Thursday, December 10, 2009

Make It. A budget -- using cash?

Lauren Williams: Hey, Heather. So I read this article in the Atlantic Monthly about using cash to better budget your money (the whole "spend what you have" thing). My mom, who manages budgets for research projects, has always used cash herself to better balance her money. Have you heard the same thing? Have you ever tried using cash instead of card?

Heather Robertson: I tried this week, actually, in preparation for this post. It was hard and I had to cheat a couple times. I think for it to work, I'd have to really think about what purchases I need to make and take out a chunk of cash to last the week. That would help me monitor how I'm spending and keep me from going over budget. Removing the ability to make lots of impulse purchases would smart, but not be nearly as painful as looking at my bank account and trying to figure out where all my money went.

LW: I know that when I do have cash, I am more reluctant to spend. Watching it leave my hands is so different from swiping a card. It's harder for me to let go of money when I see a $20 bill turn into a few dollars and cents. Do you have the same experience?

HR: I definitely spent less this week. But this was mostly because I had no idea how much money I actually spend in a day and simply didn't have the cash (or a nearby bank to replenish) to make purchases. I took out $20 yesterday, thinking it would be enough for a day where I was at my desk job for 8 hours, but by 7pm that night I had to really consider how much a coffee at Starbucks costs--and how much it was worth to me--because I was down to spare change.

LW: One definite downside to having cash is the chance that you get robbed and someone winds up with all your cash. With a debit card, you can call the bank, and have your money protected. This one time I was biking to the work and someone took my satchel with all my life's possessions from my bike. All my cards were no problem to replace, and my balances stayed the same, but whatever cash I had was just gone.

Sometimes, if you are a homeowner, your home owner's insurance will cover a robbery, but if you're like me and what you have on you is less than the deductible, you're just out of luck.

That's really my only hesitation to having cash. That and the prospect of me losing it. Again, a lost card is easy enough to replace. Lost cash however, is just gone.
-- Lauren Williams & Heather Robertson

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