I’m in the home stretch of my cash-only budgeting month and have four days before I can go back to using my credit card. What sweet relief!
I’ve come to appreciate cash for what it’s taught me. Using cash is messier and makes individual purchases harder to track, but it is easier to remember how much money I’ve withdrawn than to remember how much I’ve charged. If I forget, I can add up my ATM withdrawals online in less than a minute.
I am more conscious of how purchases add up as I contemplate them in the store. I am paying greater attention to prices because I am hyper-aware that what I buy today takes away from what I can buy later. With credit that seems less true. I am also scared of putting more into my cart than I can pay for. How embarrassing to not be able to pay the cashier and have to put something back. This means shopping takes a few minutes longer as I’m tracking the price of everything in my cart, but it is a cinch to stick to my list. During my last grocery trip, I took two items off my list even though I had enough money to pay for them!
Almost everyone takes cash, but there are exceptions. Some airlines do not take cash for in-flight purchases of snacks and drinks. Rental companies often require a credit card to place a hold in case you damage or lose the equipment.
Big purchases are easier with credit. With plastic, you don’t have to stuff wads of bills in your wallet and ask the cashier to count out high sums. If I lost my wallet, I have no recourse other than hoping an honest soul returns my wallet untouched. With credit I am well protected.
Cash has changed my spending habits the most when it comes to purchases under $50. Most of my big purchases, like a plane ticket to NYC for my sister’s graduation, are unavoidable because I am committed to celebrating her accomplishment in person. But the small purchases – like whether to order another drink at the bar, or whether to stock up on groceries – come with wiggle room. Using cash makes me more likely to wiggle my spending downward.
So how do these lessons add up this month? I am on track to spend $1,000 in April, which is well below my target of $1,200. My total spending does not include a $533 mattress, for which I used savings. I have four days left to go so keep your fingers crossed I will make it to May without going to the ATM again!