Back to Cash

For the last few months, I’ve been living a rather “cashless” life. Personally, I find I have better control of my spending money, and don’t overspend, when I have that money in cash. But it’s not always convenient making time to get cash.

In all honesty, it’s just been laziness on my part. I used to stop every Friday on my way home from work and withdrawal cash from my bank’s ATM for the following week. It took me a few blocks out of my way, but no big deal. But, for the last several months, I’ve been going to the boyfriend’s after work. Outside of my routine, I haven’t even thought about stopping at the bank. Which is unfortunate; There’s a branch of my bank on the way to his house.

Without the control of cash, I admit I’m not paying much attention to my spending. Sure, I check to make sure I’m not overdrawing my account. While it doesn’t seem like much, $5 here, $10 there really does add up. I haven’t run the numbers, but I know for a fact that I’ve been going over budget.

And the sad thing is, I really shouldn’t be! Gas is actually costing me less each week with the new Escape than it was with the Honda. The boyfriend buys most of our food for dinners, and we usually have enough leftovers for me to pack a lunch. This means I’m really only buying breakfasts, snacks, and food for the weekends. Some days I’ll stop here or there to pickup a forgotten ingredient for dinner. Where is my money going?

The simple reality is, I feel free to spend more when I’m using my debit card. I know that there is that safety net, that little extra money I keep in the account, should I go over. It’s not the same with cash. With cash I know that what I’ve got is what I’ve got, and there isn’t any going over. Sure, in an emergency I could rely on my debit card. But for everyday spending, there’s a limit.

Oddly enough, seeing that limit helps me to save more. I think twice before buying that DVD, or a new type of lipstick (even though I know I don’t wear lipstick). In the back of my head, I know that every penny I don’t spend can be saved towards something better. It’s my spending money, so I’m still going to spend it. But why buy a bunch of $5-10 crap, when I can save it to buy a new pair of jeans? Or shoes? Or maybe some other more expensive thing I’ve been considering buying (like an iPad). Little amounts add up.

Part of getting on track financially involves acknowledging your own weaknesses. For me, it’s the ease of plastic, be it debit or credit. So, I need to make the effort to have cash on hand. Sure, it can be inconvenient. But in the end, there’s a very worthwhile benefit to controlling my spending.

– Cindy W.

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