Click and watch this now, a video from Yahoo’s Remake America. It’s actually a very well-edited short video on why you should use cash versus plastic! Hint: If you use cash, this video says you will save 20% every time you shop (that’s $1 out of $5 that you keep in your pocket). (Access the video here.)
Cash may be king, but my monthly budget sheet rules my life. That’s a good thing–it’s like having an accountant by your side at all times.
Here’s how my cash-only challenge has been going:
Gas: Using cash for gas is great. And that’s because there’s motivation to use cash versus debit. You get a .10 cent discount per gallon around here when you use cash. If I go to Shell, use cash, and have gas points from Stop & Shop, then it’s a great deal and using cash is enough of an incentive. I’ve been sticking to about $25 to $35 a week on gas once a week, even when I deviate from around-town driving (which of course is worse). (By the way, a post on hypermiling is coming….)
The grocery store: For a few weeks I had limited my cash budget for groceries to $50. That was just awful and not possible for us. So, I upped it to $75 which was better. But $100 a week for food is the magic number for my family. I ended up using my debit card for additional groceries when my budget was $75 and under. But with $100 in cash in my wallet, it works out great and I do not feel the need at all to raise my grocery budget again. Since I started my cash-only challenge, we have not had any organic meat in our freezer from the farm where we have a share of a cow, and I’ve had to (reluctantly) buy organic meat or chicken from the store. But I’ve greatly reduced the amount of meat/poultry we eat to once or twice a week (we used to eat it frequently). By reducing our meat/poultry intake, and make creative dishes using beans, vegetables, and pasta, it’s easy to stick to the $100 mark every week.
My budget: Every month, I write up a new budget, and just achieving this act helps me to realize how much I should spend on groceries, which is how I arrived at the $100 a week mark. The magic of having a budget to refer to is invaluable. I also write down every single grocery receipt on my budget sheet so I can keep track all week on what I’m spending regardless of what’s in my wallet.
What I’m learning is that my budget sheet is King. If I did not have a budget sheet, but carried cash, I think I’d just go get cash out of the ATM once it was gone! But because I know what’s coming in, what’s going out, where it’s going, and it’s all on this magical budget sheet, the sheet itself holds me accountable; I’d be lost without my budget sheet.
This isn’t all about using cash, however. It’s about budgeting, too.
But I’ll disclose this: um, errrr, I sorta used my debit card this week. Gulp. The good thing: I was extremely conscious of how much I was buying/pumping gas, etc. so I was able to stay in the budget I set. That means: $25 for my gas, $60 for my husband’s gas, $75 for food (happily including lots of fruits–including organic strawberries from Shoprite–and vegetables and yes, thank goodness for coupons from our local coupon exchange club), $20 for “blow cash,” allowance, etc. It all worked out, and I was able to eliminate yet another annoying little debt with what was “extra.”
No doubt, I will come up against one of those days/weeks/months where this carefully planned budget will fall apart–at least I’m anticipating it! What I’m loosely planning is that I’ll have to rearrange the budget, take a little from here, nip and tuck there, and crossing fingers it’ll all balance. Gail Vaz-Oxlade would be proud. (she likes those balanced budgets!).
I will get back to putting cash into my wallet. Starting Monday! Why is this so difficult? My head knows how bad it is to continue on this path of debit card use. But, it’s clearly a habit to NOT use cash, which is why it’ll take time to get into the habit of only using cash. Anyhow, Monday morning first thing, off to the bank I go for cash.
It’s been a long time coming to use cash for food, gas, clothing, and entertainment. I’ve been religiously watching Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s show, “Till Debt Do Us Part,” and eyeing those money jars. It just makes sense. But, I never did anything about it.
But one day, I realized my grocery budget was creeping upward, even with couponing. What the heck was I doing wrong? Using a debit card and not using a solid budget–that’s what I was doing wrong.
I drew up a serious budget (much harder than it sounds, it takes t-i-m-e, but it’s essential). In my budget–$75 cash for groceries, $25 a week cash for gas in my car (my husband uses more, but I work from home), $20 miscellaneous or “blow money,” per Dave Ramsey. That’s only the cash part of the budget.
I didn’t use jars, but I did use basic envelopes, which proved too cumbersome as I went through my week. I ended up labeling two pockets of my wallet. One pocket says “Gas” and the other says “Groceries” and that’s where I keep the money.
1. Week One: I was filmed for Channel 12 News (not aired as of yet) on a shopping trip at Stop & Shop in Fairfield–it was an extra shopping trip that week and I shelled out an extra $54.00. To balance the budget, I decided to reduce my grocery budget for two weeks.
2. Week Two: Did relatively well, was able to buy about four pounds of expensive organic ground beef because I used some Catalina coupons from ShopRite thanks to some great deals I put together. By week’s end, I spent an extra $10 at Whole Foods when I found a couple of extra deals. It’s only $10, you say, but you know how the psychology on this works … “it’s ONLY $10….” turns into “it’s ONLY $20 and so on…” But, it’s like a diet, you make peace with yourself and get back on the program.
3. Week Three: So, it’s now Saturday, one day into my third week of cash only, and I have spent my reduced cash budget. But, we have plenty of food and will only need some fruit and veggies–but it’s extra money.
But so far, it’s great, I love it, and I see where my money goes and it gives me great hope. I spent $200 so far in three weeks–not too terrible in an affluent town like Fairfield.
So thrilled–just found this site, In a Nutshell (by About One), talking about some real-life experiences using cash-only budgets. I’ll definitely dip into this more. Stay tuned for some personal cash only posts this weekend…
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 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.