CBC News

Pandemic has meant tough times for those who love cash

February 11, 2021

It wasn’t all that long ago that cash was considered the smart way to go, in terms of saving and budgeting.

Who can forget watching the great ‘Til Debt Do Us Part TV series, featuring Gail Vaz-Oxlade, where a key lesson to managing household budgeting was to save up change and bills in jars, one jar for food, one for fuel, one for entertainment, and so on. The jars of cash forced you to follow a budget, and credit cards and lines of credit weren’t allowed.

And what about the advice of American financier Mark Cuban about the dealmaking cash provides – he notes that “you’ll get better results if you negotiate with cash.” As an example, if you say “all I have is $40 cash,” maybe the vendor will settle for that instead of a higher amount. No such wiggle room exists with credit and debit cards.

But along came the pandemic to make the world tremble for cash users.

“More businesses are going cashless during the COVID-19 pandemic and are asking customers to use debit, credit or app payments as a precautionary measure,” notes the CBC. Some retailers are refusing to take cash altogether, others deal with it in a safer way, using tongs and little cash boxes.

The concern with cash is, of course, health-related; handing over bills and cash is a hand-to-hand action that does carry risk. Contactless payments are seen as safer.

In the U.K., contactless payment has risen by as much as 64 per cent of all transactions, reports MSN Money.

Major retailer Asda is now accepting payment from a wider range of mobile devices, and contactless payment limits – once quite small – have been ramped up, the article notes. The limit is now 45 pounds – about $78 Canadian.

Here at home, NFCW reports that Visa and MasterCard limits for contactless payments have jumped up to $250.

A final indicator of the cashless society is the use of automatic teller machines (ATMs). In the UK, reports PA Media via MSN. ATM use is down a whopping 60 per cent.

“When people do use a cash machine, they are typically withdrawing more money. The average cash machine withdrawal is now around £80, up from around £65 before the lockdown,” the article notes.

Seventy-five per cent of Brits surveyed say they are using less cash these days – and 14 per cent say they are keeping any cash they accumulate at home, perhaps in a piggy bank, for emergencies, the article concludes.

So King Cash has been dethroned, at least until the pandemic is over. No doubt the throne will be reoccupied one day when the pandemic is under control, and it’s safe to shop with a wallet filled with bills and coins.

Got some cash piling up? While saving it for an emergency is a great idea, so is saving it for your retirement. There aren’t as many people lining up at those green coin counting machines these days, so bring your piggy bank of coins there and convert it to bills. Those can then be tucked into your savings account via an ATM.

The Saskatchewan Pension Plan has a great “pay yourself first” feature worth knowing about. You can set up SPP as a bill in most online banking applications. Then you can pop those piggy bank dollars into your SPP as easily as you can pay the cable bill. Not a member of SPP? Check them out today – 2021 marks their 35th year of delivering retirement security.

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Pandemic has dethroned cash as the monarch of personal finance

May 14, 2020

Your parents say it, the experts say it, people who are wealthy say it – if you’re buying something, pay with cash, not credit. And even debit cards can come with hidden fees, they say.

But this crazy pandemic situation has us all tap, tap, tapping away for groceries, for gas, for a box of beer, and any of the other services we can actually spend money on. Could this represent a sea change for the use of cash, or is it just a blip? Save with SPP had a look around the Interweb for a little fact-finding.

Proponents of cash include Gail Vaz Oxlade, author and TV presenter who has long advocated for using cash for expenses, rather than adding to your debt.

“I’m a huge fan of hers and have read every book and watched every episode of Til Debt Do Us Part, Money Moron and Princess… the premise of the system is to use cash only (no plastic), storing it in envelopes or jars, sticking to a budget, tracking your spending, and once the money is gone, there’s no more until next month’s budget,” reports The Classy Simple Life blog.

It’s true – we have read her books and if you follow her advice your debts will decrease.

Other cash advocates include billionaire Mark Cuban. He tells CNBC that while only 14 per cent of Americans use cash for purchases (pre-pandemic), he sees cash as his number one negotiation tool. “If you want to take a yoga class, and they say it costs $30, say `I’ve only got $20,’” he says in a recent Vanity Fair article. More than likely, he notes, they’ll take the cash.

Cash is great because it is (usually) accepted everywhere, there’s no fees or interest associated with using it, and it has a pre-set spending limit – when your wallet is empty, you stop spending. But these days, cash is no longer sitting on the throne of personal finance.

Globe and Mail columnist Rob Carrick notes that more than six weeks into the pandemic he still had the same $50 in his wallet that he had when it started.

“Paying with cash is seen as presenting a risk of transmitting the virus from one person to another – that’s why some retailers that remain open prefer not to accept it. Note: The World Health Organization says there’s no evidence that cash transmits the virus,” he writes. In fact, he adds, the Bank of Canada recently asked retailers to continue to accept cash during the crisis.

A CBC News report suggests that our plastic money may indeed present a risk, and that the COVID-19 virus may survive for hours or days on money. The piece suggests it is a “kindness” to retailers to pay with credit or debit, rather than cash.

“Public officials and health experts have said that the risk of transferring the virus person-to-person through the use of banknotes is small,” reports Fox News. “But that has not stopped businesses from refusing to accept currency and some countries from urging their citizens to stop using banknotes altogether,” the broadcaster adds. The article goes on to point out that many businesses are doing “contactless” transactions, where payment occurs over the phone or Internet and there is not even a need to tap.

Putting it all together, we’re living in very unusual times, and this odd new reality may be with us for a while. If you are still using cash, it might be wise to wear gloves when you are paying and getting change. Even if you aren’t a fan of using tap or paying online, perhaps now is a time to get your grandchildren to show you how to do it. The important thing is for all of us to stay safe – cash may be dethroned for the short term, but things will eventually return to normal, and it will be “bad” to overuse credit cards again.

