Feb 222016

cash-or-creditIt’s nice to see Monopoly catching up with the times. In a new version of Monopoly, there is no cash included. All transactions are done via a bank card and a scanner that will add or deduct money from an account as you purchase or sell properties (or pay fines, pass Go, etc). It’s my hope this will make for a better future, where people can interact with the real money system with more intuition.

It seems a lot of people today still have a weird hang-up for cash, which I never understood. I was never paid in cash. My first few years of work were checks, which I deposited promptly into my bank account, and not long after that every employer moved to direct-deposit, so I don’t have to make the annoying stop at the bank anymore! :) This meant that from the very beginning, I intuitively understood that the number in my bank account was my life.

All my effort and labor was represented in that number when it went up every other week. All my rent, car payments, insurance, and utilities came from reducing that number. In a perfectly literal sense every essential in my life flowed from that number. And that number was accessed by using my check book or my bank card as the keys. My bank card was the REAL money in my life. It was what mattered.

Cash, on the other hand, was a frivolity. If someone gave me cash, what good was it? It could not contribute toward sustaining my life unless I first visited the bank and converted it into the Life Number. Cash always felt like Monopoly Money – a fake thing that you don’t worry too much about. It was always kinda amazing that I could hand over some colored slips of paper and someone would give me food or physical objects in return. Really? Shit, OK, if you say so. I’m glad I don’t have to touch my Life Number for this toy transaction. :)

I was surprised when I heard from others that they felt the opposite way. That only cash felt “real” to them, and they ran up credit cards because, I dunno, it didn’t take away from their cash? It was a bizarre mindset. But I guess if you grew up in a cash economy, rather than an electronic one, you would put emotional weight on those papers as containing true value, as opposed to your bank account’s Life Number.

I don’t think one system is inherently better than another. But in the modern world, where the most important transactions often will not accept cash at all, and even in day-to-day purchases cash is becoming obsolete and everything is handled by cards, I think considering your Life Number to be the emotionally-real store of value is more adaptive.

It is my hope that games like the new Monopoly will help children to focus on the abstract Life Number rather than physical slips of paper very early in life, and therefore be more prepared to enter the economy and not be swindled by the common credit card traps that young people used to fall into.

  16 Responses to “Real Money vs “Fake” Money”

  1. Very tangential to your main point, I’d like to note I’ve played one version of the no-cash Monopoly, and gave it away because every transaction, no matter how small, is accompanied by a many-second high pitched beeping tune. For transactions between players, you need to make sure the system reads both cards simultaneously before plugging in the exchange value. Even without the noise the process was slowing down the pace of the game, but with it play became a competition to execute as few transactions as possible to not face the music. Maybe with kids the speed won’t change, but hopefully the latest no-cash editions don’t beep like they were made by Tiger Electronics.

    (I too treat Number as life and cash as fake money.)

    • That sounds really annoying; are you sure there’s no way to turn off the beep short of breaking open the device and disconnecting the speaker?

      Even with real money, individual-to-individual cashless transactions are sometimes hard. SquareCash is the best I’ve seen so far, and it is a slight hassle to set up the first time and can sometimes have other problems.

    • Oh lord, that sounds awful! Who playtested that thing??

    • What I most dislike about it is that it slows the game way down. Gone are people making exchanges and deals on other people’s turns

      There’s a version of the Game of Life that does the card thing, and it too has the annoying beeping. I don’t think Milton Bradley/Hasbro worry about playtesting their games as much as some companies. They just have to worry about adding a new trinket each year to get families to buy another copy of Monopoly or w/e.

      • You aren’t supposed to make deals on other players’ turns according to the rules; not allowing that isn’t a bug per se. Given that most people ignore that, though, it should still be an option.

        Do they let you do the money-from-free-parking thing, or pretend you have more (or fewer) houses and hotels, or other outside-the-standard-rules transactions?

        • I typically don’t play the free parking rule. I have found it vastly slows the game down and makes it less fun. Its been a while so I’m not sure about the other non-rules transactions.

