Oct 31 2008

Results of my cash-only month of shopping

Well it’s finally the end of October — the end of my cash-only experiment.

At the beginning of the month, I withdrew $400 from my bank, intending to use it on groceries, laundry, and my other little shopping errands that pop up.

What went well:

  • I could really appreciate the value of seeing my cash supply slowly dwindle.
  • Handing over $40 here and there certainly felt different than swiping my debit card for that amount.
  • I do think I tried to spend less, since I knew I wanted to make that amount last for the whole month.

What didn’t work:

  • I wrote down most of what I spent, but there are still transactions where I forgot to do that. Who knows where the money went?
  • I forgot to budget for some things, including parking fees.
  • Toward the end of the month when my cash stash was low, I felt really broke. Even though I could have just gone to the ATM or used my debit card, I didn’t want to “fail” my little experiment. That was dumb.
  • I ran out of cash a few days ago and said, “To heck with it, I’m using my debit card instead of going without something.”

Going cash-only for a period is a good exercise in monitoring your spending habits — so long as you hang on to all receipts and/or write down every purchase. And if you absolutely do need to stick to a finite amount of spending, going cash-only will make sure you stay within the parameters.

During my final grocery trip of the month, you betcha I had my calculator in hand to make sure I wouldn’t be embarrassed at the checkout. I don’t do that when I use my debit card. I just try to keep a mental tally of my total price.

In the end though, going cash-only didn’t work for me. I hated feeling so limited. It sort of stressed me out, even.

For November and the foreseeable future, I’m going back to my debit card. I’ll still follow somewhat of a budget for our flexible expenses, but I’ll approach it knowing that hey, you can’t know exactly how much you’ll need to spend in a month. There are unbudgetables that will certainly pop up.

I’ll track our spending and make adjustments as the month goes on.



7 Responses to “Results of my cash-only month of shopping”

  1. I love that you tried this. I’ve always wondered if using ALL cash would work for me. I’ve never tried it before, but I do know I when I spend any cash at all I feel like it doesn’t go as far. Did you feel like your money went further than your debit card, or did that $400 feel like less money than it would have on the card?

    Karen’s last blog post..Frugal ways to keep warm without turning up the furnace

  2. We do cash-only every month (well, every paycheck), so I can relate to the “feeling broke” towards the end of the time period when the cash gets low. Trying it out for more than a month- so you actually have enough cash to get you through the month, because you actually know what you spend- may be another good experiment.

    Our cash is specifically for Groceries, Eating Out, and Miscellaneous spending (household & clothes and random stuff) – those are the categories that tend to overspend if we don’t budget. Emergencies or big surprises are typically covered by our Car, House, or Emergency fund, which is something we plan for & keep in our ING account. Other categories (Gas & bills) we pay online or use a debit card.

    Feeling broke in our cash categories, in my mind, isn’t all bad, as long as my budget is reasonable to begin with. If it stresses you out, and you do fine with plastic, that’s fine, of course. Different methods work for different people.

    joanna’s last blog post..Goodnight, garden plot

  3. I honestly don’t know if the money went further this way. My grocery bills were pretty much what they usually were with my debit card — maybe a few dollars less toward the beginning.

    It’s that other stuff that really threw it off.

    If I ever do it again, I’ll go cash-only for one category, like groceries or entertainment or something.

    Doing it for everything was just not for me.

  4. I think you still did well. Don’t feel discouraged.

    I personally like credit cards and debit cards better because in case I buy a couple of little things through the day, I don’t approximate at $8, I know the exact price is $7.58 for example!

    Fabulously Broke’s last blog post..FB Goals (October 2008 Update)

  5. I found it an organizational nightmare with little accountability. We couldn’t keep each other in line because the money just disappeared and there was no receipt to say where it went. I spend more with cash because cash is meant to be spent in my mind. I have more control with the card because of how we do our record keeping. I think its good to try different methods but be willing to say this doesn’t work for us and move on to something else.

  6. I think it is so great that you were willing to try this Kacie! I can relate to the difficulty of running out of cash at the end of the month — that happened to us when we were trying a similar experiment. I think any kind of exercise like this is great for personal discipline!

    Rachel’s last blog post..Paper Pile Makeover Results!

  7. Hello Everyone!
    After getting hit with crazy fees for overdrafts and never having any savings I’ve gone cash only for the last month or so. I will purchase used books or games online cheaper than I can get them at the store but I hardly use my debit anymore. I never give exact change when making purchases. I always break the dollar. I have at least $40.00-60.00 of change right now I know I would not have if I used my card. Cash really does force you to spend what you have. There is the illusion that you have more on your card than if you carried cash. The reality is that you will spend more on your card which will lead to coming short for checks coming in etc. I really like cash only purchases.
    Take care,
    Nipsy

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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