A post-piggy bank world: what does money mean if you can’t hold it in your hand? (2023)

Somewhere in the British Museum is a small gold disc. Just 10mm in diameter, it weighs less than a teaspoon of salt. On one side is a lion roaring at a bull, on the other, two squares. This is the Lydian Lion and, at about 2,700 years old, it is perhaps the oldest coin humanity retains today. This is money.

And despite the civilisations that have risen and fallen in the millennia between the minting of the Lydian Lion and now, people today can still – without effort – recognise the Lydian Lion as money. We can imagine its use in the markets of ancient western Turkey. We can picture it being piled in with others in a pouch by a nobleman’s feet. We understand it because most of us grew up using something very much like it: cash. Earned through our labours, exchanged in return for something we wanted or needed.

Until, of course, now.

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This month Australia’s treasurer, Jim Chalmers, announced a death sentence for cheques but it is not the only way of paying for things which is in a state of atrophy. Across the country just one in 20 point-of-sale transactions now involves cash. We rarely use it and increasingly we cannot access it. Thousands of bank branches have been shut. ATMs have hauled out of walls and wheeled out of shopping centres en masse. Even one of the last bastions of cash, pocket money, is on the march towards apps and cards. Tap, tap, tap. Click, click, click. We wave a card or a phone and that which we desire is bought.

While the decline of cash is a tale as old as credit cards, we have reached a point where, for many of us, weeks can pass without touching money. Where post-purchase payment plans mean we can buy before we even have the funds to pay for them, and where the prospect of an entirely cashless society does not seem absurd. But, in that cashless world, who might lose out? And how might it change our relationship with money?

A store of wealth

First, however, an irony. While we are decreasingly withdrawing or using it, Australia is awash with cash. In his December speech the Reserve Bank of Australia governor, Philip Lowe, reported that there are about 18 $100 notes and 38 $50 notes in the economy for each Australian. That is $3,700 in banknotes for every person, stored under our metaphorical mattresses.

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“Cash is still very popular as a store of wealth,” says Steve Worthington, a professor of financial services from Swinburne University of Technology. “There’s less and less cash in circulation as a payment mechanism but there’s more and more cash that’s being held as a store of wealth.”

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Cash, for some people, inspires a sense of comfort, according to Dr Chris Vasantkumar. “Taking cash away completely gets a little tricky,” says the Macquarie University economic anthropologist. “It can even be destabilising.” This, he says, is what happened in Zimbabwe, which shifted quickly to cashlessness without the support of most of the population, “and confidence in money collapsed as a result”.

Australia has a relatively low unbanked population. But there remain groups vulnerable to the decline or end of cash, say both Vasantkumar and Worthington. Regional and rural people with patchy access to internet services, elderly people who tend to favour cash and be less comfortable with digital technology, new migrants, and people simply uncomfortable or unconfident with cashless payment systems.

A post-piggy bank world: what does money mean if you can’t hold it in your hand? (1)

“We always talk about inclusivity but the danger here is exclusivity,” Worthington says.

“There would be a lot of people excluded from the daily activities of life if there was no cash available to use in payments.”

Sweden, a pioneer in cashlessness, has had to reverse some of its policies in response to the needs of people who had fared badly in the shift. “While the number of holdouts is going down in both Sweden and in Australia, we ignore these folks’ concerns at our peril,” Vasantkumar says. “The moral of the story is to build inclusion into the entire process rather than having to stop and go back at some point because we have left too many behind.”

‘One person’s transparency is another person’s surveillance’

It is for this reason Worthington suggests cash should be protected as a public good – like water or electricity. “We expect to have electricity and water in affluent countries,” he says. “It could be argued that cash is also a public good because of the various groups of people who use it, want to use it. If we’re not careful it will wither on the vine.”


The cash as public infrastructure concept has purchase with Vasantkumar, too. “Going cashless is in some ways a kind of privatisation of what used to be a public asset – money,” he says. Cash transactions profit no one. Standard currency is accessible to all. “Going cashless moves transactions out of this [public] sphere and into a world where you are always relying on privately held banking infrastructures to buy and sell things, and someone is making money off your transactions.

“We wouldn’t usually think about this as similar to selling off the power grid, but in some ways it really is.”

A post-piggy bank world: what does money mean if you can’t hold it in your hand? (2)

And then there is the convenience/privacy trade-off that we have become so accustomed to making. Cashless transactions make for speedier interactions, entirely unreliant on whether you remembered to go to the ATM that week. They are also more traceable than cash – a friend to law and tax enforcement. “But one person’s transparency is another person’s surveillance,” Vasantkumar says. “How much information about our economic behaviour are we comfortable giving up?”

In Germany, he notes, cash remains the dominant form of payment, particularly in the east, given the country’s history of state surveillance.

