Saving

Cash Only, Week 1: I Actually Spent More!

photo: Refracted Moments™

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. Here’s what happened during her first week.

I’m one week into my cash-only month and so far I’m spending like crazy. Let’s see. $490 in one week? Not good. (I usually spend $300. What happened to those studies showing that people spend less when they shun credit cards?)

The problem is, I have not been able to shake the emotional security of credit cards – you always have enough money with credit – and that has lead me to carry around a ton of cash. Which. I. Spend. Immediately. I’m paranoid about running out of cash, which, ironically, is leading me to spend more and…run out of cash. Doh!

Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

* I’m much more generous with a wad of bills in my pocket. I’ve bought friends beer, paid cover charges for others, indulged in fancy coffee drinks and bought myself homemade beef jerky. Cash turns me into a big spender. 

* I have no idea where half my money is going. I’m not in the habit of asking for receipts – my credit card tracks every purchase for me – and cashiers rarely offer a receipt on little purchases.

* In certain situations, cash is not good enough. Like at the ski lodge when the cashier wants to place a $300 credit card hold against my snowboard rental. Luckily, a friend was with me and did not mind using hers. 

* Getting past my paranoia of running out of cash is probably my biggest impediment to spending less. I need to carry less cash, so I spend less.

I’m on track to spend more during this month-long credit-less experiment than I usually do with plastic. But I wonder if I will become more wary of spending as my stack of bills runs low. Stay tuned for next week’s installment of my credit-and-debit-card moratorium.

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