Money Saving Monday: Cash

Again with the saving money. It's always at the top of my mind, I try to make a game out of it. Today I'm going to emphasize using cash. Before we had kids and I was working we had "budget" but it was more of an option than a goal. I would use my debit card for everything trying to keep a tally in my head on how much I had spent and I would usually feel like I hadn't spent that much until Rob added it all up and then I was appalled at how fast the frequent grocery trips and coffee stops had added up.

During the budget crisis of '06 I quit working and we had our first child so we had to face our spending demons. (Ok, I had to face my spending demons. Rob doesn't spend.) Anyway, we set a weekly budget of $100.00. That included groceries, formula & diapers, gifts, and eating out. Yah, kind-of pathetic. Actually I think it's pretty much the poor house. I cried. I cried a lot. No more leisurely and pointless Target visits. No more 4-times-a-week latte habit. At the beginning of each week I would take out $100 cash. I had to start weighing every single purchase. Do I buy the name-brand trash bags, or the Kroger brand? Do we really need Diet Coke? Should we really be buying every single person in our humongous family a birthday present?

I had to make some hard decisions. And get really creative. And cook at home more. And find free entertainment. And... It has so helped me to be on a cash budget because I very rarely go over the budget. It's really easy to "plan" on how much we'll spend and save money on those accidental overdraft fees. And mostly to avoid unnecessary expenses like things you toss in your cart on a whim and then never eat or bring a drink from home instead of stopping at Sonic for a soda. Every dollar counts. If I spend only $50 at the grocery store on Monday, that means I have money left to take Robbie to McDonalds, get a latte, and a small Target trip during the week. Manipulating your cash can be fun! For me it helps to physically see the amount of cash left in my wallet.

Your budget will obviously be different than mine. You may have more budget categories and put cash into envelopes. The whole point is just to use cash for things that you go to the store to buy (not bills) to avoid overspending and keep track of what you spend.

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