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As I walked through the city last week between appointments, I noticed the Big Issue being sold by a regular face that I have seen many times.

(The Big Issue is celebrating 20 years of helping people help themselves. It is a social enterprise that supports the homeless and disadvantaged by having them be the sellers of a well produced publication splitting the revenue 50/50.)

I asked for a copy and as I reached for my wallet I realised I probably didn’t have any cash. I lamented with the seller: “I’m not sure I have any money” as I dug deep into my handbag looking for some coins… He replied, “You are not alone. People just don’t carry cash any more.”

When I thought about it, I could not remember the last time I had been to an ATM to get cash out. I use direct deposit, credit card – and with the increasing availability of Apple Pay and other cashless transfers – there is less of a reason to carry cash. Soon we won’t even have pieces of plastic in our wallets everything will just be loaded onto our smart device and in our secure profiles.

Just as the lights turned to green, I found a $10 note wedged in my phone case, for emergencies, and this was one. I handed it over and headed on my way. It did make me wonder what impact society’s decreased reliance on physical currency is having on charitable organisations and other entities who need cash donations, tips or handouts.

Qantas (as do other airlines) has the ‘Change for Good’ program, where you pop your left over small change in an envelope and it supports kids in developing countries. At the local shop there is usually a donation tin of some sort. These are being used less and less. The local sausage sizzle fundraiser – a staple feature at Bunnings and schools — is funded by hungry homemakers rushing past, giving a few coins to the cause.

I’m not sure that leaving a tip for great service in a restaurant or café gets to the person if you don’t have cash. If the amount of the tip is simply added to the credit card transaction, does the waiter ever actually see the money – and every time?

I’m sure someone very clever has an answer to how we can keep giving these small and much needed donations without the need for the recipient or organisation to have a bank account and or a smart phone.

‘Alms’ has been part of human existence since the recording of time. It is not just the coin or note that is donated – it is also an opportunity to look the person in the eye, say ‘g’day’ and have a bit of a chat. The oh-so-very important moment of human connection, respect and community. Will that be lost too with the loss of coins?

Will our need to connect via devices mean that we have disconnected at this fundamental level too?

This article first appeared as part of my LinkedIn Influencer content in June 2016

Reader Interactions


  1. Thank Naomi for a brilliant and thought provoking article. I’m not usually one to share much on Facebook, but this is a must! Have a great week!

  2. Funny I was just thinking about this the other day and think I have a solution to it. Hopefully get to design and develop it soon

  3. Hi Naomi,
    What a great and important point you have raised. I guess it comes down to a conscious choice, your article has made me realise that I could adopt your note in your phone case idea for the specific purpose of giving to others. I learned somewhere in my early years a great recipe for budgeting your money is, save 10%, give 10% and use the rest. The point is the giving. Great article, thank you.

  4. Families and communities on locked into income management programs are also impacted. They’re given cards where they’re allowed to purchase approved products from approved stores. It means that saving a few dollars by buying goods from a local markets or from Gumtree/Ebay is not an option for these families.

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