Go Cash Only for a Week

Is your spending out of control lately? Here’s a quick tip to help you gain insight and instill discipline into your spending habits: Go cash only for one week!

Using Cash is So Old School

Most of us at one time or another find ourselves without cash. You end up using your credit or debit card to make all your purchases for days and weeks at a time. Some may go without cash all the time. In fact, there were several years in my life where I just didn’t carry cash at all. I simply had my bank’s credit/debit card and a few credit cards in my wallet (my wallet these days).  These two cards were all I needed.

Let’s face it, in the US in most urban areas you can get along quite easily using the card only method. In fact, in some places it’s frowned upon to break out the cash. We’ve all seen the Visa commercials where everything stops down due to some idiot, behind-the-times person actually using cash.

The Problem with Credit and Debit Cards

I’ve found that using my credit and debit cards exclusively has a negative impact on my financial situation:

Unconscious Spending – Unless you are naturally very disciplined about your spending it can quickly get out of control with the use of cards. Mainly because you aren’t thinking about what you are spending as much. What’s more visually appealing and creates more desire

…this picture of a credit card?


…or this picture of cash?


The cash, right? It’s that same emotion that naturally creates better control over cash than cards.

A Mess of Receipts and/or Register Entries – If you are keeping track of your purchases while using only cards, then you either have to keep a receipt or write it down in your register. If you don’t then you are relying on your bank, the restaurant, the clothing store to record the transaction properly (not recommended).

So, because you have to keep all these receipts or make every little register note, your going to have a bunch of receipts or a bunch of notations cluttering up your life and you time. Wouldn’t it be nice to have less mess and more control? Then maybe it’s time to take the “Cash Only” challenge.

Take the Challenge

If you’ve been spending too much lately and are in need of a financial wake up call, I challenge you to go cash only this week. Let’s say you normally spend $400 a month on your debit and/or credit cards and your goal is to spend 25% less this week than you did last week. Use this approach:

Start off by going to your online banking information and downloading a month’s worth of expenses. Total up the amount of expenses you had via debit and credit card for the month. In this case, we said $400. Then divide that number by 4, which is $100. Then multiply that number by .75. This gives us $75. That’s the amount you should withdraw in cash from your bank. Take that amount and strive to use that and only that this week. You’ll be surprised how effective this can be in helping you regain focus and better control your spending.

Do you use cash or credit only? Or a mix of both? Explain why in the comment box below.

Photos: by s,B – Michael Brenton – King of The Wachoo Wachoo and Refracted Moments™

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  1. NathanTancula says:

    I’m the complete opposite. When i withdraw 60 dollars from my atm it disappears in literally 3 days. I don’t know where the money goes. It literally burns a hole in my pocket and i find myself buying coffee and food at a restaurant or bar rather than eating at home, where as if i use my debit card for these purchases i can itemize everything and figure out where the money is going. Sometimes i look in my wallet at the cash and wonder where it all went. My debit card helps me keep better track of things. I prefer my debit card!

  2. I rarely use cash. I use my credit card like cash. So I must always use it sparingly. I always pay my bills on time and in full. I never buy whatever I can’t afford.

  3. @Marci – Good for you. Seems like you have a confident plan that works for you and that’s what matters most.

    @lulugal11 – I agree that sometime cash can be easier to spend. It’s all about mixing it up and making it work for you.

  4. Cash Please! I refuse to get a debit card, use cash for groceries, gas, and daily purchase, and only use a credit card if online. When I’m short on cash, I don’t spend. Simple as that. I’ve done it for years and wouldn’t have it any other way! It’s a visual reminder that I AM spending MY hard earned money and I Think before every purchase – is this item WORTH trading part of my working life for? and how many hours did I have to work for it! Works for me! And yes, it’s by choice – not necessity – my credit and finances are excellent!!!

  5. lulugal11 says:

    I am using credit only right now but I treat it like cash. I am using one of the best cash back credit cards that I send a snowflake payment to as soon as I get home.

    I get out the receipt and enter a payment for that amount to go to the card. I do not buy small items like candy or gum unless it is part of my regular shopping, so I do not end up putting a $2.18 charge on the card, whereas I probably would have spent that if I had cash.

    This system works for me now, but I have to be very disciplined to keep it going. I have a budget and I follow it strictly. If I do not have the cash then it does not go on the card.

  6. Thanks, Shanti!

  7. Shanti @ Antishay Ventenne says:

    Thia is great! I don’t carry cash unless some friend pays me gas money or something, but like you said, it totally depends on the individual’s ability to control spending. I went on a simplicity challenge to not spend any money above my needs from Feb 17 to March 17. So far? I have spent almost nothing! But I like this concept – a good life hack 🙂

  8. Frugalchick – that is pretty close to how I do it currently. I agree those little charges are a pain. It’s good to have cash for that.

    Yep, credit/debit is easy when you’re disciplined. After all, your name is Frugalchick! 🙂

  9. Frugalchick says:

    I use both credit/debit card and cash.

    Cash — because I hate paying the 45 cents the gas station tacked on to my bill if I use my debit card.

    Credit/debit card — for everything else because of the cash rebates I get. I don’t think that I spend more when I’m using my cards vs cash because I know at the end of the month, that card will need to be paid off in full.