Carrying cash as part of your EDC: How much to carry (Part 2 of 3)

assorted money

Money is a key component of everyday carry (EDC). It’s a necessary part of life as we have to pay for goods, food, services and even help when we need it. Technology has created a heavy dependence on electronic payments via debit and credit cards, but cash talks when nothing else will.

Make sure you read all of this 3-part series as we cover why you should be intentional about carrying cash:

  1. Part 1: Six reasons why you should carry cash
  2. Part 2: How much cash you should carry (current article)
  3. Part 3: How to carry cash

We’ve broken everyday carry into three main tiers: Primary, Secondary and Extended. As you evaluate what you carry in each tier, it’s important to be flexible and take into consideration where you are going and what you are doing. Running errands or going out to eat with your family will require different gear in your EDC than going to work or going out of town for a few days. If you are already modifying your gear depending on how long you’ll be gone and where you are going, the amount of cash you carry shouldn’t be any different.

We are providing recommended amounts, but really want to encourage you to think like a gray man, which means to take ownership. Only you know where you’re going, who you’re going with, the way you are getting to/from there, etc. When you start to be intentional about carrying cash you will start to pay attention to your unique “what if” situations and change it accordingly. Modify our recommendations to suit your needs so you can ensure you always have enough cash on you to take care of yourself and your family.

Most of the reasons why you should carry cash are covered in Part 1: Six reasons why you should carry cash. One of the biggest reasons is having cash + debit/credit card is that it creates redundancy and options as to how you pay. So, we know you NEED to carry cash, let’s cover how much you SHOULD carry.

Primary EDC

cash and various edc gear
Even the cash you carry in your wallet or in your pockets should be intentional. Shown here is an ideal amount of money as part of a Primary EDC which includes a Chris Reeve Sebenza 25, Fisher Space Pen Raw Brass Bullet PenRite in the Rain Mini Stapled Notebook in Tan and a FOURSEVENS Mini ML.

Your Primary EDC is the gear that fits in your pockets or is carried on your person. It’s readily accessible and mostly or entirely concealed.

How much cash should you carry in your Primary EDC? The answer depends on (1) where you are going; (2) what you are going to do (3) how long you will be gone and (4) who you are with. We can’t cover every scenario, but have a general guideline with some reasons why below.

We recommend no less than $50.00: (1) $20 bill, (2) $10 bills, (1) $5 and (5) $1 bills

Going to work

Have you ever pulled into your driveway after a long day at work and not remember your commute? Daily routines are comfortable, which also makes it even more important for someone to pay attention and be intentional about the mundane.

This gives you a good mix of bills in order to handle most situations. Pay for a cab, get yourself off the side of the road if your car breaks down, and to cover lunch for you and someone else (and give a good tip). If you take public transportation, ensure you have enough cash to cover the cost of a ticket in case you lose your pass.

Running errands in your town/neighborhood

The good thing about running errands close to home is that if a debit or credit card doesn’t work, you can easily leave what you need to buy and head home. But, planning for a car not starting, taking public transportation, theft or any other unforeseen event happening can leave you needing money. 

The same as going to work, this leaves you with a good mix of bills to handle most situations.

Community/school/sporting events

Local events mean more people. Whether you are at your daughter’s soccer game, a local festival or watching your favorite team, you are likely with a large number of people around you, so plan accordingly.

Especially if your family is with you, you’ll need to make sure you have enough money to get everyone to a safe place. Depending on where you are going, increasing the cash amount to as much as $100 may be necessary. Excessive? Maybe, but even for a family of 4, buying a meal and paying for a cab ride home can easily dwindle your cash. 

Going out to eat

Some of the same possible situations that apply, but if you’re headed out to eat, plan for the possibility of your bank card not working, among many of the other reasons why we think carrying cash is a good idea.

Secondary EDC

cash in edc organizer
Maxpedition’s E.D.C. Pocket Organizer in Khaki shows off an ideal amount of cash to carry as part of your Secondary EDC. Also shown is Solo Scientific’s Aurora Fire StarterVargo’s Titanium ULV Spork and Adventure Medical Kit’s Travel Medic.

Your Secondary EDC is gear that is carried in a separate bag or organizer but is still with you as you go about day-to-day life. It can be carried in a backpack, briefcase, or any other smaller means.

Cash carried in your Secondary EDC is more likely to get stolen because it’s not physically on your person at all times. But, because it’s not physically on you, it also serves as a great back-up option. If you lose the cash you carry in your Primary EDC (or you are robbed), you have the redundancy of your Secondary EDC.

We recommend you duplicate the amount you are carrying in your Primary EDC

We’ll cover places to put your cash in Part 3 of this series, but it’s a good rule of thumb to duplicate the amount you’re carrying in your Primary EDC. It gives you some flexibility and an extra layer of duplicity. 

Extended EDC

cash in gun safe
Kept at home and locked in a gun safe, money as part of your Extended EDC can help with day-to-day or catastrophic emergencies.

Also referred to as your operational bag, get home bag, 72-hour bag or 3-day bag, an Extended EDC can also be what you store in your car or at even at home. It really encompasses any additional gear you own, regardless of where it’s stored.

For your Extended EDC, keep enough to “get home” in your “get home” bag as well as what you can afford to have in cash at home.

We recommend $100 in your get home bag and $1,000 in mixed bills at home.

It may seem like a large amount of money to have, but having all your money tucked away at one bank (or even worse, not having any reserve money at all) is not ideal either. Remember the run on money in Greece? Cash withdrawals were limited as banks did not have enough cash on hand.

Terrorist attack, natural disaster, virus outbreak … All reasons why you may find yourself without the ability to access money that is sitting in a bank. Cash that can get you and your family to a safe place or to purchase much-needed supplies is critical.

If the idea of having $1,000 in cash for emergencies seems daunting because it is quite a bit of money, here are some resources that can give you some ideas on how to acquire it:

We’ll talk more in  Part 3 about where you should carry and keep your cash.  

How much cash do you carry? Do you change it up depending on where you’re going, who you’re going with and how long you’ll be gone?

Cody Martin

With over 18 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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