Part of the Swedish rebellion against that country’s push towards cashlessness was a fear that electronic systems were more vulnerable to fraud and attack. In crises like war, or more familiar ones to Australians such as catastrophic bushfires or cyber-attack, the system can fail. By contrast, Vasantkumar says: “Cash never goes down.”

Yet cash is – as a concept, as a part of daily life – going down.

And with that decline comes a fundamental question, quite aside from broader social and economic questions of inclusion and security: how do we relate to money if we never hold it? How do we value it if we never physically have to give it away?

A quick answer is that we may spend more.

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The pain of handing over cold hard cash

Studies have suggested that it is easier to part with abstract money than that which we must physically dispense. In a 2021 study researchers ran functional magnetic resonance imaging scans on participants who were asked to make real purchases with their own credit cards or cash. The study found that “credit cards facilitate purchasing behaviour”; credit card cues light up the reward networks of the brain more so than when participants are faced with handing over hard cash. The work built on other research, including a 2007 study using fMRI which found pain-processing regions were activated when consumers were asked to pay for goods with cash.

“Immateriality probably has some influence on people’s spending behaviour,” says Prof Francesco Guala, a philosopher and experimental economist at the University of Milan. But our relationship with money is complex.

“There is some psychological evidence that people use several ‘mental modes’ of money,” he says. There is the material model (coins and notes), functional model (“money as whatever you use to purchase things”), the accounting model (“money as the number that appears in your bank statement”) and now we have the “mental model of money as a piece of information stored electronic in some device”.

“People are quite sophisticated in the sense that they can switch from one conception to the other depending on circumstances,” he says. “So when you ask people ‘is this money?’ in experiments, showing for instance a dollar bill or a cigarette accompanied by a vignette explaining that in PoW camps cigarettes were used as a medium of exchange, they are quite flexible in recognising them as money.”

Our cashless mental money is new, a sense of money as being in an abstract “place”, he says, but we have adapted.

A post-piggy bank world: what does money mean if you can’t hold it in your hand? (3)

But what about those who are growing up cashless? The generation who are learning about money in what Vasantkumar calls “a post-piggy bank world”?

Nearly a decade ago, a Commonwealth Bank survey of 1,000 parents found that two-thirds believed that the abstract nature of money was making it more difficult for children to appreciate its value. Many parents attempt to persist with cash, believing its materiality to contribute to young minds’ ability to comprehend that money is something one receives for labour, and then must release for goods. In the glass bottom of the money jar is a lesson: money is finite. It can come but it can go. Once it is gone, that is it. Empty jar.

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Which is, of course, a valuable lesson – were parents regularly in possession of cash money at all. Instead, jars become filled with scrap paper IOUs, and many a parent spends many a late night scrambling to find coins to slip under the pillow of a six-year-old who has unexpectedly lost a tooth.

For this generation, they are not making the shift from material to immaterial money. They are being socialised into an immaterial world.

“We still for the most part tend to think about money as the notes and coins even if the vast majority of us no longer interact with the latter nearly as often as we used to,” Vasantkumar says. But he questions what is almost an artifice of persisting with cash if, ultimately, it becomes redundant.

“If you think about it, it’s kind of weird that we teach kids first about a kind of money that most of us don’t use. But how do we make it real for them if they can’t touch it? This isn’t to say that we will necessarily lose faith in money’s value because its physical form is going away.”

Money has become no less significant in our lives since it became immaterial, Guala says. Instead, as more places and experiences become privatised, he argues, we’re more aware of the value and centrality of money than ever.

Nostalgic for the notes?

Perhaps this generation will have a nostalgia for their Spriggy app in the same way that older ones recall their pink piggy banks.

Because nostalgia, and the culture around cash money, is also part of our considerations as we see cash slip away from our public and private spheres.

Cash is a “social material” – it moves among and between us in society. Connecting us in a promise, a shared agreement that we hold value in this thing. It catches the light. It survives the wash. It has a smell – what is that smell of money? It is something more than polymer. It must then be the smell of a thousand hands, a hundred leather wallets, infinite plastic cash register drawers. It is the smell of an unknowable amount of human interaction.

“Once upon a time we thought money was worth something because it was made out of something valuable,” Vasantkumar says. This in actual fact, he adds, was never true.

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“Then that money was replaced by currency made out of basically worthless materials. There was some anxiety about this when it first happened but we got over it.”

We will manage this shift too, he says.


Why do you keep money in a piggy bank? ›

In the Chinese zodiac, the pig is a symbol of wealth and prosperity, and giving a piggy bank is believed to bring good luck and fortune to the recipient. The piggy bank is also seen as a practical gift, as it encourages saving and financial responsibility, which are important values in Chinese culture.

