro

Cons of going cashless

  1. If a purchase isn’t made using a mobile wallet, it may take up to three working days before it is reflected on your credit card bill. This means you may end up overspending if you forget you’ve made certain transactions. 
  2. Unless you charge all your purchases to one or two credit cards, it may be difficult to track spending. 
  3. Sometimes apps do not launch as expected and you end up holding up the line, which then brings about unnecessary anxiety. 

The final word on going cashless

Will I be adopting a cashless life from now on? Not all the time, but I will definitely be using cashless payment options more often. 

I still feel that transacting in cash is easier for me to keep track of my spending. Not to mention, making payment in cash means that I don’t have to pray to the technology gods for my app to work (for fear of holding up the line) each time I make a purchase. 

However, I will definitely be tapping on cashless payment options on occasions when bringing fewer items out of the house is preferred, e.g. running, hiking, going for a wedding and my outfit looks better without a bag, etc. 

And that sums up my week-long cash cleanse. Would you consider giving it a try? What are your favourite cashless payment hacks? 

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By Geralyne Ong
A lover of gin and all things Nigella Lawson, Geralyne’s a big believer of #Adulting. She spends her leisure time serving fur-babies and doing as many mountain climbers and kettlebell swings as she possibly can.