By the Ledger Book
What you see above is a ledger from a small colonial business in Virginia. If you looked close you would see all the normal debits and credits that you would expect in a ledger. Now imagine if instead of a wallet you carried your own personal ledger book? Not so far-fetched.
In a time before ATMs and banks hard currency was very hard to find and when you did find it parting with it was not something you enjoyed doing. In New England people used a sort of ledger system for most personal and business transactions, sort of like using Bitcoin. Here is how it worked.
Let’s say you were a young man who decided to do some work on your neighbors farm. You work ten hours. When the day was over you would both take out your ledger books, you would write down that Farmer John owed you for ten hours of work. Farmer John would write in his book that he owed you for ten hours of work. On the way home you stop at the butchers to buy some dinner and decide on a nice ham. The butcher may want to sell you the ham for $5 (just an example), well you don’t have any hard currency but you and the butcher agree that since Farmer John owes you for ten hours, the butcher can lay claim to five of those. You both makes the notes in your ledgers and you have dinner.
Sometime later the butcher needs help with rounding up sheep for the slaughter. He looks in his ledger and sees that now Farmer John owes him that five hours, so he goes and collects by having Farmer John help him for five hours. All accounts are square and not a single piece of copper or paper has actually changed hands.
Simpler? No, not really but when everyone is on the same page it can be effective.