Lessons in Cash Money

Cash Money

Forty bucks. Forty bucks burning the proverbial hole in my pocket. I’ve been a debit card guy my entire working life. But not this week. For the first time in more than 10 years, I have a small wad of cash strapped to my wallet.

I’ve been frustrated for just as many years with my inability to sock away much of anything. I don’t have a lot of debt but not much in savings either. In fact, if it weren’t for my company’s generous retirement plan, I would have exactly zero saved.

My wife and I started out on my salary alone saving diligently despite the meager amounts. As jobs and raises came and went, we fell off the saving wagon. Not unlike most Americans I imagine.

The only technique I haven’t tried—until now—is the, mostly, cash based spending plan (amazing concept, I know). So I decided to give myself a 30 day trial. If after 30 days I was a miserable wreck using cash, I would go back to my debit card and back to the savings drawing board.

Here are the results after my first cash only week.

I feel incredibly weird. Not in a bad way. More awkward and clumsy. Like the feeling you get the first day on a new job. Or the first day of practice (football, volleyball, soccer, baseball, etc.) where every movement is abnormal and unnatural. Not using my debit card for a week? Weird.

I expected to feel glum, maybe even a little depressed. One of the reasons is because I live at the bookstore. Anytime I visit the local Books-A-Million, there’s a greater than 50% chance I’ll walk out with something, whether it be a magazine, newspaper, or…book. But that’s not how I feel, not at all. Because…

I like cash…more than I assumed. Me likes my precious. For some bizarre reason, things seem so much more expensive. Before this week, I never thought twice about swiping my debit card for a $50+ purchase. Which is easy to do in a mega bookstore with a café.

My family and I will be taking a one day vacation on Saturday to check out the fall foliage. So, I’ve been saving my greenbacks for the trip. That I still have money in my wallet after a week is both amazing and exhilarating.

I’m changing stubborn habits. Eating out for lunch. Making a late-afternoon coke and candy run. Stopping by the gas station on the way home for a fountain drink. All things I thought I couldn’t live without. But guess what? I’m still alive. I haven’t blacked out. Nobody had to revive me.

I don’t feel deprived. Contrary to what my brain was screaming before I started my 30 day trial, I’m not destitute. I realize (and continue to realize) that I’ve been gripped with retail therapy for too long. Here’s an interesting observation: inaction has bred discontent in my life.

What I mean is that when I’m not challenging myself (e.g. inaction) with meaningful goals, lethargy sets in. And when lethargy sets in, I get bored. And boredom leads to spending. Spending is easy and fairly mindless. When I don’t have something I’m striving for, other than shopping, then that’s what I do—shop.

I underestimated myself. I should have learned this lesson in the military. That you can do a lot more, withstand a lot more, and accomplish a lot more than you think. I underestimated my ability to not spend. Granted, it’s only been a week. But the first habit making (and breaking) steps are the hardest.

Experts say it takes 3 weeks to solidify a habit. If my first week was this smooth, I’m looking forward to next 2 weeks and beyond.

What do you think? Other than I’m crazy for not doing this sooner?

3 Responses to “Lessons in Cash Money”

  1. Lindsey October 18, 2010 at 3:09 pm #

    The cash only method worked for me. Even after I decided to go back to my debit card ways. It helped me really visualize the money I spend!

  2. Jerret October 18, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    Thanks, Lindsey. I would agree. I’m definitely not as debit card happy as I use to be. I’d whip out the plastic for just about any purchase.

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