Cash-Only for 30 Days

I was going through old posts since I've done the 30-day Cash Only Diet and documented two times here (coincidentally, I also did this exactly two years ago, in October, 2008). Last week I got to thinking about starting it again. October 1st ideally would have been the time to publish this. Hubby was traveling last week, and we talked about personally doing this but I had very little time to do anything besides keeping up the homefront (single parents deserve an award…seriously!).

So, I just decided to do a 30 Days of using Cash-Only, rather than a month focused on it. That way anyone can join in at any point in the month and track their progress for 30 days. If you're like us, doing cash only does depend on our paydays. I can't all of a sudden say we're doing cash-only on an off-week for pay knowing bills are going out. That would just set us up for failure from the start since we wouldn't necessarily have the funds in the bank. So join in at anytime!

If you would like to join me for the next 30 days, here is what I plan on using just cash for, which is very similar to the other times we've done this. And, after looking at our checking account these are the areas where the spending misses our budget consistently. These are what I consider “controllables” that are sorta out of control!!

  • Groceries: $300 month
  • Allowance: $200 month
  • Dining Out: $100 month

As I share those amounts, please don't compare yourself to what we can spend. Or, as some people have told me they feel is so little compared to their own family size and grocery budget. It's all about you making small changes or challenges. Plus, I have been stockpiling for a while. That helps a TON!

I'm not including our standard bills (mortgage, insurance, car payment, etc) since we pay those via internet banking. I'm also not including our gas expenses in there since we always use a debit card. Honestly, it makes no sense to have to drag our 3-year old into the gas station to pay with cash just to say I paid with cash. I'll use my debit card. It's still cash, but I know how some folks feel the whole card mentality makes it different. Which is what I'm really interested in seeing with this.

I'm really going to challenge myself on doing my Grocery Planning. Yes, I use the Grocery Scenarios + Planning Worksheet (under Savings Trackings link) each time I shop (I really do even though it needs some updating and is over 2 years old!). But, I've gotten away from tracking each item with coupon values reduced the way the spreadsheet works. So, I go into the store without a true idea of how much my total will be. Since we've not been doing major shopping but twice a month, it's only twice I'll have to do this theoretically.

I'll take our Grocery Budget ($300 for the month) and stick with it. Which will be challenging this week given Kroger's Buy 10 $5 Instant Savings Promotion! It will be very hard. And, we have very little meat so that will be another challenge. But, I'm up for it!

I'm also a HUGE slacker when it comes to being strict with the Allowance. I know the cash-only will help with this. Hubby will likely be challenged too since he likes to grab the boys UDF before or after practices (FYI, Babe, that's coming out of someone's allowance…or better yet, the kids' allowance!). So, we each get $100 a month. I'm taking out the full amount and that's all we got to work with which will include all my coffee stuff. Not to mention, we're going to the World Vision Make a Different Tour this month (you can read about my World Vision DR trip – we love World Vision!!). Any items we want to purchase will have to come from our allowance!

Dining Out is also going to be a big challenge. We've been dining out far too much. Much more than I want to admit to, honestly. So, our past dining budget of $100 a month will be an experiment. It will be good to see how much we're dining out. I'll be tracking all of our receipts to see where it's going too. I did our ledger last night and realized I need to invest in Chipotle and Chic-Fil-A. They get a lot of our money each month. Too much.

The So What of It All?

There are a few things I want to see out of this. First, we haven't done a cash-only month in a long time (since April, 2008 and October, 2008 to be exact!). I want to really feel the money leave my pocket and know where it went to. I want to APPRECIATE what we're spending the money on. More than wasting it, which has happened too (yes, I've even wasted my coffee).

In the past Cash-Only months, using cash wasn't something I felt we needed to do because it didn't really change our behavior with spending (whether it was cash or our debit card). We have gotten way more relaxed on our budget and I need to focus more again. I'm really just interested to see if cash will be the way we need to go now. I know it works for so many people, but we were so disciplined with our debit card before. I will admit up front that I've been way too lax with it and I need to reign in on the mindless swipes.

