Medium of Exchange
The only alternative to using money is to go back to the barter system. However, as a system of exchange the barter system would be highly impracticable today. For example, if the baker who supplied the green-grocer with bread had to take payment in onions and carrots, he may either not like these foodstuff or he may have sufficient stocks of them.
The baker would, therefore, have to re-sell the product which would take time and be very inconvenient. By replacing these complicated sales by the use of money it is possible to save a lot of trouble. If the baker accepts payment in money this can be spent in whatever way the baker wishes. The use of money as a medium of exchange overcomes the drawbacks of barter.
Thus, money provides the most efficient means of satisfying wants. Each consumer has a different set of wants. Money enables him (her) to decide which wants to satisfy, rank the wants in order of urgency and capacity (income) and act accordingly.
Measure of Value
Under the barter system, it is very difficult to measure the value of goods. For example, a horse may be valued as worth five cows or 100 quintals of wheat, or a Maruti car may be equivalent to 10 two- wheelers. Thus one of the disadvantages of the barter system is that any commodity or service has a series of exchange values.
Money is the measuring rod of everything. By acting as a common denominator it permits everything to be priced, that is, valued in terms of money. Thus, people are enabled to compare different prices and thus see the relative values of different goods and services.
A Store of Value (Purchasing Power)
A major disadvantage of using commodities — such as wheat or salt or even animals like horses or cows — as money is that after a time they deteriorate and lose economic value. They are, thus, not at all satisfactory as a means of storing wealth. To realise the problems of saving in a barter economy let us consider a farmer. He wanted to save some wheat each week for future consumption. But this would be of no use to him in his old age because the ‘savings’ would have gone off.
The Basis of Credit
Money facilitates loans. Borrowers can use money to obtain goods and services when they are needed most. A newly married couple, for example, would need a lot of money to completely furnish a house at once. They are not required to wait for, say ten years, so as to be able to save enough money to buy costly items like cars, refrigerators, T.V. sets, etc.
A Unit of Account
An attribute of money is that it is used as a unit of account. The implication is that money is used to measure and record financial transactions as also the value of goods or services produced in a country over time. The money value of goods and services produced in an economy in an accounting year is called gross national product. According to J. R. Hicks, gross national product is a collection of goods and services reduced to a common basis by being measured in terms of money.
A Standard of Postponed Payment
This is an extension of the first function. Here again money is used as a medium of exchange, but this time the payment is spread over a period of time. Thus, when goods are bought on hire-purchase, they are given to the buyer upon payment of a deposit, and he then pays the remaining amount in a number of installments.