Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cash is a 4-letter word

Ahh the midst of all things financial, I have a suggestion that has been immensely helpful for us. Now this was something I had been meaning to do and started doing before any of the stuff was in the media and this actually is not really related to the economic times we find ourselves in. It certainly helps in times like these but I think it is a universal principle and don't know why it took me so long to get with the program.

The program? Cash. That's right - no debit, no credit card...just cold hard cash! You want to know where all your money is going in a week? You want to be able to stick to a budget? Use cash. Now my friend Julie told me several (okay, many many) times to watch this show Til Debt Do Us Part. Well, thank-you Julie! (for my American friends, it is a Canadian show but still very applicable - it actually is kinda nice to see them working with Canadian money on TV - don't see that very often). Anyhoo, I have watched the show quite a bit now and it really helped us make that move to cash. I had wanted to do it for a while but this show helped me figure out what to do with it. So now in our cupboard, we have 4 jars - Food & Eating Out, Transportation, Entertainment, and Everything Else. Each week our budget is divided up into the jars (which I was able to figure out from her interactive worksheet) and I know exactly where I'm at. So now when I go to Costco and I know I only have $80 left for groceries for the week, I don't even go down certain aisles.

The other thing this has got me doing again is meal planning. What a lifesaver! I sit down at the beginning of the week and figure out what I am going to make for suppers for the week. That way when I go to the grocery store with cash in my pocket, I know exactly what to spend it on. Sounds time consuming, you say? Not at all! I used to spend so much time fretting about what I was going to make and then having to make extra runs to the grocery store to pick up a can of coconut milk or whatever else...Now, I make my list, do my shopping in one trip and I'm good to go for the week. Plus the meal planning probably only takes me about 10 minutes. I would call that a time saver!

Now the whole purpose behind this was so that we could live exclusively on Troy's income, which we have come much closer to doing now. My income goes towards things like debt repayment and the extras (clothes, car maintenance, gifts, etc). I know that ideally, Gail (the host of the show) has a jar for clothes but we don't buy clothes every week. If you do, then make sure you have a jar and a budget for it.

Lastly, we have also started an emergency fund. Every month, an automatic transfer happens into a separate account so when those bigger things happen, we are not scrambling or pulling out the plastic to deal with it.

This is still a process and we are far from perfect but I can't tell you what a stress-reliever it has been. We now know exactly where the money is going and there is so much more thought that goes into purchases. That was a big eye-opener for me - how thought-less my shopping had become. When you have a specific plan, you think twice before throwing that patio set in your cart because it's such a good deal and it probably won't be there next week!

I highly recommend trying this. I bet you won't go back. It's time to put the thinking back into our spending and our saving.


Geosomin said...

We started that a few years ago-it really makes a difference. We put out the money for the week, and visually it helps keep us in check.
Another thing that really helped was putting aside an allowance for me-
not much, but for whatever I liked.

It comes down often to figuring ut what I really NEED. Takes timr to work these things out...

everydayMOM said...

I know so many people who swear by that cash system! I'm scared to try it. But maybe I should look into it a little more. =]