Greeks are getting creative with managing their money as the nation’s bank shutdown enters its third week.
You’d expect widespread panic. But some Greeks in Athens say they’re getting by, even though they’re restricted to account withdrawals of no more than 60 euros ($67) per day.
And with the banks closed, that means making regular trips to ATMs — or devising other ways to get their hands on cash.
Waiter Lorenzo Kaci, 26, who works in a popular Athens kebab shop, said he asked his employer in advance to be paid in cash.
Kaci said many other workers arranged to have half their salary deposited into their bank accounts, and half paid in cash.
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And even some workers whose paychecks go directly into their bank accounts are finding ways to cope.
Take George, 37, and his wife Anna, 32, for example. Their paychecks go straight into the bank. When they need cash, they take out 50 or 60 euros from the ATMs. They say there’s a silver lining.
“We [are forced to] save money. For us, it wasn’t a big deal,” said Anna, who requested that their last names be withheld.
Although many Greeks tend to stick to cash, the couple has also begun using their credit cards more for ordinary expenses. That gives them a bit more flexibility with how they spend.
As for those who have to pay the monthly rent, there’s an understanding between some tenants and landlords that payments may be late or trickle in because everyone is aware about the banking limits.
Besides, George said, many people his age still live with their parents, thus removing any concerns about late payments
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There is, however, one group of Greeks for whom the bank closures are more troublesome: pensioners who rely on regular government payments are having the most difficult time.
Certain banks have been allowed to remain open so retirees can collect their checks. But many of these people have to wait in long lines and have been restricted to 120 euros ($133) per week.
And the banks open only for short periods. Anna said people she saw lined up outside looked afraid.
This general nervousness has driven many people to go to ATMs every day to take out as much money as they are allowed.
Their reasoning: hiding cash under the mattress is better than keeping it in an unstable bank.