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?