That’s partly because I feel more generous with a fat wad of bills in my pocket. I’ve fronted a bar cover for friends, paid for breakfast at a coffee shop, and treated myself to a package of beef jerky at a roadside stand. Tasty – but pricey! There was a tank of gas and…I can’t remember the rest.
I’m used to having a neat record of all my purchases at the end of the month on my credit card bill. With cash I forget to ask for a receipt and often the cashier forgets to give me one. How much money at the end of the month will be unaccounted for? I’m guessing almost half.
As I said in an earlier post on preparing to go without plastic, I hid my credit and debit cards in my jewelry box. Later that day I opened a letter from my Alma mater asking for money. I thought, “I can charge this donation and get cash back!” (My credit card has a 1-3% cash back deal). When I pulled out my wallet to retrieve the 16 digits to write on the form, I remembered my credit card moratorium. Oops! I will have to wait until May to send my school a contribution.
The next day I pulled my debit card out of its hiding place. I was going on a solo road trip and decided to carry it as a backup, just in case. If for some reason my car broke down, I would most likely need more than $300 – my cash allotment for the weekend – for the fix. Not that I plan to spend $300 in one weekend. I’m carrying around extra cash because I’m worried about not having enough money, which leads me to spend more because I have so much money. How ironic!
I’m not quitting, however. Support from readers has helped, including this email from Ellen, who saw my column in the N.J. Star-Ledger:
I read your column on going plastic-free (a.k.a. sans credit cards) and wanted to throw you some words of encouragement from someone who’s been there, cashed that. About ten years ago I successfully completed a credit card counseling program, one which required me to surrender all my plastic for the duration it took me to pay down my debt.
It was a small price to pay for getting my payments consolidated, interest rates lowered and getting those pesky collection calls to stop clogging my voicemail. So for three years, I went plastic-free all while I got my debt in order. Every transaction that required a credit card–like buying an airline ticket online–I simply used my debit card which contained a Visa logo. This win-win allowed me to make online purchases and have the money directly withdrawn from my checking account.
When I finally received the letter declaring me debt-free I eased back into just one credit card which I pay in full or darned-well near try. Since I’m still on a strict budget, I still try and use my debit card only. Good luck on your cash-only venture.
I’m rootin’ for ya.