My Cash-Only Challenge Diary

Rubber Band Wallet
Cash only grocery shopping is possible. Image via Wikipedia

How do couponers (extreme and not-extreme) —with families–keep their grocery budgets SO low? We’ve heard couponers on TLC’s EC show say they spend $50 a month for groceries for extended family members and themselves. We’ve read that couponers spend $30 a week on groceries for a family of six! On and on. HOW DO THEY DO THAT? Yes, we know the stockpiling and couponing drill. We do that. But in my personal case, with a family of four, $30 a week in Fairfield would not go far for balanced and healthy meals, paper, or personal goods, even with the use of serious couponing.

Until now.

Until my cash-only diet.

Thanks to two of my cash-only heroes, Gail Vaz-Oxlade (every Saturday night on CNBC) and Dave Ramsey, and their many followers and fans who have blogged and commented on how they accomplish low weekly grocery receipts, the key to success is not just in couponing; it is the use of cash only when grocery shopping. Those magic jars and the envelope systems. Think they’re corny? Think again.

Yes, I’ve known for a long time now that cash only is the way to go. I believe we all know that. Yet we continue to pay for groceries via debit or credit card, or even by check (because we know there’s overdraft protection). Many people like the point rewards via credit card, many people are able to pay their card in full each month to get those rewards. I’m not disciplined enough to do that, and I thought I was “paying by cash” by always buying groceries by debit card. Uh-uh. No way. When you pay by plastic, no matter what form it is, you tend to nudge up that grocery total. You buy more. You buy an extra can there, an extra bottle here, and how about taking advantage of that great sale–why not, you have your plastic in your wallet.

But when you pay for groceries (gas, clothes, etc.) by cash–it’s a whole other ball game. A completely different mindset. As Dave Ramsey says, it’s painful to pay by cash. The pain makes you extraordinarily careful and judicious about what and how much you purchase.

And it works.

So, in my research, I tried to find an online resource that tracks how to buy by cash. There are many resources, but not one diary, of sorts. I’m starting that diary. If anyone knows of another diary, please, please let us know! My dairy won’t be perfect or daily, but I’m hoping it helps others who want to go the cash-only route. In going cash only, you absolutely do reduce how much you spend, you can keep to a budget, you can pay down debts, you can feel more in control of where the heck your money goes.

Let’s learn together! I’ll post later today on some of my experiences and challenges.

~Marilyn from TFF