Well, that was short-lived. We didn’t even make it through the first weekend before throwing up our arms and giving up on the All Cash Spending Experiment. The big reason the experiment failed, as my husband put it, is because spending only cash saves money by making you miserable. His sentiment actually reminded me of a comment left by Living Almost Large, who said that she was unhappy spending only cash because she was such a tightwad, spent nothing and ate the cheapest meals possible.
For us, the biggest problem wasn’t that we were too cheap to spend money. The problem was that there was too much effort required to spend money at all. We almost always have one or more of the kids with us, which it makes it darn near impossible to count bills. Which meant that we quickly accumulated wads of one dollar bills and handfuls of change. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit. We both carry small wallets and found it difficult to pull out the appropriate bills in a timely fashion. And it was impossible to stuff all of the bills into my wallet. Plus we both hate carrying change in our pockets.
Another difficulty was that because I had a one-year-old with me when I went grocery shopping, I completely forgot to total up the cost of the items as I added them to my cart. I had a ballpark figure in my head based on what was on my list and how full my cart was, and I actually came within $2 of the amount. But the All Cash Spending Experiment didn’t factor into my shopping at all, and just made paying for the groceries more complicated and stressful.
It won’t be a factor since we’ve ended the experiment already, but one problem that arose initially is that we didn’t have enough cash in our checking account to last the month. Because we pay for almost everything with a credit card and then pay the credit card balance off in full each billing cycle, we essentially get a no-interest loan from the credit card company each month. Therefore, our monthly budget is set up to pay the credit card bill and other monthly bills, and to transfer a set amount into savings each month. Well, as of February 1, we had only a fraction of the amount in our checking account that I expected us to spend for the month. I have some “extra” checks coming in later this month that I would have used to cover at least part of the difference, and I could have dipped into savings if we’d needed it. But I just thought I’d point this problem out in case anyone who’s in a similar situation decides to try the All Cash Spending Experiment for him or herself.
I’m still happy we tried the experiment, even if it was a total failure. I would have always wondered “what if” if we hadn’t. And it helps a lot that I discovered in January that my resolution not to buy things just because they’re on sale paid off to the tune of approximately $500. That’s about how much less we spent on discretionary expenses than we normally do. It’s not all me, of course. It’s a team effort to diligently try not to spend money on impulse purchases. So we proved to ourselves that we don’t need an All Cash Spending Plan to save money.