This essay is entitled, “Paper Cuts”, and it’s meant to cover all the tiny ways that we lose and a few ways we can gain money. Money is energy, it is a time-locked consolidation of power, and represents freedom of choice. Growing one’s amount of money is a reflection of one’s own ability to control their reality, and impress their value upon it in such a way that it can be stored up for future operations.
During a routine mundane everyday transaction, a teller once asked me if I want my change. It was a bit more than a nickel, and I laughed. “Do I want my money?” I thought to myself. I countered, “is it money?” They said, “well it’s not much.” I said, “if it’s money, and it’s mine, yes, I want it. I want my money.” And so should you.
Some of the tips in this short essay may seem or feel frugal, or at their worst, miserly, but bear in mind that the only thing that represents control, power, and freedom in the material world is money. If you do not take it seriously, the mechanisms, structures, and automations built into the system we operate within are designed to extract that power, control, and freedom from you at every single turn. So be vigilant, and watch your power grow.
This may sound miserly and that’s why I began with it. Tipping as a culture in the USA has become so expected, that even a server who brings you the wrong food, isn’t respectful or polite, and doesn’t tend to your needs during a meal would feel angry if you did not leave a tip. This is absolutely ridiculous. We might even feel guilty for not doing it. The only place tipping still feels appropriate is when dining out, and I would still generally recommend tipping in these situations, but just make the tip commensurate with the service. If you were well served you can leave a good tip.
As for the rest of it: stop tipping. Everyday transactions, like when you swipe your card at a coffee shop, purchase any sort of service, anywhere, for anything, like every time you take an Uber or Lyft, every person that does some small thing for you generally expects a tip. My advice is not to tip. Instead give people awareness and kindness, and reserve tips for particularly good service, which tends to be less frequent.
For anything less than $100 USD, pay in cash. This has a two-fold benefit. The first is that you have a better sense of the money you spend when you pay in cash. You feel those four twenty dollar bills in your wallet or purse, and when you hand them over you feel that you are paying for something. With digital transactions this essence is lost. One doesn’t think much about the amount, and with the click of a button, can easily add 20% to something that they haven’t truly physically or mentally processed. By paying in cash you tend to be more conservative, as well and thoughtful about your purchases.
The second benefit to paying in cash is that you receive change. Receiving change is an important energy to understand the meaning of money. If we always pay whatever small nick-knack amount of money with a card, $5.24, $14.72, $25.19, we immediately pull that exact amount of money from our digital accounts, and have no means of conserving money for a future date, what amounts to (because of the time differential) an additional revenue stream.
This may sound strange, and mathematically it’s more of a mind hack, but if you receive physical change for all your <$100 purchases, and save your quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies in jar, then once every few months you can take it to your bank, and convert that jar into a singular larger sum of money. Maybe $50, $80, or even $150.
Although your net amount of money is still the same, every few months you have a spike return to your bank account.
Review all of your automatic withdrawal agreements, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Spotify, YouTube Premium, Gym Memberships, automated philanthropic donations, anything that is allowed to recurringly draw from your account (remember your account is your power). The most sneaky of recurring payments is the annual payment. I’ve seen situations where people I know have gone 3-4 years without realizing they had a recurring annual payment that they no longer had need for. This has happened to me as well with website URLs and hosting services. This is because it only shows up in your statement once a year. And if you don’t have notifications routing to the right email, or if they end up in spam, it is easy to miss.
How many times have we signed up for the “free 1 month trial” with the intention to cancel and forgetting for more than two months to do so, thereby justifying the reason behind “free 1 month trials”. With that said I’ve probably started and stopped Amazon Prime like 4 times. But it requires effort.
This is the easiest way to hack the auto-pay web of obfuscation and extraction. Without cancelling your credit card, and thereby not affecting your credit, you can receive a new card with different numbers. This immediately severs the tie of any auto-pay you’d previously attached the old card numbers to. Sure, it may be a bit of a pain to re-enter information here and there, but it gives you the upper hand.
Sit back and watch the emails roll in. Most services won’t even disrupt your service, providing grace periods and reminders to “update your payment information.” The genius of this move is it puts the onus back on the extractors of your account. They can no longer get in, and believe me, they will come a-knocking. Review accordingly.
This is something I started with my friends called The 20% Club, and you’re welcome to join. The rules are simple. 1. Save 20% of all income you receive. 2. Remove that 20% from any bank account in small bills, $1, $5, $10, $20. 3. Save that bundle of money like a power center. When the time comes to need cash for something, well you’ve got your own ATM. Be prudent.
