My Cash-Only Challenge Diary – Start of April 2012

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….)

Budget
(Photo credit: Tax Credits)

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.

I’ll report in again in a few weeks.

~Marilyn, TFF

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Cash-Only Challenge Diary: March 2012

So…where is all this extra cash coming from?

Seriously.

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.

I will post again in two weeks!

~Marilyn, TFF