When I was young, my parents and grandparents only bought something if they could afford to pay for it with cash. Being able to buy what we want when we want it, has largely been a privilege of Generations X and Y but unfortunately this has seen far too many of us rely very heavily on the magic of credit.
Breaking the credit card spell by moving to a cash only system can be difficult if you are used to handing over plastic to pay for everything but I have found that it teaches you to think carefully about each purchase that you make. If I only take $100 to do my grocery shopping then that is all I have to spend so I have to be careful in my selections and keep track of what I have spent to avoid embarrassment at the checkout. I carry a notebook and pen in my handbag so that I can jot down a quick estimation of what I have spent as I move through the supermarket aisles. You could use a calculator for the same purpose but I have a toddler and it is way to tempting for her not to push the buttons and erase everything as we go, or you could keep track ‘in your head’ but I have a toddler and find it hard to keep track of any train of thought for longer than about thirty seconds before I am interrupted!
You need to plan in order to make available funds last for the entire pay period which can be particularly challenging if you are paid monthly. Whether you keep it in envelopes or jars or sections of your purse, allocate cash to each area of spending for your household – groceries, fuel, public transport, dry cleaning, etc – and once it’s spent that is it. You’ll quickly learn to make it stretch or face cooking meals from whatever is left in the fridge and pantry.
We have found that we plan more and spend less, and stress less about the credit card bills as the balance owing has stopped increasing. We still have a card as as a back up but have reduced the limit and rolled the balance over to a no-interest for 6 months card. I love the reduced stress of living with cash and believe it or not, it has inspired my creativity in many ways, including some fun, recycling based toys for Immy.
And now for some frugal fun for this weekend. For an inexpensive excursion, the kids will love …
- Catch a bus
- Ride a train
- Cruise around on a ferry
- Take a hike through a national park
- Go swimming at your local pool (Immy loves the indoor pool we live near)
- Look in your local paper for free community events
- Visit a playground that you have never been to before
- Make and fly kites
- Visit a local growers market, giving the kids a coin each to spend
- Visit a museum or art gallery, many now have special sections suitable for younger children
Next week’s Friday Frugal: Becoming a smarter shopper
- Frugal Friday, but Fun
- Gardening With Kids: How Does Your Garden Grow?
- 15 Ideas for Making Money From Home