  2. I have the same emotional value for the rectangular paper things in my wallet and the number on my computer screen, except that the rectangular things in my wallet are annoying to deal with. It is difficult to put them into the number on my computer screen (I plan to switch banks soon and one of the things I’m looking at is making sure they actually accept ATM cash deposits), and trying to use them directly just results in more paper rectangles and sometimes some even-more-annoying metal discs. Plus it’s hard to keep track of all the paper-rectangle transactions, while my bank tells me all the transactions I’ve made.

    • >trying to use them directly just results in more paper rectangles and sometimes some even-more-annoying metal discs

      Ha, perfectly said! :)

  3. When I visit a shop to buy things (small things, not a car or furniture, but food or other things for less than 100€) I usually pay with cash. Sure, I get the cash by withdrawing from my bank account, but the cash has one giant advantage: It’s not traceable. I don’t want my bank to know what I spend my money on (of course the rent, internet bill and electricity bill still go directly through the bank account).
    To be honest, to me both the cash in my wallet and the number in my bank account seem equally real and “money that I live with”.

    Another advantage, at least for small children (age 5-10 maybe) of playing monopoly with cash is that it trains addition and subtraction. If you want to find out how much money you have you have to add all those numbers together. Basically in every transaction you have to do a few, admittedly easy calculations that you don’t have to do with the other system, you just have to compare two numbers there to find out if you have enough or not to afford something.
    Also, a little game I play when buying food is that I calculate the current price of what I picked so far in my head and then try to pay the exact amount at the register. (Doesn’t take much time if you pick it out while waiting in line).

    • Bah, I can’t edit my post, sorry for all the mistakes that make it unpleasant to read.

      Anyway, what I wanted to add was: It’s not really (just) the bank that I don’t want to know what I spend money on. They’d only know which shop I was in and at what time and how much I spent.
      The bigger issue is that I don’t trust the local supermarket chains to not sell their customer data elsewhere and they’d get my name from the bank account. I’ve heard stories of people buying diapers for a friend and later getting mails targeted at young parents.. So even if I can’t make it impossible for that to happen I’d at least make it as difficult as possible.

      • > I’ve heard stories of people buying diapers for a friend and later getting mails targeted at young parents.. So even if I can’t make it impossible for that to happen I’d at least make it as difficult as possible.

        I don’t really understand that hesitation. When I think about it, I can see no downside to the store knowing that I buy lots of diapers. This isn’t sensitive info. Tons of people buy lots of diapers. Why is it bad if my customer account number includes the “Diaper-Buyer” tab?

        And I *can* see the upside – being directly mailed coupons that I find useful. Twice a week I get a huge pack of coupons in my mailbox, which goes directly into the trash without me looking at it, because it’s the same scattershot pack that is sent to EVERYONE and 98% of the time there is nothing in there that will benefit me, so it’s a waste of my time to look at it. But once every few months I get a nice direct mail from my supermarket with coupons in it for things that I buy very regularly. They’re the staples that I buy every week, or every few weeks. It saves me a lot of money, and takes almost no effort. I appreciate it a lot.

        Every now and then I see an advertisement for something I am REALLY glad I saw. A Paul & Storm concert sneaking through my city, in one case. I had a great time. I would love for more advertising to actually tell me about things I *want* to know about. I would even be willing to *pay* for useful advertising! If using a customer card can help make my life better in this way, I’m all for it.

        • Thanks for making a blog post out of that! :D

          And you’re right, I thought about it for a bit and agree that there are advantages to it. I just think the potential disadvantages still outweigh them.

    • As somebody in the US, it took me a minute to figure out how you could just add all the prices in your head and know how much to pay. I’d forgotten that most places in most other countries are civilized enough to include sales-tax-or-equivalent in the price instead of adding it extra at the register.

  4. Apparently, though I am not speaking from an experience, what you have said is true for some of the first-world countries. When your bank can get nationalized at any moment or closed indefinitely with accounts there frozen, you tend to think differently about the uselessness of paper money. Still, I admit, using credit card is very convenient.

    • Oh, that’s a good point. I definitely was thinking of this from the privilege of having lots of faith in the security & long term accessibility of my deposited money. Thank you for reminding me this isn’t the case everywhere. :(

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