The majority of consumers know that spending cash will save them money in the long run over using plastic or new digital methods of payment. However, I’ll be honest, using a cash system takes a little bit of extra work and may even require some sacrifice. These practical tips are designed to help the hesitant budgeter find a solution to the complications of a cash based system and perhaps provide some hope to spur them on toward making the switch.
I always forget to swing by the bank. How else can I get cash?
Going to the bank can be an inconvenience, especially if you’re paid by direct deposit. I would make the argument that it’s a good idea to get into the habit of making a weekly trip to get money for your envelopes anyway. It’s always a great idea to be on a first name basis with your bank employees simply because you want someone on your side if you ever have a problem with your account. Let’s just say I learned this the hard way when my PayPal account got hacked to the tune of $900 so someone could buy them some World of Warcraft goodies at 3 AM one Friday. The bank employees hopped right on the situation and sprung to my rescue, simply because I had been in on a regular basis and they were invested in my situation.
If you can’t make into the bank during operational hours, then get on their website to see where they have ATM kiosks located. Is there one near the grocery store you frequent (or at least on the way)? If you can build a habit into your weekly shopping where you first swing through to get money and then go to the store, you’ll be much more successful. If there’s not a branch near you, you may need to make a banking switch to make life a bit more convenient.
Finally, see if your debit card allows you to get cash back at the store without a charge. Then purchase a small item using your debit card, get cash back to fill your envelopes and then do your shopping as normal.
But really, does it have to be cash?
The answer is yes and no. Using cash actually has the same response in your brain as pain. We don’t like to give away our hard earned dollars but will swipe our plastic away for almost anything. So I’m always going to advise going old school on your money to help put stops and limits in place. Seriously, I am a money saving ninja, and I will still spend $10-15 each grocery trip when I use my debit card which comes directly from my checking account.
At the same time, I don’t expect you to use cash at the gas station when you have infants in the car or to pay your water bill in ones. So naturally, you can set up your own limits. I always recommend easing yourself into the practice by using cash at the grocery store and then adding dining out, entertainment, and clothing to the mix gradually as you gain success.
If you’re still vehemently opposed to the idea or a digital native, you could use an app like mvelopes, Level Money, or another app to track your spending. Honestly, I think this will be more complicated than finding your way to the bank, though.
How do you track your spending and keep from forgetting your envelopes?
In Slaying the Debt Dragon, I emphasize the importance of finding an envelope system that you find both functional and attractive. If you’re going to be staring at your envelopes, you want to feel inspired and happy. You can find a set of free printable envelopes on my site. I personally keep this set at home and then when I’m ready to carry cash I use my Thrifty Zippers system, stocked and ready for shopping. My husband carries a Thrifty Zippers Men’s Bi-Fold Wallet, too. My wallet always stays in my bag and conveniently stores my ID, debit card, reward cards, and more.
After making a purchase, I stash the receipt into the correct envelope. This helps me re-evaluate what I’m spending at the end of the month.
What if an emergency arises or my spouse doesn’t have cash?
Listen, I live in the real world where we run out of toilet paper and need milk. The cash system is designed to help you but not imprison you. So of course, if you need deodorant this week but you don’t have enough to buy it and your baby’s diapers, um yes go ahead and put that on your debit card. If your spouse needs to grab something on the way home from work but doesn’t have cash, it’s ok to use your debit card in emergency situations. The idea is to begin to break the habit of depending on it for regular purchases.
All things with grace, all things in moderation, my friends. If you begin to worship the cash system more than the Giver of all good things, you’ll become entrapped by idolatry. Use your envelopes as a hedge and boundary around your spending, not a way to beat yourself (or other people) up. Take a deep breath and move along.
So what should I do now? How do I start?
1. Again, I recommend choosing one budget category to begin your cash experiment. If I could choose for you, I’d select the grocery store. After you have this system in place, move on to another category.
2. Get an envelope system that you love.
3. Watch your savings add up! Do a victory dance. Rinse. Repeat.
Using cash is just one of the many ways we were able to quickly pay off $127K+ of debt. Wield this powerful weapon against your own debt dragons.
Since 2008, Cherie Lowe has been confidently wearing a plastic crown and encouraging others to dream big dreams. Together with her husband, Brian, Cherie paid off $127,482.30 in a little under four years. She scribed the ups and downs of their debt-slaying journey on her popular website, www.QueenOfFree.net. A graduate of Asbury University, Cherie strongly believes that something can come from nothing and that there is always a way for her readers to simplify their lives and their budgets. More than anything, through speaking and written word, Cherie longs for others to know that there is hope for getting their finances under control. Her family’s story has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance, Redbook magazine, AOL Daily Finance, NBC News, and more. Cherie and Brian reside in Greenwood, Indiana, along with their daughters, Anna and Zoe. Join the court of the Queen of Free on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest to find practical, money-saving tips and daily inspiration to slay the debt dragon.