The third part of my savings, discovered after moving to SmallTown, is to stick to CASH. I never had cash when I lived in HomeTown. I really don’t know why. I had a definite aversion to it. Did I worry that I would lose it? Did I worry I would spend it too quickly? Was I too worried that I would need it in my account? Was I just lazy? I’m not sure, but I never understood why people would have a lot of cash on hand. Come to think of it, I don’t think I knew anyone who had much cash at any given time. It was all checkbooks and credit cards. Sure people I knew carried a few bucks for incidentals, but not for bigger expenses like weekly groceries.
When we got serious about our budget, that changed. It was about two years ago when we moved to cash. Our house in HomeTown had finally sold. I had a better income and had read several books on personal finance and frugal living. I really saw a need to take control and start digging out of our debt faster. Our first budget system was a mix of Dave Ramsey and Mary Hunt. We used cash envelopes for groceries/household/pets combined and for gas money and family fun. Our other categories like clothing, medical, gifts and the like, were set up in a freedom account much the way Mary Hunt describes in her books. We certainly became much more accountable. And that was the point.
The most significant savings came from using cash for our groceries/household/pet items. It still does. The GHP envelope receives it’s set budget amount in cash every Friday and that is that. At first I actually took to adding my items on a calculator as I put them in the cart. I really didn’t want to be that lady at the checkout having to put things back because I couldn’t afford them. I purposely didn’t carry a backup form of payment to bail me out. I still don’t.
I won’t lie and say it was easy right away. It wasn’t. I resented it some weeks. So I tried to focus on the challenge of it. I made it a game. Using cash has likely been the biggest part of my savings during the last two years. It doesn’t always go as smoothly as I’d like. When life is rushed and crazy I sometimes slip up, but I know it is still important for me to stick to cash. On the rare weeks where I don’t get the cash before I need to go to the store I’ve used my debit card. And I’ve gone over budget. It is generally only a few dollars over…but over a year that can matter. So I’ll be shopping like my grandma did, with a cash envelope.
I remember my grandma’s cash grocery budget from the times I would be at her house when she was planning her shopping list or planning a ladies luncheon. As the oldest grandchild, and living less than 5 miles from my grandparents, I was recruited to waitress these ladies luncheons and card parties. Anyway, when it really struck me that grandma used only cash for the groceries and household expenses was when she would have enough saved up to buy a new piece of furniture. She explained once that when she and grandpa were first married in the 30’s, he gave her a cash allowance for all that daily stuff she was responsible for. The deal was, whatever she didn’t spend was hers to keep and do with what she liked. Two things that stand out in my memory are an oak tea cart she bought and a pretty little oval oak coffee table that sat in front of my grandpa’s couch until a few months ago when he passed away at 94 years old. I long for the days when I’ll have enough extra in my cash envelope to buy something extra like that. For now, I’ll remain content just staying within my budget and paying down debt. I bet that is how she started too, except for the debt part.