Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Cashless Society? Not So Much

My apologies for the long hiatus and infrequent posts in the past week or so. I flew out to NY/NJ early Friday morning and spent the past few days with my best friend, blissfully disconnected and unplugged from life as I know it. Usually when I visit NY, it's a combination of both work and leisure. But this time around, it was purely for fun. We visited the United Nations, snagged really great tickets to 'Awake and Sing' at the TKTS booth for half off, visited a church that I've heard wonderful things about, had lunch with a bunch of friends who happened to be in town, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and waited half an hour for a scoop of yummy gelatto at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory and broke in a new pair of shoes.

One of the interesting things about NY City is that there are still a number of mom and pop places that don't accept credit or debit cards. For example, my best friend and I ate dinner Sunday evening at a wonderful, neighborhood bistro called Tartine. There was a large sign on the door that said 'We accept cash only'. Since I had offered to pay for dinner, I was thankful that I had enough cash with me to cover the entire bill because the nearest ATM was nearly 2 blocks away. But when I commented on the sign, my best friend explained that it's fairly common in NYC. When she first moved to the area a year ago, she asked her husband why he was burning through so much cash. He was constantly having to make trips to the ATM. She works in NJ, while her husband works in the financial district in Manhattan, so she just didn't get it. He explained that very few of the places near his office accepted credit cards, so he's forced to pay cash all the time.

Anyway, it made me appreciate some of the modern conveniences and comparative advantages of living and working in downtown Chicago. People in Chicago don't leave large bags of trash on the sidewalk because thanks to the Great Fire, we have alley ways and trash cans on nearly every street corner. And thanks to Mayor Daley, we have flowers and trees along every major street. Best of all, it's a cashless society. You can pretty much use your credit card to pay for even the smallest transactions, which makes tracking expenditures on Quicken a whole heck of a lot easier (i.e., one step update to download all transactions vs. recording each transaction on my Palm manually).

The one thing I will say about NJ. No sales tax. Since most of the places we would've visited were closed on Memorial Day, we decided to hit the outlet malls. Let's just say that I put one heck of a dent in my clothing allowance. But it was mostly stuff that I've been meaning to buy anyway. So, it's just as well, I guess. Also, my best friend trimmed my hair Monday evening, so that saved me about $50, which is what I usually pay for a haircut.

All in all, a fun and relaxing trip. And it turned out to be a lot cheaper than I expected.

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