UNITED STATES—We’ve had the conversation before, but with all the recent reports of privacy laws being violated and customer information being hacked, there are ways to protect yourself. It seems the only way to protect yourself is using the one form of currency that doesn’t have your personal information plastered all over it. Yes, what I’m saying seems impossible, but you can utilize cash America more often than we’d like to believe.

At the start of 2017, my motto was simple, pay off debt as much as possible. Where was the starting point? Not utilizing any of my credit cards and guess what, it worked well for about 8 months. The tide only changed as we go closer to the fall months and the holiday season. As a result, I utilized plastic a bit more than I hoped, and as a result I’m finding myself paying off more debt than I expected.

It’s something about plastic, you know its borrowed money, but at the same time, you spend a bit more when you know you have spending power. It’s not a money smart technique, but we all do it. That’s the problem, we rely on plastic more than ever, not just on the credit card front, but when it comes to the debit card as well. Debit is tricky because if someone gets hold of that card, your account can be depleted fairly quickly, not to mention the fact that your account can easily be compromised.

I will acknowledge, I felt like I saved more money when I didn’t have a debit card because I would have to go to the bank to retrieve funds, but no, I find myself just swiping that piece of plastic, and when I need a bit of extra money I simply get cash back. It does come directly from your checking or savings account, and people forget a debit card is just like a checkbook; you need to be aware of what you’re spending, where you’re spending it and what’s left in your account after all those debits are totaled up. It’s far easier to spend your entire check for the week if you have a debit card leaving you to wonder where those funds disappeared to.

So let’s talk about cash. It makes processing transactions easier, you’re less likely to spend it all and as a result you are more aware of what you have in your wallet or your purse. I’m a firm believer a $20 bill is the worst thing to keep in your wallet. For reasons I cannot seem to explain, you’re quick to break or spend a $20 bill than you are with a $50 or $100 bill.

Something people might be astonished to learn about me is that I never use an ATM. People ask me all the time why? My response is why would I? I could just go to the bank if I need money, and I look at things this way: if you don’t have it you can’t spend it. This is a way to prevent one from 1) overspending 2) loaning to those who don’t have 3) save more money. The same sentiment applies when you’re shopping or paying expenses. If you know you only have $200 in cash to spend on groceries, you’re going to budget and find ways to save money any possible way that you can. The same transpires when you have to decide if you really need something versus something that you may want.

When you rely on cash to pay your expenses and daily habits it requires a bit more thought-processing, choices have to be made and it’s not as simple as just swiping a piece of plastic or entering your pin from your debit card. It’s like when you have something tangible you are more connected to it, and as a result you are more protective of it. You don’t want it to vanish into thin air and you will do what is needed to ensure that does not transpire. People have told me time and time again cash is best, and to be honest, I seriously agree with that claim. As I’ve stated before, you cannot spend what you don’t have.