Is it normal for Americans to hide money in their home, rather than keep it in a bank account?
According to a survey conducted in 2015 by American Express and Ebiquity, an average of 29% of Americans keep their savings in cash, with the primary goal of stashing it somewhere secret (not in the bank).
People do this for many reasons, ranging from budgetary techniques, anticipating a financial emergency or crisis, avoiding income tax by not declaring all of [their income], and of course, to avoid declaring stolen money.
"I've also heard of people using it as a budget technique, keeping cash in envelopes set aside,"
—Kimberly Litt, public affairs manager at American Express
"We saw a surge of this back in 2008, when the banking crisis was going on,"
—Todd Morris, founder and chief executive of BrickHouse Security
According to you, she stole a month's worth of wage. Theft or robbery is a criminal offense that could easily be traced, in a criminal case, by looking at the suspect's reported income (which would be easy enough to track via bank statement). One way to avoid this, as a criminal, is not to declare the cash you stole to the bank.
It's also quite common for people living in certain residences to keep cash at home as they need to frequently pay their landlord with cash.
Do people in the service industries in the US avoid getting their wages through the banking system (in Australia it'd be called "cash in hand") so they can underestimate their earnings to the government?
In the US, it's known as money under the table, but in general it's called unreported employment, and is not an illegal payment method for employers - it is, in fact, a category in job seeking businesses, as some employers and jobseekers prefer this method of business.
Practically all restaurant or bar service jobs and construction work use this system where the employer pays their employees "under the table" (i.e. without reporting it to the state), and Wikipedia lists plenty of (not always illegal) reasons for this:
Reasons one may work or pay a worker cash-in-hand include:
- Avoidance of wage garnishment or payment of child support or alimony
- Cheaper workforce and avoidance of minimum wage laws
- Convenience for both parties
- Elimination of paperwork, bookkeeping, and regulation compliance
- Reduced/eliminated expenses or need for bookkeepers, human resource
specialists, lawyers, accountants, payroll services, insurance agents
and other employment specialists
- Not checking or showing a criminal record
- Protesting actions or policies of the governing authorities (see
- Evasion of insurance requirements
- Flexibility in hiring short-term employees without excessive overhead
- Avoid allowable income limits by a person receiving certain benefits,
such as unemployment, disability, or public assistance
- Fugitive, illegal immigration, or organized crime
- Tax noncompliance, tax resistance, or social security evasion
- Ability to hire qualified but disliked ethnic people and blacklisted
people and them to hire others
—"Unreported employment (Reasons)", Wikipedia
If the character in question is employed in the restaurant/bar service industry (almost certainly gets paid "under the table", in cash), and she has stolen cash, then those are quite compelling reasons for her to stash money in cash, secretly, in her home.