Lifestyle
Canadians self-conscious about their cash: Study

Credits: FILE PHOTO

THANE BURNETT | QMI AGENCY

That crisp new $20 bill in your pocket means more than lunch.

Researchers have found it can be a sense of pride and social status, and may remain tucked away in favour of getting rid of a few tattered and torn fivers.

Research - by Theodore Noseworthy of the College of Management and Economics at the University of Guelph and Fabrizio Di Muro of the University of Winnipeg - has found we would rather give up an old bill than part with a fresh one.

But there is a cold, hard addendum to that habit - when watched by others, we'll offer up a new bank-note instead of embarrassing ourselves with one that's been around the block too many times.

Researchers have long known consumers don't like to handle things that others have touched. It's one of the reasons you can't try on underwear or return that bathing suit that makes you look fat.

But Noseworthy and Di Muro argue we feel the same about our currency.

"Used bills are looked on as unclean," says Noseworthy, explaining the creases and dog-eared corners of a bill remind us how many fingers have pawed at it before us.

And while it's no secret that consumers will go through smaller bills faster than large, the disgust factor could add to their use.

For the average Canadian, this is an interesting purchasing habit. But for academics, it challenges the notion that money is fungible because there is no difference between one $5 bill and another.

But if we'd rather cling to a new polymer $20 than an old version found crumpled in the dryer, money may be similar to the things we buy with it.

"If we go to a bar and want to impress a woman, we're not going to order the Budweiser we would normally have," Noseworthy said. "We'll order the more impressive drink.

"Well when we're trying to impress, we'll use the new bill over the old one to buy it."

Noseworthy has seen the disgust and pride over money in his own world.

"Not so much myself," he said, "but I see it in my own family, the way my mother hangs onto (new) bills."

His mother-in-law, who grew up in lean times, he added, hangs onto all large denominations, recalling years when such currency was out of reach.

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