Living on Cash: The First Update

January 19, 2012

The first two weeks of my cash diet are officially over and quite a few of you have commented, tweeted, and emailed me to ask how it’s been going. For anyone who’s ever considered switching to cash, there’s really only one thing I can say: if you’re disciplined, it is amazing for your budget!

On Day 1, I was excited at the thought of what living on cash could do for my finances. But by Day 3, I was panicking. I had written a list of errands I had to do and calculated what each should cost me. I bought all my groceries, picked up some beer and dry cider, then headed to the pharmacy to get a month of birth control. For the last 6 months, my pills have cost me $9.51 per pack. At the counter, I pulled out a $10 bill, before the pharmacist could spit out, “that’ll be $27.13.”

$27.13!? I don’t have $27.13! Why is it $27.13? Um, it’s the beginning of a new year, dumb dumb. Time to pay your premiums again. And I did, in fact, have $40 cash in my wallet, so it was no problem paying for them. But, after doing all of my other errands (and treating myself to some alcohol), I only had $40 left for the next 4 days.

But then that hit me. $40 for 4 days is a lot of money! Especially when you injure yourself and can’t do anything. (Not that I was working towards that…) On Wednesday, when I could barely put any weight on my foot, I ordered pizza for dinner. Best $20 I spent that week. And I made it last me for 3 meals. With that, I finished my first week and had about $20 cash leftover.

Week 2 started by going for drinks with friends. (Yes, I hobbled downtown for a night out.) Then I grocery shopped on the weekend and have basically sat around ever since. Much less exciting than Week 1 but I’ve had homework, side work, etc. to do. In the end, out of my first $220 challenge, I had just over $20 left. It’s all gone now though, because I put it on my credit card debt this morning. That’s on top of the $215 I’ve already put on it this month!

Tomorrow, I get to pull out another $220 and start all over again. Unfortunately, even though I should have about $250 leftover to put towards my credit card debt, $100 or so of that needs to go to the CRA. And I’ll be able to start driving again in the next few days… but I do still have that gas card! So the second round of this cash diet should be pretty easy.

  • chipsforsupper January 19, 2012 at 9:46 am

    If you buy multiple months of your birth control you can save some money, since you have to pay a dispensary fee each time you get it. So $10 fee per month, or $10 if you buy 3 months at once or $10 if you buy 6 months at once.

    If you have enough money to do that, you’ll save in the long run.

    • Lauren January 19, 2012 at 8:33 pm

      Totally wish I saw this comment before I bought ONE pack out of three last night! I never even thought of that. I should totally stockpile my main prescriptions that don’t expire quickly. *mental note to self*

    • Cait January 20, 2012 at 5:22 pm

      Yes, I used to buy birth control like that, all the time. It’s been difficult for me to budget bulk purchases of any kind but even buying 2 months at a time would help. Thanks!

  • singletothepenny January 19, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Good job, Lady!
    I am very proud of you.
    I have to try and challenge myself to do the same thing!

  • Go and Get... January 19, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Wow! What great control you have with having no-budget. I may have to challenge myself to this one month.

    • Cait January 20, 2012 at 5:27 pm

      I would definitely recommend it to anyone trying to save more and/or get out of debt!

  • Travis @DebtChronicles January 19, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    My wife and I are trying to buy everything with cash too, so I’m interested in following your story and see how it works for you. Good luck!

    • Cait January 20, 2012 at 5:22 pm

      How are you finding it so far?

  • Lauren January 19, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    I got a letter from the blasted CRA too (in December) for the same reason. I don’t owe them quite as much as you, but have been ignoring it (probably a bad idea – but in my defense it came 2 weeks before Christmas and I was BROKE). On the bright side, I had two rebates come (HST and I forget the other) that they just took for what I owe so it’s a bit less now… I should probably remember to pay the remainder tomorrow. I hope your ankle feels better soon!

    • Cait January 20, 2012 at 5:23 pm

      Hope you remembered to pay the remainder! I’m going to tweet you ;)

  • Katie January 20, 2012 at 7:33 am

    It sounds like you’re doing well! I don’t have the need to live cash only now (because I’m so obsessed about paying off debt that I really scrutinize every purchase I make instead of just swiping the old debit card willy nilly). But when I did it, I had really great results. People think they’ll spend cash on a cash-only diet just like they would if they had a random $5 in their pocket. I thought that too. But when you know that the cash in your wallet is EVERYTHING you have for the week, you’re much less likely to spend it on stuff you don’t need. At least that’s how it worked with me because I knew I wouldn’t let myself go draw out more from the bank unless it was a true emergency, and going out to eat with grocery money wouldn’t have counted as an emergency.

    • Cait January 20, 2012 at 5:27 pm

      Living on cash is what has helped me pay off more debt. I’m so used to swipe swipe swiping but, exactly like you said, I hate giving my cash away for silly things! Therefore, more of it stays in my pocket. I’m going to put $400+ on my credit card debt this month. That’s unreal, considering I’m paying rent, living alone, etc.

  • Serendipity January 21, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Sounds like cash is working really well for you! I usually lose cash so I try not to have it on me. I’ve been participating in a no spend challenge so that’s really been helping keep me in check. I’m interested in following your cash only adventures.

    • Cait January 24, 2012 at 7:35 pm

      I can understand the concern about losing cash. I’m always fearful to have more than $40 on me, so I usually don’t take any money out of my house unless I know I’m going grocery shopping, etc. My wallet has been empty all week!

  • Clare January 22, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    I am going to start doing this again. Because of you.

    • Cait January 24, 2012 at 7:35 pm

      Woo hoo! Good luck :)