Plus, we have our financial goals to achieve, including saving to replace our jacked up car, and our upcoming Disney Cruise. I'm NOT putting any of that on a credit card AT . ALL (unless to put it on to get the cash back and then pay off immediately. I do believe in doing that. But that's a different post all together). We did sacrifice a lot and worked EXTREMELY hard to pay off that debt (I know I need to finish our Personal Finance Story) and we're not racking it up again. Even with the enticement of sand and Mickey Mouse. Not. Gonna. Happen!

I really also think it will help our kids see that they need to be more responsible with their money. We're finding them just saying “Oh, just go through the ATM.” Or, “Mom, I'll pay for it.” And, my response is usually “With what? Did you do your chores to get that allowance.” And, honestly, I haven't been doing good at ALL with paying them in cash each week they fulfill their obligations either. With the new home management system I'm working on (post to come soon, I'm really excited about it), I fully expect that to help a lot. It's just sticking with it is where we have challenges.

What can I say, our family is a work in progress. We'll all learn a lot from doing this, I'm sure more than I fully expect as I type this out.

I'll post another update at Day 15 sharing the progress, then again at Day 30. I'm really interested to see if using cash only helps us save more. I know so many people believe in it, but when I tried in earnest before, it didn't work. Maybe our behaviors have changed and it will be right for us again. Who knows. I'm trying.

So, you up for it? 30 Days of using cash-only. You can identify the areas in your life where it makes sense. If you want to join in, drop your link below (or leave a comment in the post). I can't wait to see progress. And, hey, we might even save some money for our Christmas accounts too!

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  1. Good for you for going “cash only.” We have been doing this for over a year. Have we slipped, yes, especially when hubby was in one place and I was in another for the month of May and part of June. We went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University a couple of years ago, but really got serious last year. We have little debt, no car payments (paid them off), and we are saving money for our adoption. I see that you really only have 3 catagories for cash only, you should really go for it and have more sub-catalogies. The only thing that we pay without cash is our monthly bills, ex. power, phone, cable, etc., and these are fixed expenses. Our “cash only” catagories are ex., gas(yes, we go into the gas station), groceries, out to eat, our personal allowance, car, house, gifts, trip(yes, we pay cash for trips), clothes, misc, baby(stocking up for adoption), etc. You can order envelope system wallets from Good luck, can’t wait to see how your month goes.

    1. JoAnn, I’m going to share a do-it-yourself tutorial a blogger created for the envelope system. I’m actually going to attempt to make my own this week. It is the cutest thing (since I’m a scrapbooker) so I’ll try to avoid using Dave’s for now. Or, I’ll get a $1 coupon organizer possibly. Thanks for the feeedback!! It’s always encouraging!

  2. Jenn Hoornstra says:

    We really need to so a cash only month. I have a system set up but have been too un organized to get back in the habit. I actually use an accordion envelope I got at the dollar store to organize us.

  3. We are in our 3rd month of the Dave Ramsey plan. It has been going pretty good, we have messed up a little each month, but I figure that is okay because we are still learning and getting used to it. From these mistakes we learn that maybe we need to budget more per month for something, or maybe we need to control spending more. We have the same problem with gas money, it’s a pain to go up to the booth and pay cash, so what we did was buy 2 $50 Kroger gift cards (Kroger is the only place we ever buy gas) and it is the same as using cash and forces you to stay within the budget while freeing you of paying at the booth.

  4. Sarah, it does take a little readjusting your budget. Yes, going into the gas station isn’t always convient, but we only put in $20 at a time. Even on trips we only put in $20 at a time. My husband does put some of his gas on pre-paid gas station cards because it is easier for him. Since we don’t have kids yet, going into the gas station isn’t a problem yet.

  5. I don’t know when you are going on your cruise? But depending on the cruise line, you can book the cruise and pay it off before going on the cruise. We did this with Carnival. Also, we have bought the husband his commuter truck on craigslist.

    1. JoAnn, our cruise is next year and that’s what we plan to do. We have 1/3 of it paid for in full. We’ll just have to finish paying that and saving for travel and spending money while we’re there.

  6. I’m 3 weeks into using cash only for groceries and am amazed at the difference it is making. (I’ve switched how I plan meals, and that’s also helping.) Using cash has really cut back on impulse buying versus using a debit card. This is probably a permanent change for me, so I’m anxious to see how it goes around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Good luck with your 30 days of cash!

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