“I don’t like to pay, I’m cheap.” My friend said.

“No, you don’t like to pay with money. You still pay.” Charming conversationalist that I am.

OK, people, I’ve a version of the above conversation more than I’d like in the last few months and am done with this idea that paying only involves money.

flickr: creative commons phoosh

flickr: creative commons phoosh

You could pay with


Instead of spending 25 minutes driving yourself (and paying more money), you spend less money and more time on public transportation.


You could spend fifty gabillion hours figuring out how to do something, or you could hire an expert to help you.


By not taking your spouse out for your anniversary (without pre-agreeing on said plan), you might save some money, but you’ll have made a withdrawal in your relationship.

You can also pay with the currency of CONVENIENCE, RESOURCES, and KNOWLEDGE.

Money is a great currency and I’m thankful we don’t live in a barter society. (Side-note: I was once paid for a counseling session with about 150 apple dippers from McDonalds and the caramel packets. Took a while until I could visit see one without shivering. True story.)

I’m also all for fiscal responsibility! All. For. It. There is no reason to spend money for the sake of showing you have it, getting yourself into a situation where you then don’t have it.


There are times to invest the fifty gabillion hours, or not go out on an anniversary, or take public transportation for a whole host of benefits that has nothing to do with money.

But when someone says they don’t like to pay, I find myself thinking, “And I don’t like feeling violent, but such simplistic thinking makes me wonder what it might feel like to bite my thumb at you!” (Name that Shakespeare reference.)

Paul more lovingly responded– When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

Childish thinking says that paying only involves money. That’s a bit like saying only U.S. dollars are used around the world. Those who have “put their childish ways of thinking behind” them when it comes to paying understand that each country/situation uses a unique currency.

For instance, is it better to pay with resources instead of money? Asking “is it better” isn’t all that helpful. A more helpful question would be: What’s the best currency for this situation? What is going to bring me closer to people, invest in relationships or a task, or bring joy to God?

If I chose differently, would it lead to distance? Distance from people? From my values? From God?

So, I don’t have a simple answer to which currency you “should” use or a formula to let you know in three easy steps which currency you’ll need  in any given situation.

Instead, I’ll leave you with the challenge to move beyond money when thinking about costs and benefits. Should you consider money? Absolutely, but also energy levels, relationships, other things you have going on, nudges from the Holy Spirit, budget, family needs, is this urgent, health, and what will sustain you long term.

Next time when you hear someone say, “I don’t like to pay.” Try the line “with money,” smile at them, and watch a few light bulbs come on (and you too can be viewed as a charming conversationalist!). The industrial era and moving from a barter to market economy brought many advances, but tying money so closely to the idea of cost is not one of them.

We’re going to pay, that’s a given; my hope is that we are aware we have currency options and are willing to use them.


What’s your default currency? What currencies did I miss?



Leave A Comment

  1. Kristi August 2, 2013 at 7:37 am - Reply

    Emotional. That probably fits into one of your other categories. My thoughts are on how the cost of hello is good-bye. But…there is a cost for not saying hello and avoiding good-bye. You’re right. You always pay something.

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      Amy August 3, 2013 at 9:24 pm - Reply

      I do hate all the good-byes! But then without them, if I shut myself off with no more hello’s, the cost is isolation and loneliness. I see your point, I do! But as you ended, we always pay something :) and up til now, the goodbyes have been better than being alone :)

  2. Rhonda August 2, 2013 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    I usually like to pay with my time. I t has lead to some interesting times & conversations. :)

  3. Jessa August 3, 2013 at 12:10 am - Reply

    I tend to pay with time and effort. And my emotional well-being. That’s probably my primary currency–emotional safety.

    (The Shakespeare reference: Romeo and Juliet. I think it’s Act III. I know Mercutio is in the scene, but I can’t remember if he’s the one who says “I bite my thumb at you.” It’s been twelve years since I read that play, and I don’t have my Complete Works of Shakespeare handy to check. :-) )

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      Amy August 3, 2013 at 9:21 pm - Reply

      Well done! All I know is R and J … and that it was somewhere in the middle. And I get why emotional safety is a go-to currency!

      • Jessa August 4, 2013 at 1:58 am - Reply

        Oops, not Act III… Mercutio dies in Act III, and has some memorable lines in a similar vein, but he’s not even in the scene with “I bite my thumb at you.” That’s Act I, Scene i. It’s the insult that begins the fight that causes the prince to ban all public feuding between the Montagues and Capulets.

        The funny thing about emotional safety as a currency for me–I spend it much too freely, and then have rather a lot of buyer’s remorse. But I like to console myself with “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” (Mr. Beaver, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe)

  4. […] What’s Your Currency {and Why it is Important to Know} by Amy at the Messy Middle […]

  5. Kim Todd August 8, 2013 at 1:48 pm - Reply

    Space. We acquire things we don’t need or necessarily even enjoy or keep things past their prime and they crowd us. We pay with our space. Or we buy more space.

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      Amy August 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm - Reply

      Kim, this is brilliant! When I read this comment I thought, that’s it exactly!

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