Many people keep physical cash at home, and for good reason. Even in a society where most vendors and retailers accept debit and credit cards, there are still cases in which having cash is beneficial.
Certain places, like local shops, farmers markets and state fairs often only accept cash. Those that do take card might require you to spend a certain amount in order to use your card. Depending on where you shop, you might also be subject to a surcharge when using a credit card.
Not only that, but having a little cash on hand could be helpful when there are no ATMs nearby or if you’re facing an emergency and don’t have access to online or traditional banking services.
If you’re wondering how much physical cash to keep at home, or if you’re curious about how much the typical American has, here’s what you need to know.
How Much Cash Do People Keep At Home?
A recent GOBankingRates survey of 1,141 American adults found that 23.93% of respondents think their home is the safest place to keep their money. But when asked how much physical cash they actually have at home, responses varied greatly.
According to the survey, the majority of respondents — 35.85% — have $100 or less in cash at home. Another 30.85% of respondents said that they have between $101 and $500 at home, while just over 7% of people said they have between $501 and $1,000 in physical cash.
What’s interesting is that just under 10% of those surveyed said they keep more than $1,000 in physical cash. Meanwhile, 16.65% of respondents don’t have any cash at all.
You Shouldn’t Keep Any Physical Cash at Home
Depending on your circumstances and the way you handle your personal or household finances, you might not want to keep any cash at home at all.
“I don’t keep any cash at home whatsoever. All of our bills are set up for automatic deduction from either our bank account or credit card. When we do our shopping, we usually opt for Amazon or merchandise stores that accept credit cards,” said Tarek El Ali, founder of Smart Insurance Agents.
“The ease of contactless payments has rendered carrying cash obsolete in our lives,” Tarek El Ali continued. “On the rare occasions when we require cash for local fairs or stores, we can simply visit the nearby ATM and withdraw the necessary amount.”
You Should Keep a Few Hundred Dollars at Home
Then again, having a few hundred dollars on hand could be useful in times of emergency. Be sure to consider your budget when deciding exactly how much to keep around, though. That way, you still have enough in your bank account for any bills or daily expenses that might come up.
“You should keep an amount of cash at home that you are comfortable with in case of emergency. This should be no more than a few hundred dollars, or whatever amount makes sense for your lifestyle and budget,” suggested Evan Tunis, president of Florida Healthcare Insurance.
“Keeping a small amount of cash at home ensures that you will have a backup if needed, without the risk of having too much on hand,” said Tunis. “It’s important to keep track of your cash and make sure it is secure from potential theft or damage. Additionally, carrying large amounts of cash can be risky in terms of safety.”
Keep a Couple Thousand Dollars at Home
In some cases, especially if you have a larger family or are facing a national emergency, having a larger amount of cash around could be helpful. That’s why Scott Lieberman, founder of TouchdownMoney.com, suggested keeping $1,000 to $2,000 at home.
“That might sound excessive, but think of it this way: You need enough money to get by for a while if a national emergency makes it impossible to access the funds you have in the bank,” said Lieberman. “Also, the bigger your household, the more cash you should stash. That’s because you’ll need more money to keep a larger group of people clothed, fed and sheltered.”
Another situation in which having some physical cash can be a good idea is if you’re struggling to keep to a strict budget. By keeping some cash around, you can leave behind the credit or debit cards and use only cash for certain things, like grocery shopping. This can help prevent overspending or impulse buys that might lead to financial stress.
You might also want to keep cash at home if you’re doing a money savings challenge. The 52-week savings challenge, for instance, has you set aside a certain amount of cash each week with the end goal of saving up $1,378 in a year.
Alternatives To Keeping Cash at Home
Even if you keep small amounts of cash at home, it’s still a good idea to diversify where you keep your funds. After all, cash might be accessible, but it isn’t always the most secure option.
“Keeping cash at home is just one part of a larger commitment you should make to keeping your funds accessible. Be mindful of where you put your money,” said Lieberman. “Prioritize cash savings, then put money in savings accounts where you can access them in a pinch.”
“Other options than keeping cash around include using a credit or debit card, setting up automatic transfers from your bank account to an alternative savings account, or having access to other services, such as PayPal,” added Tunis. “These methods are more secure and can give you peace of mind knowing that your money is better protected from theft or damage.”
So, How Much Cash Should You Actually Have at Home?
Ultimately, the amount of physical cash you should keep at home depends on several factors. These include your personal budget, household size, savings goals and access to traditional or online banking services. Depending on your personal and financial situation, you might be better off with a smaller — or larger — amount.
Methodology: GOBankingRates surveyed 1,141 Americans aged 18 and older from across the country between August 2 and August 6, 2023, asking twenty different questions: (1) Have you ever been the victim of identity theft, a financial scam or financial fraud?; (2) If you have been a victim of identity theft, which type of theft did you experience?; (3) If you have been a victim of a financial scam, which type of scam did you experience? (select all that apply); (4) If you have been a victim of financial fraud, what type of fraud did you experience? (select all that apply); (5) Have you ever been scammed making any of the following purchases?; (6) All together, how much money have you lost due to identity theft, financial scams and/or financial fraud?; (7) If you lost money due to identity theft, a financial scam or financial fraud, were you reimbursed for it?; (8) What is the most common way you are contacted by scammers?; (9) How often do you change your bank account passwords?; (10) How do you keep your money safe while traveling? (select all that apply); (11) Where do you think is the safest place to keep your money?; (12) How much physical cash do you keep at home?; (13) If you have been scammed out of money when shopping online, how much did you lose?; (14) If you are retired, have you ever experienced these common retirement scams? (select all that apply); (15) Have you, or any of your family members, experienced a Social Security scam?; (16) If you have lost money from a tax scam, how much did you lose?; (17) Have you ever experienced a student loan forgiveness scam?; (18) What type of impact do you think identity theft has on its victims?; (19) What are some ways you protect yourself from identity theft today? (select all that apply); and (20) Do you have antivirus software installed on your computer?. GOBankingRates used PureSpectrum’s survey platform to conduct the poll.
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