Here's How Much Cash You Should Actually Keep in Your Wallet

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KEY POINTS

  • Many people are increasingly going cashless.
  • While you don't need to carry hundreds of dollars with you at all times, having $100 on hand is a good bet.
  • If you can't trust yourself not to blow your cash, you may want to stick to a lower threshold.

It's a good guideline to follow.

Today's society is becoming increasingly cashless. A recent report from the Pew Research Center found that in 2022, 41% of consumers didn't make any purchases using cash. Rather, they relied on a combination of credit cards, debit cards, and payment apps. In 2018, only 29% of people said the same.

But even if you're someone who prefers not to walk around with a bulging wallet, it still pays to keep some cash on hand for situations where electronic payments aren't accepted. And while there's no magic number to dictate how much cash to keep in your wallet, there are some general guidelines you can follow.

The right amount of cash to carry around

You never know when you might encounter a situation where you're forced to pay for a purchase in cash -- even if you're normally able to use a credit or debit card. Let's say you're buying groceries when your supermarket's credit or debit card reading system suddenly goes down. At that point, your supermarket may have no choice but to limit purchases to those paid for with cash (or checks -- but if you don't carry cash in your wallet, then chances are, you probably don't write a lot of checks either).

Plus, some businesses don't accept credit cards at all. Imagine how frustrating or embarrassing it would be to show up for a date with no cash in your wallet, only to find that the restaurant you're meeting at is cash only. Suddenly, you'll either need to bail on your date temporarily to find a bank and use its ATM, or abandon the restaurant, which could make for an awkward moment, to say the least.

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That's why it's a good idea to keep some cash in your wallet. And you may want to make a habit of carrying around $100.

Is this somewhat of an arbitrary suggestion? Yes. That's because you could just as easily make the case to carry around $80 or $120.

But the logic here is that $100 in cash is probably enough to cover a larger purchase, like a shopping cart full of food or a meal at a reasonably priced eatery. And it also doesn't leave you excessively vulnerable to financial losses -- such as if you were to lose your wallet and the cash tucked away inside it.

Plus, let's face it -- hitting the ATM all the time can be annoying. If you load your wallet with $100, you won't have to run to the bank every time your child needs $5 for a school trip or you need $2 for a parking lot attendant.

If you tend to blow cash, carry less

The recommendation to keep $100 in cash on hand is for people who are generally pretty disciplined about spending their money. If you can admit that you're not so good at that, then it pays to limit yourself to a smaller amount of cash in your wallet -- somewhere in the ballpark of $40 or $50.

Another option? Leave a $20 bill in your wallet, but store another $80 or so in cash in a secure place at home, like a safe. That way, you'll have some cash on hand for an emergency, but you'll lower the risk of spending it on something that isn't so important.

Carrying cash is something that many of us are no longer used to doing. But it's a good idea to have a modest amount of cash in your wallet at all times -- just in case.

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