And if that cash has been piling up during a period of time when there’s precious little to spend it on, don’t neglect your retirement savings plan. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan offers a very safe haven for any unneeded dollars. Any amounts you can contribute today will grow into a future retirement income, so consider adding to your savings today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

April 3: Best from the blogosphere

April 3, 2017

By Sheryl Smolkin

It’s almost two weeks since the 2017 federal budget was tabled, so there is lots of “second day” commentary in the mainstream media to draw on for this issue. Saskatchewan also tabled a budget including some provisions that will impact your bottom line.

In the lead up to the federal budget trial balloons were floated regarding making employer-paid premiums for health insurance taxable benefits and changing the taxable rates for capital gains, but none of these dire predictions came to pass.

In the Ottawa Citizen, Kate McInturff, a senior researcher at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives wrote that the budget is a first step to better the lives of women in Canada. She reports that the government will spend $100.9 million over five years to establish a National Strategy to Address Gender-Based Violence — a problem that has directly affected more than one million women in the past five years.

Erin Anderssen at the Globe and Mail offers seven things to know about Canada’s new parental benefits. Once the provinces pass job protection legislation, parents will be able to stretch their leave out for 18 months, but this will mean stretching benefits at a lower rate. The government is expected to move quickly, but the changes may not happen until next year.

Contrary to pre-budget expectations, Lee Berthiaume notes in a Canadian Press article that life-long pensions for veterans were not included in the Liberal government’s second budget. Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s new fiscal plan did contain new spending for veterans and their families, specifically $725 million in promised additional benefits over five years. Still, as welcome as the new money will be, the big question for many veterans is how the government plans to bring back life-long pensions as an option for those injured in uniform.

Hello Uber tax, goodbye transit credit says CBC News. The proposed levy on Uber and other ride-hailing services will for the first time impose GST/HST on fares, in the same way they are charged on traditional taxi services. The non-refundable public transit tax credit — a so-called boutique tax credit introduced by the previous Conservative government — will be phased out on July 1. The credit enabled public transit users to apply 15% of their eligible expenses on monthly passes and other fares toward reducing the amount of tax they owe.

And closer to home, the Saskatchewan budget hikes provincial sales tax to 6% and for the first time, the tax will apply to children’s clothes. CBC presents an analysis of how the PST hike will hit you in the pocketbook.

The government will also wind down the government-owned Saskatchewan Transportation Company, which it says would have required require an anticipated subsidy of $85 million over the next five years.

There were 574 layoff notices attached to this budget, including cleaners in government buildings and workers at the Saskatchewan Transportation Company.

Other notable provincial budget measures include:

  • The exemption for the bulk purchase of gasoline is being scrapped and a tax exemption for diesel fuel is being reduced to 80% of the amount purchased.
  • So-called sin taxes on booze and cigarettes are going up.
  • Various tax credits — including for education and tuition expenses — are being eliminated.
  • Effective July 1/17saskatchewan will apply provincial sales tax to life, accident and health insurance premiums.
  • The Saskatchewan government says it will offset some of the tax increases by reducing income taxes by a half-point on July 1, 2017 and by the same amount on July 1, 2019.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.


Jan 16: Best from the blogosphere

January 16, 2017

By Sheryl Smolkin

With Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and the stock market’s long bull run in 2016, the big question everyone is asking is what is in store for the Canadian economy in 2017?

Well, it depends who you ask and on what day. Here are a few recent predictions in the mainstream media, which may or may not pan out. You be the judge.

Not surprisingly, there’s one risk that “Trumps” them all for Canada’s economy in 2017, said Royal Bank Chief Economist Craig Wright in early January at the Economic Outlook 2017 event in Toronto.

The impact of U.S. growth on Canada depends on the policies that are put in place across the border under President-elect Donald Trump, but at a minimum Wright noted the U.S. is headed in a more competitive direction, while Canada seems to be moving the other way. “So it’s not yet clear whether Canada will see a ‘Trump bump’ or perhaps a ‘Trump slump,'” he told iPolitic reporter Ainslie Cruickshank.

The Financial Post reports that the best loonie forecaster in the world believes the Canadian dollar will beat all its G10 peers this year. The loonie will nudge an additional 0.75 per cent higher to 75.75 US cents by the end of the year, according to Konrad Bialas, chief economist at Warsaw-based foreign-exchange broker Dom Maklerski TMS Brokers SA, who topped a Bloomberg ranking of Canadian dollar forecasters in the fourth quarter. That would extend the loonie’s three percent gain from last year, which made it the best performer among its Group-of-10 peers.

In the Globe and Mail economist Todd Hirsch makes a series of bold (and some not-so-bold) predictions for Canada’s economy in 2017 and beyond. For example:

  1. Canada-U.S. trade disputes will intensify.
  2. The Canadian dollar will dip below 70 cents early in the year, but finish 2017 at 78 cents.
  3. The Keystone XL pipeline will get Washington’s approval.
  4. And for sports fans, Montreal will win the Stanley Cup; University of Calgary Dinos will win the Vanier Cup; and, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will win the Grey Cup.

On CBC News, Paul Evans offers the following  five reasons why Canada’s economy is looking up in 2017.

  1. The job market is recovering.
  2. Oil could be headed higher – finally.
  3. Despite of predictions to the contrary, the loonie could be headed higher.
  4. Trade is picking up.
  5. The TSX is near an all-time high.

Nevertheless, analysis from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (a UK think tank), published in co-operation with Global Construction Perspectives says Canadawill have the world’s 10th largest economy in 2017, but will be overtaken in a few years by South Korea.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.