Is it OK to save money in piggy bank? ›

Remember, even though it's a small amount, it's your money and a little becomes a lot pretty quickly. Not only will using a piggy bank help clean up your house and car, a piggy bank also reinforces good savings habits.

What does a broken piggy bank symbolize? ›

Thus the 'bank', traditionally made out of china, was so designed that it had to be broken in order to be opened - symbolically 'killing the pig'. Other farm animals do not have to be killed before they are of use.

What is the rule of piggy bank? ›

Piggy Bank is a hand shedding game that challenges players to play cards from their hands without making the discard pile go over a certain limit. The player that goes over the limit loses the round and one of their gold coins. The player with the most gold coins at the end of the round is the winner.

Is it better to save money in a bank or piggy bank? ›

To Conclude:

As mentioned earlier, a savings account is the start of your journey towards financial freedom. And saving money in a piggy bank won't be enough to help your money grow against inflation. So, start your journey with a Savings Bank Account of your choice and simplify your finances.

What will you do with the money you save in a piggy bank? ›

You use the money in each piggy bank for a different purpose (like bills, groceries or having fun). It makes it easier to see how much you've got left for each type of spending. And it helps make sure you have enough for the essentials (like paying bills or rent).

How can I withdraw my money from piggy? ›

How do I withdraw my savings? You need to have filled your bank details in your withdrawal settings then, click on the "withdraw" option on your dashboard, enter the amount you want to withdraw and your funds will be transferred to your set bank account within the stipulated time (not more than 3 working hours).

Do you put money in a piggy bank gift? ›

Let your child put the money into their piggy bank themselves or go to the bank and pay the money into their bank account together. If money is paid directly into your child's account, use bank notes to demonstrate the cash equivalent. This will make the gift more real for the child.

What is the average amount of money in a piggy bank? ›

On average, piggy banks store anywhere from 100 to 1,500 coins. Some include their actual storage capacities, namely high-tech and other modern designs. With that said, it's more of an estimate.

What is the Feng Shui for piggy bank? ›

A piggy bank

In feng shui, dropping some coins into it now and then symbolises a regular growth of wealth. Most piggy banks are made of metal or ceramic, so the ideal spot to place it is in the west, northwest, or north area of your work desk, where the metal element rules.

What is the analogy of a piggy bank? ›

The Emotional Piggy Bank analogy looks at how we can deposit within our minds and bodies, instead of constantly withdrawing. It is a useful tool to look at how we can manage self care and stress management, and pay attention to refilling when we expecting a lot from ourselves.

How do I make sure I save money? ›

Use these money-saving tips to generate ideas about the best ways to save money in your day-to-day life.
  1. Eliminate Your Debt. ...
  2. Set Savings Goals. ...
  3. Pay Yourself First. ...
  4. Stop Smoking. ...
  5. Take a "Staycation" ...
  6. Spend to Save. ...
  7. Utility Savings. ...
  8. Pack Your Lunch.

What age is good for a piggy bank? ›

Usually, around the ages of five to seven, children start to grasp the concept that money is needed to pay for things.

Is it safer to keep money in the bank or at home? ›

Where Should You Keep Your Money? A safe or lockbox is a good place to put cash at home for disasters and other emergencies. However, money for everyday bills is probably safer in a bank account.

What is the most money you should keep in a bank? ›

Most financial experts end up suggesting you need a cash stash equal to six months of expenses: If you need $5,000 to survive every month, save $30,000. Personal finance guru Suze Orman advises an eight-month emergency fund because that's about how long it takes the average person to find a job.

Should I keep a lot of money in the bank? ›

Is it safe to have a lot of money in your bank account? You should never have more money in your bank account that can be covered by the FDIC. You can spread your money into different accounts or banks to ensure that all of your money is secured so that you can recover it in the event a bank fails or collapses.

Why is it important to save money? ›

The importance of saving money is simple: It allows you to enjoy greater security in your life. If you have cash set aside for emergencies, you have a fallback should something unexpected happen. And, if you have savings set aside for discretionary expenses, you may be able to take risks or try new things.

How does piggy cash back work? ›

How does Piggy work? To get cash back and instant savings, simply install the Piggy extension and start shopping. Piggy is free to download, and it automatically searches for and applies the best coupon codes to your order, saving you up to 70% when you shop online.

Do kids still use piggy banks? ›

Piggy banks have never gone out of style—nor have they changed much over the years. And while a little ceramic or plastic jar shaped like a pig is cute kids-room decor and all, the real benefit is that it's a fun way to get children excited about saving money.

How do you Unflag a piggy bank? ›

To lift a temporal flag, you are asked to send an email to finance@piggyvest.com. A team member from our Financial Operations team will carry out all necessary validation checks. Once cleared, the flag is lifted. Flags are critical to prevent suspicious activity.

