Everyday Inspirations

 
 

~ a better you ~


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A couple weeks ago, I decided to try an experiment. An experiment with money.

I've always had a good relationship with money. I pay bills, add to my savings account and allocate the remainder to day-to-day living. I feel good about my spending because I know I'm also putting away money for a rainy day. I remember sitting in a personal finance class my senior year of college, listening to my classmates say the only time they put money in savings is if they have any left over after paying bills and having fun with the extra.

Aaaand jaw drops.

That concept has always been alien to me, because I know the only way I can save is by taking money away from myself before I'm tempted by delicious weekend brunches, gorgeous new tops and purple eyeliner (not that I regret that purchase!). I also make sure I have money for my 401(k) pulled directly out of my check. As my professor said, "Pay yourself first," or you'll find unnecessary uses for your extra money. I don't know about you, but while I rarely touch my savings, boy, do I drain my pocket money. I'll admit that I love spending money.

And even though I'm responsible about money, I still sometimes experience The Guilt. You know what I mean. Every week or so, I'll pull a wad of receipts out of my wallet and start balancing the books. Ouch. Random magazine purchase here, unnecessary coffee there... pretty soon I feel sad for buying so many things I didn't need. For weeks, the idea of waste swims through my mind. I could have bought something lasting with that $20! I could have put it toward summer vacation money! I could have put it back in the bank!

After I spent more time than I care to admit worrying about that extra money, I finally decided to do something about it. I went on a cash-only trial run.

Why cash? Honestly, cash now seems like treasure to me. I can pull out my convenient little debit card at any time, swipe it and never realize how much money I've spent until I sit down and force myself to face reality. Whenever I actually have cash, I hoard it, only spending it when absolutely necessary. I love knowing I still have those crisp bills left in my wallet. I know this is going to sound silly, but holding on to cash makes me feel like I've won something. Or outsmarted the world.

On payday a few weeks ago, I made a trip to the bank and made myself deposit the amount of spending money I thought I was going to need for the next two weeks.

(Actually, I gave myself $50 less than I thought I'd need... just to see what would happen.)

The result? My spending changed. I guarded that money like it was my one duty in life. I still spent it, of course—still had fun going to dinner with Dan or congratulating myself for being so frugal by buying a latte. But I didn't have the desire to buy unnecessary things. Most exciting of all, I didn't feel like I was depriving myself of anything. I was simply more aware of and engaged in how I was spending my hard-earned money.

Needless to say, the experiment was a success. And that extra $50 I didn't pull out of my checking account? Savings! As far as my cash went, I actually had money left over. Extra money I could put toward something useful! I was incredibly proud.

Want to try out the cash-only lifestyle? Here are a few quick tips to get you going.
  • This may sound like a no-brainer, but never carry all your cash at once. After I've deposited the money from my checking account, I divide it up. (You'll feel much better if something happens and you were only carrying $20 or $50 instead of $100.) Because my money was to last me two weeks, I divided it in half and kept one of the halves safe at home. I didn't even carry all the week's money on me. I divided it into even smaller amounts based on what I'd be doing. 
  • Think ahead. Carrying cash forces you to plan for your week. If you know you need to pay your gym membership on Thursday, for example, you can pull out a twenty and leave it home until the day it's due. You won't accidentally spend it and have to make up the money somewhere else.
  • Don't fear the debit card. Nothing is wrong with still using your card for purchases. I allocated a small amount of money in my checking account for things like gas or the copay at my doctor's office. (Because, let's face it, sometimes it's easier to use the card.)



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