No-Card November

Matt and I are undertaking a challenge this month to quit using our credit and debit cards cold turkey.

A lot of financial advice people suggest using only cash, and when we first started budgeting we tried doing cash only in separate envelopes or jars for different categories. It was too complicated to keep track of though, and too easy to end up stuck somewhere without the cash we needed. As we’ve tweaked our approach to budgeting over the last few years, I think we’ve found a pretty good middle ground in using plastic for convenience but not to overspend.

So why mess with the system that works for us? The thing is, over the last few months we have noticed that the “convenience” of our cards is making it just a little too easy to spend outside of our planning, and it’s harder to keep track of what’s what (should buying lunch come from the grocery budget or allowance?). It just adds up, and we gulp at the bill and pay it off (because we’re still spending less than we make!), but it means our student debt continues to hang over us, and honestly there are other things we’d like to do with the money anyways. Hopefully a month without plastic will help us refocus on our financial goals and recognize areas where we are succeeding or could do better.

How will this month of living on cash not end up a giant failure like past times? Well, there are no guarantees, but a couple factors are different that give me hope.

  • First and foremost, it’s just a month and the point is not to make a permanent change. We don’t want to cancel all our cards, but we want to break the habits that cost us money. By using only cash, we’ll know when the money runs out, and then we’ll stop spending it instead of justifying “oh it’s only a coffee” or “this wasn’t in the plan, but we’re under budget for groceries so far, so everything should balance out.”
  • We are going to keep things simpler than back in the day. Instead of categorizing everything and micromanaging each area of life, I think we’ll stick to gas, groceries, and other (life).
  • We are in a much better rhythm financially than in those early cash-only days. Because we spend so much money at the beginning of the month on rent and loan payments, we used to rely on our credit cards for the first half of the month and then everything balanced out (more or less) when we got our second pay cheques. This month Matt’s loan payments are finally on hold (he’s been back in school since January!!), and that cash should be plenty to meet our needs for the first half of the month. While Matt’s payments are on hold we are planning to body slam my student loan, but we can apply the extra payment in the second half of the month so we aren’t so strapped for cash from the 1st to 15th.

A really big motivating factor is that I only have three more months of work before taking maternity leave (!!!) and we want to make sure our financial ducks are in a row before then. Maybe this month will suck, but worst case scenario we’ll meet our goals for debt and savings, we’ll eat some beans and rice at the end of the month, and we’ll learn whatever we can from why it sucks. Or maybe it won’t be so bad 🙂

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Comments

Linda Boag Moores 31-10-2012, 15:40

I have all kinds of faith in you and Matt so I’m sure you will be able to do it.

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Alyssa 31-10-2012, 19:36

Thanks! I’m excited to at least try 🙂

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Susan 31-10-2012, 22:36

Good for you two! I’m excited to hear how it goes. Plastic is sometimes just too convenient…

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No-Card November Update | Moving With GodMoving With God 19-11-2012, 11:29

[…] are more than half way through the month now, so I thought I’d check in with how our month-long break from plastic is […]

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