Note, 401(k)s and things of that nature are smart and advisable, but are not included. It’s basically 20% of what comes in after everything that automatically comes out, income taxes, life insurance, 401 savings, etc.
Side note: if you happen to be amazing at this there is no point in going past $10,000*. Plus, savings accounts can provide you a yield, albeit laughably small, and the fluidity of digital access to finance.
One friend who joined the 20% club went from $13,000 dollars in debt to various credit card companies to having over $65,000 in savings in less than four years.
The reason for the small bills is when you do end up using that cash for less than $100 purchases, people appreciate either exact change or small bills, and particularly ten dollar bills. I’m sure you’ve noticed ATMs across the USA have seemingly all agreed to only dispense $20s, with rare exceptions.
*You cannot fly internationally with more than $10,000 in cash.
If you really want to get a leg up on inflation - the dark shadowy invisible and most pernicious form of theft on the planet - start buying bitcoin and ethereum and holding those assets in a cold storage wallet like a Ledger, or Trezor. This circles back to the “your account is power” mantra, but now it is truly actualized. Bitcoin cannot be inflated, ethereum may become deflationary, and when you hold both in a cold storage wallet, that is self-custody of funds, you’ve truly become your own bank. Congratulations this is the next level of protecting yourself from paper cuts.
Purchase BTC & ETH via whatever method is easiest to you, Coinbase, etc, at a regular interval, at an amount that you can afford, and immediately withdraw it to your own bank. It’s amazing.
Expensive dinners, buying drinks with friends, Ubers around town, movies with ridiculously priced popcorn, theme parks and or concert tickets. Whatever your favorite forms of entertainment may be, have a moment to consider their return value. If you were to just prune one or two of your higher cost habits, you may be able to improve your power level (your financial level) a great deal. All of the events just mentioned, and others like them are fun, just as they should be. I’ve found they are even so much more fun when they are prudently and selectively chosen. After all, sometimes you gotta splash the cash.
By doing all your large purchases via credit card, and ruthlessly paying off every cent owed before any interest is due, you’ve just immediately improved your credit score, and entitled yourself to two of the coolest words in the matrix: cash back. We need a credit history if we are going to get decent rates on big ticket items we don’t want to pay for in full up front: cars, houses, boats, etc. Even if you aren’t buying those things, good credit scores can lower your insurance, get you better deals on rental cars, and generally show the matrix that you know how to take care of your books. Again, your books being in order is an indicator that you have will power, control, and dependability.
As far as cash back, fowk an airline mile or a hotel deal, just get that sweet sweet cash back and return it to your power account. Find the cards without annual fees (if possible, I’ve managed to find three of them), use them for all major purchases, and get your cash back.
Sure we’ve all had the auntie who got us $25 gift certificate to the movies, or Amazon, or if your an outdoorsy type perhaps REI. All of these are scams. Money is the freedom of choice. To collapse money into a gift card is to reduce it to degenerate version of its true power. It’s not like your handing out meal tickets to homeless people so that you don’t have to think you helped them buy drugs. Don’t buy gift cards. Do not give any capital organization the ability to trap your choice. If you want someone to go to a movie theater, or shop at REI, give them a nice card that reflects that ethos and some cash. After all, it’s up to each person to learn how to allocate their power.
Not to mention can you imagine how many nick-knack gift cards for $5, $10, or $15 dollars from Grandmas and Grandpas the whole world over have been given to niecces and nephews only to resurface years later in boxes and drawers after they have expired. According to one study, Americans have left 3 Billion dollars on the table in unused gift cards. Get out while you still can. If someone gives you a gift card, and you can’t immediately think of a way to spend it, try and sell it to a friend who wants it at a kindly-slashed rate of value.
It’s not like all these ideas are novel, or gold, or will make anyone rich over night. But the most important thing to impress upon you lovely reader, is to say that your money is your power. Your ability to manage your books is your ability to keep your power under control. All these little paper cuts from the matrix are designed to bleed us dry, just like the year-over-year inflation that makes the prices at the grocery spike each time we return. Inflation secretly steals wealth because it is a hidden tax.
That cash we keep in the 20% club is losing 8% a year, but it has high usability and is in a matrix accepted form. Number seven in this short essay is perhaps one of the only parachutes out of this wild world of paper cuts. We get to learn how to operate powerfully both within, and above, the machinations of capitalism, and financial vampiricism.
Nothing is free, no trial is free, no buy one get one free is free. These tools are designed to find ways for us to open our wallets and purses and pay. It’s all within the account. Be mindful. Be vigilant. Be strong.
Frank America* is an author, researcher, comedian, and musician. He is Co-founder of The Rug, and a Content Manager at Bankless Publishing.*