Cash Flow

I don’t have a problem with money, I am just plain mystified by it.  I’m not a big spender, I don’t have any credit card bills, but some weeks I get paid and two days later I’m out of spending money. Poof! Where did it go?  I’ve tried all of the usual tricks: I track my bank accounts with a program on my iPod and categorize each transaction.  The I can sort things by transaction and see where my money is going.  But that only tells me that I spend a lot on groceries and electricity.  It never really got me to think about the things I buy.

I’m not a fan of using cash; I’m very much in love with my debit card.  Having cash is very novel to me and frankly scary.  What if I drop it?  What if my purse is stolen? What if I accidentally leave it in the public bathroom like I did that one time (when I was like, eight) in Washington DC?  That was terrible! Cash makes me neurotic and I do not like it.

But the other day I saw a post by my blog-friend Heather that, for some reason, struck me.  She was making beautiful, hand-stamped cash budget pouches with labels like “groceries” and “dining out”.  Somehow this system seemed different to me and I was inspired to give it a try.  I talked to Heather at the Farmers’ Market and she was sweet enough not to even bat an eye when I mentioned making a set of my own pouches when I should have been buying them from her and she told me to let her know what I thought of them.

I think they’re magical.

Seriously.  If the me from last week were to read this, she’d roll her eyes and say bla, bla, bla… everyone says you value your money more when you have cash, everyone says you think twice about what you’re going to buy when you’re spending cash, etc, etc.  But the me from this week is here to tell you, surprisingly, it’s true.

I’ve tried spending cash before and it seems to just woosh its way out of my wallet without me realizing it.  Cash from the ATM for day trip to shop and enjoy lunch with my mom?  It pries open my purse and flies away while I’m not looking.  But this time was different because it wasn’t just some cash.  It was ALL of my cash.  It was like a treasure chest that I had to tote around and guard, and guard it, I did.  I was terrified of spending any of it.

Instead of the usual $100 I spend at the grocery store each week, I spent $54 this week.  Instead of buying two skirts and a top at Old Navy and blowing through my clothing allowance, I just got one skirt.  Do I want to stop at Starbucks?  I don’t know, I only have $9 of  “Eating Out” money left until next Friday’s payday.  THIS IS SO WEIRD, I know.

I’m still nervous about having enough money and whether or not I left enough in my checking account for the bills that are automatically withdrawn, but it has been wonderful to not have receipts that need to be entered into my checkbook program or worries that I’m spending too much.  Because I can’t!  I only have so much cash and once that’s gone, I’m out till next payday.

It’s only been a week, but I’m already seeing a change in my spending and I’m hoping that this will continue.  So thank you, Heather, for inspiring me.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress (or regress) into the world of cash.




    I don’t know why fabric envelopes hadn’t occurred to me before…

    As for the cash system, let me tell you – it has changed our lives, literally. We do it as part of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover plan. Cash envelopes are one of the two main reasons we’ve eliminated so much debt (the other is a strict budget). I encourage you to keep it up. It feels SO GOOD to control your money, rather than let it control you! Congrats on your new system!

    Now, I have GOT to make some of those envelopes.


  2. lisa ~ your post on this whole subject is so good!! i felt exactly the way you describe when i switched over. and i love your supplies & crafts category… i need one of those.

    how did the tutorial work out for you? they look perfect, of course. 😉


  3. This is a great idea, but I have a big critique . . . “Household & Clothes” in the same pouch????? That’s just not right. Clothes deserve their own pouch. You shouldn’t have to decide between dishtowels and a new pair of shoes. No, no, no!!! Household stuff are usually neccessities . . . Wait a minute . . . so are cute shoes. OK, disregard 😉


  4. Wow…I’m still trying to wrap my brain around this. You take out a bunch of cash and don’t use your debit card of checks for purchases at all? That does sound scary…


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