What would life be like without the cent? I don?t think we are likely to find out in any real way any time soon, but I have contemplated my daily routine to see how I might be affected.
Right now, I don?t see much impact on my life at its loss. My cash transactions are pretty well limited to routine expenses around Iola, Wis. The population at the last census was 1,298, though we have grown a little since 2000. It is in this environment that I primarily use cash.
I drink my morning coffee at home, but if for some reason I cannot, I have the option of a coffee machine here at work. The price is 40 cents for a large cup, so I never need or encounter a cent in change. The machine takes $1 bills and that is what I usually have on me to pay for my beverage.
Then comes lunch. Monday through Friday I have lunch downtown at the Crystal Cafe. I almost always have one of the three daily specials at $6.25. With the state and county sales tax combined taking another 5.5 percent, my daily lunch tab comes to $6.59. This calculation, in case anyone is interested, actually comes out to $6.59375, with the final amount rounded down to $6.59. I always pay the bill with folding money. Sometimes its one $5 and two $1s, sometimes a $10 or a $20. Whatever the notes used, the change always includes 41 cents, one quarter, one dime, a nickel and a cent. I take the change, put the coins in my pocket and hope they don?t roll out on my way back to the Krause building. I then remove the coins from my pocket and place them on my bookshelf. I repeat this process in taking them home at the end of the day, ultimately throwing the coins in an old plastic container. Of course, I always look at the dates and condition.
When I buy gasoline, I pay cash. The two stations in town have the take-a-penny dishes, so the transaction amount always ends up even, through I try to fill the tank to the nearest quarter.
If I should rent a video, one of the stations rounds the price to $3 even. The other charges sales tax and I pay $3.15. Even here, they must be rounding down, because 5.5 percent tax would come out to $3.165, and I am sure Waupaca County is not forgiving this amount, so the business is probably clearing $2.985 or $2.99.
At the grocery store, I pay cash and the amount varies. Sure they take charge cards, but I tend not to use them in town. I guess I?m old-fashioned that way.
When I am out of town, I take my charge cards. Bills come in and I pay them. Whether the cent exits in physical form or not, I can pay the bill to the last penny. Any transaction, for that matter, that is ultimately paid by check or Internet transfer can always be paid to the last penny.
What about stamps? After all, I am a numismatist and I know the story behind the creation of the three-cent piece in 1851. It could buy a first-class stamp. Well, I don?t buy stamps one at a time. I always buy 20 stamps at once. With the current first-class postage, that comes to $7.80. I don?t need a cent to pay the bill and I always get at least two dimes back in my change. They go right into my plastic container.
When the container gets full, I take it to the bank, which still counts them and gives me folding money. I am at heart still enough of a skinflint to resent the idea that some banks won?t do that for its depositors. I know Coinstar wouldn?t be in business if many people didn?t find it inconvenient to get paper money for their coins. But then, I don?t live in a major urban area. I don?t have to cart my change through crowded streets. No teller bats an eyelash when I show up several times a year with my plastic container filled mostly with quarters and then walk out with around $75 and a coin or two to start my next stash.
Of all the transactions I make, few require the use of a cent. Since I know Judy at the Crystal is a good businesswoman, she probably would start a policy and post it to lure in her customers:
?Come to the Crystal, where we always round the bill in your favor.?
Not too catchy is it? Well, you get the idea.