Every time my grandmother receives any money, she carefully puts it away in her tiny purse she keeps under her pillow. For a very long time I believed her hoarding tendencies were just related to age.
I was wrong.
Save, but not in cash
The previous year’s demonetisation exercise exposed how universal the habit of hoarding cash is among women. Housewives, who had squirrelled away whatever cash they’d saved from their household budgets for themselves, without the knowledge of their husbands and other members of the family, were forced to break their private piggy banks in the open. My nearly ninety-year-old grandmother alone had had a secret stash of Rs 14,000 which she had saved by stuffing notes in between the folds of her sarees.
Hoarding cash is a result of both financial dependence, and a lack of inclusion in matters of money. There is no doubt that cash carries advantages--it is easy to handle and discreet to use, but that doesn’t absolve it of its less desirable characteristics.
Not in your interest
Cash that is idle doesn’t earn any extra money, whereas money held in a Savings Bank account is capable of earning interest, even if it is at a modest rate. Money in the bank also gives you the flexibility to transfer funds to deposit accounts which are capable of earning higher rates of interest.
Cash on hand is cash that you are entirely capable of losing. Depositing money in the bank will ensure that your money is in a far safer place than the corners of your cupboards. It also becomes inconvenient to store cash once it surpasses a certain amount, for you will constantly have to get notes of smaller denominations changed or cash will be spilling out of your draws. As for discretion, you can always withdraw the cash, and if you have a smartphone, there are a multitude of wallet apps that you can transfer funds to, and use the way you want to.
Women friendly bank accounts
Chief among the reason housewives, even in 2017, don’t have personal bank accounts is because they aren’t considered important enough to have one, or they do have one, and don’t know how to operate them properly. Bank accounts are simple to transact with, and convenient to use whether as a saving tool or a spending tool.
Many banks have special accounts for women (HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, IDBI Bank and Yes Bank to name a few) that have features like lower minimum balance, and cash back on debit card purchases. The benefits of having a personal bank account far outweigh the inconveniences involved in applying for and acquiring one.
But I’m just a housewife
I always loathe when perfectly intelligent women add a ‘just’ before housewife. You are never ‘just’ a housewife. Cooking, cleaning, budgeting and taking care of a household are tasks of great importance, irrespective of whether or not they involve a pay check. I’ve often found that women feel compelled to spend whatever they save from their monthly budgets on the family, as opposed to themselves because it isn’t ‘their’ money. Years of social conditioning have convinced us that if a woman doesn’t go to an office (and sometimes, even when she does), she doesn’t have a say, or a stake in her husband’s salary. I know plenty of women in my own family who hoard cash so that they can spend money without being questioned, as if the mere thought of a woman wanting to spend on herself is immoral.
When you are married to someone, it’s a partnership, not a hegemony where you have to submit to the one who brings home a paycheck. Don't hold back on discussing money with your partner, and remember that cash hoarding is a fruitless exercise. It does nothing for the person who hoards it, and only encourages insecurity.
If you are a woman who has her cheque book under her control, congratulations! I couldn’t be happier for you. But remember to look around and talk to more women–-your mother, your aunts, your cousins, the women who help at home--about money and how they manage. If they hoard cash because they don’t have bank accounts, help them open one. After all, if we don’t help ourselves, who will?