Is it good luck to put money in a new purse? ›

When giving a gift of a wallet, purse, piggy bank or anything that is meant to hold money, you should put money in it so the person will have good luck. By putting money in a wallet or purse that is being given as a gift, you ensure that the wallet or purse will never be empty of money.

Why do you put silver in a new purse? ›

Some cultures do this because it's a sign of happiness. The more pieces of silver you put in, the happier the recipient will be. In most cases, silver can also be a great source of protection for anyone carrying it.

Why do you put money in a wallet when you give it as a gift? ›

Superstition has it that an empty wallet bodes poorly for the financial future of the giftee, so the done thing is to include money or something else of value in the wallet.

What is the most expensive piggy bank? ›

United Kingdom's The Royal Mint, famously know to produce gold and silver coins have brought out the costliest piggy bank in the world. It recently unveiled a piggy bank with an 18-carat gold coating costing 100,000 pounds (around Rs 93,00,000).

How much money will a bank account hold? ›

Generally, there's no checking account maximum amount you can have. There is, however, a limit on how much of your checking account balance is covered by the FDIC (typically $250,000 per depositor, per account ownership type, per financial institution), though some banks have programs with higher limits.

What is the oldest piggy bank? ›

The oldest known money box dates from 2nd century B.C., found in the Greek colony Priene in Asia Minor, and features the shape of a little Greek temple with a slit in the pediment.

What is piggy cash on Lucky Day? ›

The Piggy Bank allows you to receive Mystery Rewards which include Blackjack Hands, Raffle Tickets, Trophies, Cash, and more! You can find out more about Piggy Bank upgrades here.

Where should I keep my money Feng Shui? ›

As per the feng shui energy map, i.e, Bagua, the top left corner is dedicated to feng shui for wealth. When you stand at the door of youyr bedroom, the far left back corner is your wealth corner.

Where did piggy banks originate from? ›

The piggy bank's origin began in the Middle Ages, when pots and other containers, including those used to hold money, were usually forged from an orange-colored clay material called pygg. Over time, money jars became known as “pygg pots.”

What is the analogy pig is to? ›

"A man is like a pig" - - - presumably, unclean, untidy, smelly, etc. "A pig is like a man" - - - indicates that pigs are intelligent, inquisitive, etc.

What is analogy in banking? ›

Definition of Analogy:

Candidates are required to determine the relation between the first group and substitute the question mark of the second group from the given alternative, which has the same relationship as the first group has.

What are the 5 best ways to save money? ›

5 Best Ways to Save Money
  • Set a Budget.
  • Eliminate Debt.
  • Challenge Yourself.
  • Splurge Small.
  • Cook at Home.
Oct 6, 2022

What is the 10 rule for saving? ›

The 10% rule is a savings tip that suggests you set aside 10% of your gross monthly income for retirement or emergencies. If you still need to start a savings account, this is a great way to build up your savings. You should create a monthly budget before starting your savings journey.

How important is piggy bank? ›

Piggy banks are usually made of ceramic or porcelain. They are generally painted and serve as a pedagogical device to teach the rudiments of thrift and saving to children; money can be easily inserted.

How much is an old piggy bank worth? ›

Mid-Century Art Pottery Piggy Banks

Pieces by famous names like Hull, Roseville, and McCoy can fetch top dollar. One Hull piggy bank sold for about $100, and it's not uncommon for them to sell in the $50 to $150 range.

Do adults use piggy banks? ›

In short, the answer is yes. Of course, adults like you can buy and use a piggy bank to help you increase your savings.

Is it worth having a piggy bank? ›

Piggy banks are the original rainy day fund, and help children learn a lot about the value of saving. It's better to start a child off with positive amounts and let them learn how to manage, and for that, a piggy bank can be very helpful! It also helps keep the saved money out of sight and thus out of mind.

How much money does a piggy bank usually hold? ›

Most standard piggy banks can hold several hundred dollars in loose change and bills. However, the exact amount will depend on the size of the piggy bank and the type of coins being used.

What is the purpose of a piggy bank? ›

The general use of piggy banks is to store loose change in a quaint, decorative manner. Modern piggy banks are not limited to the likeness of pigs, and may come in a range of shapes, sizes and colors.

Is it better to save money in a bank or at home? ›

It's a good idea to keep a small sum of cash at home in case of an emergency. However, the bulk of your savings is better off in a savings account because of the deposit protections and interest-earning opportunities that financial institutions offer.

How do I withdraw money from my piggy bank? ›

You need to have filled your bank details in your withdrawal settings then, click on the "withdraw" option on your dashboard, enter the amount you want to withdraw and your funds will be transferred to your set bank account within the stipulated time (not more than 3 working hours).

How much money do banks usually keep on hand? ›

The commonly assumed requirement is 10% though almost no central bank and no major central bank imposes such a ratio requirement. With higher reserve requirements, there would be less funds available to banks for lending.


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