Same as Cash is NOT the Same as Cash

 We see it in print and over the airwaves.  We hear it on the radio or even over the in-store loudspeaker.  We hear it so often that its meaning begins to evolve.   The words begin to lose their individual meaning in favor of the refined collective. 


This phrase is usually surrounded by such contextual scene setters as “ZERO % INTEREST*” or “NO INTEREST*”.  Note the asterisk… there’s always an asterisk, but that’s a story for another day.

The hook is nearly always the same.  “BUY NOW, PAY LATER” and the price will remain the same.  Hey, why would you NOT take advantage of this deal?  Buying under these terms is the same as if you were buying with cash.

Ah, did you see the shift?  It was subtle, but it was there.  A bit of ad-speak that is accepted genius in both entry level marketing and psychology classes.  I call it altering the focus to set the hook.  It is debate tactics 101 and it’s the same sleight of hand magicians have been practicing for ages.

“SAME AS CASH” is the mantra.  But the pitch is tweaked to read that buying under these terms is the same as if you were paying with cash.  Similar enough, what’s the deal? 

What’s missing is the purchase decision.  The language changes to assume the purchase.  Sure, it is small and subtle, but it is at once huge and impactful.

Consider a recent caller to a national radio show who is a contractor suffering through the down housing market and who is fortunate enough to be selling a spec house at only a $20,000 loss. 

Honest, no sarcasm, he is quite lucky to walk away with such a minor loss. 

However, at the exact same time his wife wants to purchase a brand new car at 0% interest because her old car causes her concern while driving through a ‘bad part of town’ while on her way to work.  Her reasoning was that the $28,000 financed at 0% interest is the “SAME AS CASH”.

Hmm, if you think that zero interest is the “SAME AS CASH”, then you must by definition agree that this household, living daily the stark realities of a depressed housing market should, if they had the money, take $28,000 from savings to purchase a brand new car.  In other words, given the totality of their situation, spending $28,000 on a brand new car is the best possible decision for this household.

I image most tunes are changed when viewed from the other end of the perspective.  Having cash in hand is unique and empowering and rarely tossed about in the same way as plastic or debt.

I recall a few years ago when my wife and I were buying our current home, a beautiful home which we still love and feel blessed and proud to enjoy today.  Of course our brand new home required brand new furniture and having received an advertisement for 36 month financing at 0% interest we proceeded to go nuts.  Who needs to prudently furnish a new house a single room at a time when no interest is the “SAME AS CASH”??  So we promptly dropped nearly nine grand to replace our perfectly fine existing furnishings.

I’m pleased to say we paid off that debt well before the “got-cha free” window closed, but that’s not the point.  The point is that if we had $9k in hand, we would have treated it much more respectfully.  We would have made a better purchase decision.  Sure, we would have still added a couple new pieces but we would have appreciated the true value of the cash, as well as, the functional value of the furniture we already owned.

So “SAME AS CASH” really isn’t.  And if you’re still not sure, here’s an easy test.  Save up a pile of it and THEN tell me what you think.

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