Saving

Cash Only, Week 2: Belt-Tightening

photo: practicalowl

On April 1, BargainBabe.com blogger Julia Scott gave up her credit cards for one month. The goal of her experiment: find out whether using cash only will get her to spend less. After a surprisingly spend-happy first week (she exceeded her weekly budget by more than 60%!), Julia braced for a belt-tightening Week Two. Here’s what happened.

My plan to stop the exodus of cash from my wallet during my month-long credit card moratorium was working really well. I simply left the house with very little cash and presto! I spent very little.

Then three sleepless nights came and went and I decided I had to buy a new mattress. At IKEA the bill came to $533 for my new mattress and a set of measuring spoons. (I couldn’t resist!) That brought my total April spending to $1,043. My target spending for the month was $1,200 or less.

Um, yeah.

Now I’m faced with a tough decision. Do I dip into my savings to cover the $533 mattress or eat Top Ramen the rest of the month? (What do you think, readers? Let me know in the comments.)

Either way, I’m learning a lot about cash-only budgeting.

* I should have set a weekly spend goal based on my monthly budget to stay on track. Doling out all the cash at the beginning of the month  and then trying to stretch it 30 days requires superhuman self-control. I’m only mortal!
* It’s okay to run out of money at the store. Just smile at the cashier and say “Oops! I’m short. I’ll just buy the Doritos for now.”
* By some stroke of genius, leaving the house with only $20 means I will spend less than $20. Who knew?!
* When you hand over $500 in twenty dollar bills the cashier and everyone in line will suspect you are a mobster. Deal.
* Don’t expect to know where most of your money went at the end of the month. No one offers receipts these days. However, Mint.com just introduced a feature that helps you track cash purchases that should help in the weeks ahead.

Wish me luck getting through the next 16 days on $157. I need it!

Julia Scott blogs about saving money on everyday expenses like groceries, gasoline, and gifts at BargainBabe.com.