Combining multivariate and qualitative analyses, this micro-level study suggests an explanation for the persistence of informal savings in rural South India despite publicly run large-scale programs to promote bank savings. Notably gold, but also ROSCAs and private lending, remain dominant forms of saving. We argue that cultural norms and social institutions such as social class and caste shape the nature, the propensity but also the opportunities to save. Gold serves multiple purposes, which are financial, economical, socio-cultural, and political. Furthermore, we find that Dalits’ (the lowest caste) preference for gold illustrates a relative emancipation of Dalits combined with the maintenance of prohibition related to caste which prevents them to invest in other assets such as land.