What I Learned During My Cash Only Month

What I Learned During My Cash Only Month

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In May I completed my first “cash only” month. If you have never done a cash only month or you want to read more about how I prepared, check out my post How to Prepare for a Cash Only Month. I am not going to lie it was tough. I wanted to share with you what went well, what didn’t, and what I learned.

What Went Well:

I did feel more organized with my budget. I actually had to think about how much I was planning to spend on food, eating out, gas. Normally I create a budget but don’t really care what category my spending comes from. I used A Sunny Side Up Life’s Budgeting Worksheets to plan out my budget and the amounts I was planning on spending.

I liked having all of my receipts in a zippered pouch because I use a few apps where you scan receipts to get some money back. Having my receipts in one place made scanning much easier since normally I throw my receipts out or in my purse. I use Ibotta which I know most people use but if you don’t you should definitely check it out. You can get cash back on your groceries and other purchases. A new one I have been using is called Coinout. It can be a receipt from anywhere and you get a random amount put into your account. You can cash out any time (no minimum). I have been getting amounts from .01 to .08 but sometimes they have surveys for .25. It can be ANY receipt which is why I like this app because it doesn’t need to be from a specific store. I actually found this app through Shark Tank (one of my FAVORITE shows).

I tried a new grocery store, Lidl, during May because I was trying to save money on groceries. I was proud of myself for trying a new store since normally I go to Publix because it is 3 minutes away and it is amazing. I will do a full review of Lidl (one day) but I do not think it will be my regular grocery store. I still had to go to Publix for a few things that Lidl did not have and I am also still a diva when it comes to groceries. I will probably stick to Publix unless I am getting a few things and I am realllllyyyy trying to save a few dollars. I still want to try Aldi to see what all the hype is about so I am going to try to do that this summer.

What Didn’t Go Well:

It was working well until I was trying to track my expenses. It was so hard to track because I had a TON of change I didn’t know what to do with. Do people just use it for whatever category? Do they put it in a jar? I do not know but it was frustrating. I usually track my expenses daily in an excel file, to the exact penny, so I wasn’t really able to do that unless I checked each receipt and kept the change with the correct category.

I had some other expenses come up like baseball tickets and NASCAR tickets so that messed up my budget a little bit. I used my credit card to buy those but then had to adjust my other categories. It was difficult to adjust since I was using cash for a few budget categories. Normally I just use my credit card and pay it off each month so it is usually easier to move money around.

To be completely honest I gave up after like 3.5 weeks. It just wasn’t working in the end. I was getting stressed about it and I was starting my summer classes so I just ended it. It is really hard to stick to the exact amount of cash I had for that specific category so props to y’all who do it that way. It definitely is tough. For me, it is just easier to use my card and pay it off. I just have to pull up my credit card transactions and I can easily transfer how much I spent to my excel file and see how I am doing. I think I still have random paperclips in my wallet from when I was like AHHHHHHHHH this isn’t working!!

I also missed my rewards points. It was really hard for me to pay for groceries and gas without my credit card because I wanted to get my cash back. I am not saying everyone should use a credit card but I do believe it can be a great tool when used responsibly.

What I Learned:

  1. I Do Not Stick to Categories: I learned that I never really stick to my budget categories. When I had a set amount of money to spend on eating out and groceries it was really hard. There were a few times I took from another category. I am going to try to be more conscious of exactly how much I spend in each of my budget categories and try to stick to them as best I can.
  2. I Spend More with Cash: For me, I felt cash just disappeared. Sometimes I had multiple categories, with paper clips, in my wallet at once and ran errands so by the end I had like paper clips everywhere and nothing was organized. I already explained my change issue so I definitely think I lost track of some of my spending.
  3. I Love My Credit Cards: I know this isn’t the most popular opinion but I really do love my credit cards. They serve a purpose which is to get me rewards or cash back. I have never paid interest and never will. I use them to my advantage and I did miss getting rewards on some of my purchases in May.
  4. I Could Be Saving More: I definitely could be stricter with my budget and spend less but right now I am okay with spending a little more. I became debt free last year at 25 and I will go back into debt once I get married. My boyfriend has A LOT of student loan debt that we will pay off together so right now I am not stressing too much and enjoying my summer. This did help me realize I do have room in my budget to cut costs if I REALLY wanted to which means when we do start paying off his debt we will be able to put more money towards it each month.

I did feel pretty fancy when I took all of that cash out from the bank and honestly it was my first time actually inside my bank in months. The important thing is you have to find what works for you. The cash envelope system works for a TON of people and if it works for you that is wonderful. I am not bashing the system at all. It is just not what works best for me in this season of my life. When I am paying off debt again I might give it another try.

Do you use the cash envelope system? What works for you?

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Alli Williams

I’m the CEO of FinanciALLI Focused LLC and our mission is to you get rid of financial anxiety, build wealth & reach your big money goals. You can pay off debt, save, and spend at the same time (I’ve done it, you can too). 


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