Slow Money: Cash Only Please

Inspired by the Slow Food vibe in this bountiful Cowichan Valley, my husband and I are applying the same think-before-you-consume approach to our spending. To help us in this effort, we’re using cash only this month; credit cards are forbidden.

We’re not doing this because we’re burdened by consumer debt; I pity those fools. But it does seem like we’re spending too much every month. We not so good at budgeting. Our policy is to only spend what we have, and thus far that system has worked. But lately we’ve noticed spend creep. We think that by ditching our credit cards, and only spending the cash in our wallets (no direct debit or cheques either!), we’ll keep a closer eye on what we spend.

We’re 9 days in. Here’s what we’ve learned so far:

  1. We have no idea how much things cost.
  2. My friend asked me how much a loaf of bread at Saison Market costs. I had no idea. My mom can tell a good price for beef in a grocery store; I can’t tell you what a bad price is. And because we have no idea how much things cost, we’re not making the best choices when it comes to buying food. We can do better.

  3. We’re thoughtless consumers.
  4. My husband had to buy a foot plate for his kayak. It cost $160. Luckily, he had $200 in his wallet, having just been to the bank. He stood at the counter for a few minutes considering the consequences of this purchase. It was painful to let that money go having just acquired it. When would he find another cash machine? Was it worth buying the foot plate all? If he had the option of using a credit card, he wouldn’t have thought twice. (Well, maybe twice. $160 for a foot plate? Ridiculous). A budget would help us do better in this case.

  5. It’s uncomfortable carrying cash — at first.
  6. We were on holiday for the first cash-only week, so we had to carry a lot of money with us. That made me nervous. But then we stopped at a garage sale, which was cash only. And then we stopped at a fruit stand, which was cash only. And then the ice cream van, which is unfortunately cash only, stopped in front of the park my kids were playing at. Back in the old days (9 days ago) when I used credit cards, I rarely carried cash so was frustrated in cash-only situations. Cash is less restrictive than credit cards, and so makes me feel more free.

So far we’re not spending less money (the holiday to the Okanagan didn’t help), but we’re already more aware of how, when and what we’re buying. We value each dollar we spend. Shame we didn’t start sooner.

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7 comments

  1. Whenever I can, I get $150 from the bank right after a paycheck….in $10 bills. I put them all in an envelope and every day I take out a bill and put it in my wallet. I can spend it however I want to…which is good when I need a Starbucks fix or a couple of groceries…or I can show restraint and then tomorrow I will have $20 in my wallet. And so on. If I know a dinner out or event is coming up, I will hold off spending as much as I can, so I have more to spend. I know this works better because I don’t have kids, but it is great for keeping me on track!

    1. Good tip Melanie! I remember doing something like that pre-kids and it was quite effective. Kids or not, it’s worth trying again!

  2. What a challenge! Congratulations to you for giving this a try voluntarily! Cash makes me nervous–I find it so easy to spend. Garage sale? Ice cream stand? As you said, no problem. But if I don’t have any cash, I can’t spend those few dollars. But then, I use the computer to track everything, so when we debit all, I can see where it went. Cash is the mystery–I can see that it went out, but not where it went from our wallets! 🙂

    Good luck! And I’ll look forward to hearing everyone’s tips for better financial management; there’s always more to learn.

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