Does Technology Make Money Seem Less ‘Real’?

I’m a little bit terrified of money.  I like to think of it as a healthy terror, though maybe it’s more of a great respect for money as I’ve seen enough of the news during this Global Financial Crisis to know that you have to treat money well, otherwise things can go south pretty quickly.  And I don’t think this ‘fear’ is necessarily a bad thing, because money’s becoming a lot less ‘real’ and a lot more theoretical and virtual.

It used to be that money, or transactions were a physical thing:“Why yes, I’ll swap you two of my oxen for 6 of your hens and a bucket of grain” or you’d hand a bronze coin over to the pub landlord in exchange for your glass of beer.  But now you can go through life without ever having to hand over your dollars, pounds, krone or other currencies that you use.  You can, thanks to technology, pay almost everything by card.

And there’s something about paying for things using a little rectangular bit of plastic that makes money seem less real.  Handing over notes and coins bearing faces of important historical figures who look up and judge you on your purchases and say, “Really Grace, do you need another navy jacket?” makes you aware that you really are saying cheerio to that bit of your income, it gives you a finite amount of money to play with because that’s all you have available there and then.  But with cards you just punch a few digits into the PIN machine or sign your squiggle in the box and then you’re done and it’s harder to visualise how much money you’ve spent.

And the popularity of shopping on the internet has meant that now more steps in the shopping process are being cut out.  Online shopping can be done so quickly and easily – companies remember all your details so all you have to do is log into your account, click a button and that cute pair of shoes will make their way to your door within 2-3 working days.  And you didn’t even have to get up from your sofa to do it.  It’s now just becoming numbers in columns that get moved around from here to there and there to here again.  It’s so easy to buy things online and that is fantastic as long as we remember that it’s actual, real money we’re dealing with and it has to come from somewhere.

With the popularity of mobile, the online shopping experience is also moving out of the confines of your living room.  There are apps that allow you to pay for things in the world outside of your front door by using your phone.  Apps like FlyPay that allow restaurant customers to look at the items they’ve ordered and pay for them via their phone, splitting the bill if needed and Uber which allows you to order a taxi with the fare being charged to your card automatically once you’ve reached your destination.  It’s becoming less difficult to spend money.

Now this ease of paying can be fantastic, it can save time and just generally put you in a better mood if you don’t have to jump through hoops to purchase something you want.  But I do think that this makes money seem less ‘real’ because you think of it as a little bit here and a quick little bit there, but all this amounts actually do add up.  So what do you think?  Has the rise of mobile made you interact with money in a different way?  Are you more likely to buy things because it’s so easy?  Or do you still stick to a very strict budget?

Featured image via ShutterStock

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