Cash: The Experiment Part 2

Three weeks ago I started on a bold experiment: A cash only existence.

People have said that it would be hard. Other people have claimed they could never do it. I thought it would be really hard.

Turns out: all wrong!

I didn’t initially believe that living cash only would make that much of a difference. I thought for sure that the cash would slip through my fingers. I mean, whenever I have had cash in the past it just disappears. Not True. When ALL you have is cash, things go A LOT different (at least for me).

Here is a quick summary of how the past two weeks have gone for me cash-wise:


  • Given for two weeks: $200
  • Remaining: $28

I put $100 in my food envelope February28th and another $100 in my food envelope on March 6th. Currently I have $28 in my food envelope and I get another $100 tomorrow. This is a HUGE change from my previous behavior. Remember in February where I couldn’t squeeze $30 out of my budget without feeling the pinch? Now for a TWO WEEK period I have almost $30 left over. This includes some eating out meals as well as my lattes from Starbucks and of course my Rockstar addition. This isn’t frugal eating in the least. However, there is something about having to pay in cash that makes me think twice about what I’m buying. When I’m at the store I stop and consider if I’ll ACTUALLY use something before just buying it. I don’t overbuy snack food anymore. Mr. Hive (my new name for BF) is amazed by how differently I spend with cash. And it isn’t that I’m consciously changing how I spend, more how I spend is changing just on being conscious of how much money I actually have.


  • Given for two weeks: $60
  • Remaining: $20

Gas has definitely gotten more expensive in the last two weeks. However I’m still on budget with my gas money. I need to fill up in the next couple of days and I’ll have more than enough money to do so. My driving habits aren’t too different, but I do try to drive more conservatively to get better mileage.

Pet Supplies.

  • Given for two weeks: $40
  • Remaining: $8

I definitely have spent less in this category than I did with plastic. When I’m in the pet store every little toy looks like something I want to get for Jack. I’m a sucker for dog toys. Now I’ve started sewing back up the toys that he pulls apart and putting his toys on a rotation so he doesn’t get bored as easily.

I also got a great deal on cat litter. I had a $5 off coupon for Tidy Cat PLUS it was $2 off from an in store discount, so I got 27 lbs of litter for only $4. Pretty stoked about that. I bought all pet supplies that I need for the next two weeks in the past two weeks, with the exception of dog food. So I definitely think that I could lower this envelope amount if I needed to, but I’m going to leave it at its current amount until I’ve gone through a whole month cycle.


  • Given for two weeks: $0
  • Remaining: $0

I only give myself $20/month for clothes and I didn’t get that $20 in the past two weeks, so I got nothing to spend on clothes and spent nothing. Though I did see a pretty cute top at Target that I lusted for a little while and then said to myself “Wait until you get your $20 next week.” Now I don’t really want it. Yup, much different than on a non-cash only system.

Dog Care.

  • Given for two weeks: $60
  • Remaining: $60

I buy Jack’s daycare in packages to save money. I won’t need to buy another package until probably May. When I do buy it, it amounts to around $100/month so that is how much I’m saving.


  • Given for two weeks: $20
  • Remaining: $0

I went to see a play at my school with Mr. Hive and my sister. It was $25 for the tickets. I used the $20 in the Entertainment envelope and then took $5 from my Miscellaneous. I haven’t decided if I’ll pay back my Miscellaneous when I get more money for Entertainment or just say “screw it”. I’m leaning towards “screw it”.


  • Given for two weeks: $40
  • Remaining: $15

The miscellaneous is my catch-all for everything else that doesn’t fall in to the above categories. Toiletries, kitchen supplies, household goods, electronics, etc. I had to buy trash bags, zip lock bags and quite a few other replaceables in the kitchen/bathroom. Also, the $5 overflow from the entertainment. I also bought a $5 coupon fundraiser book from one of my students.


  • Given for two weeks: $420
  • Remaining: $131

Honestly this is just amazing to me. By switching to a cash only system I have $131 left over. Previously, when using my debit card, I would get to 3-4 days before my pay day and have just $20-30 left in my checking account.

I’m so amazed by how well the cash only system is working. I was very self conscious about using my envelopes initially, but now I don’t worry about it. I have so much more confidence while paying for things in cash. I *know* I have the money. I don’t have to stand there at the register doing the “I think I have enough to pay for this” calculations in my head. It is right there. I can LOOK and see that I do or do not have the money for what I’m about to purchase.

Paying in cash makes me more cognizant of each purchase. I feel the pain of each dollar. Each transaction isn’t just about getting the good – but also about how much money is left. Each transaction I think about what in the future I won’t be able to buy if I buy the item I’m looking at that moment. “If I buy this Rockstar and bag of Cheetos now will I have enough money for date night on Saturday with Mr. Hive at our favorite restaurant?”

For someone who has analyzed and scrutinized each purchase for two years, switching to cash has given me a whole new awareness for each purchase and what its effect on my pocket book. Truly. Amazing.

I’m loving the cash only experiment. I may not ever go back…


14 Responses to Cash: The Experiment Part 2

  1. Daisy says:

    I’ve been cash only for so long, but I’ve been thinking of switching back. But now I don’t know why! Cash is great.

  2. jane says:

    february 31st????

  3. Psychsarah says:

    It’s inspiring to see how well cash is working for you! I’m seriously contemplating returning to
    this system while I’m on mat leave and our budget is waaaaaaay tighter. Certainly your success is food for thought 🙂

    • SS4BC says:

      Hey the way I looked at it was that it was good to experiment with it. If your budget is tighter it really forces you to keep the budget. =)

  4. I keep toying with the idea of going cash only but keep putting it off. Your recap of your past 2 weeks was interesting to read. Perhaps I’ll give cash only a shot down the road.

  5. Cassie says:

    I’ve noticed the same thing since switching to cash only in January. Hopefully it keeps working for you 🙂

  6. Are you at all uncomfortable about carrying the cash? That’s my only worry! I’m trying the cash system in part, just keeping it for my eating money, and it’s going pretty well!

    • SS4BC says:

      I was initially, to be honest. But since I have it in a wallet (similar to the one in the picture) if feels just as secure as a check book would be. Because the cash is in envelopes no one sees how much I have.

  7. I’m doing the cash thing too sort of. $150 cash a month. For January & February, it went quite well but I blew March. =( I agree that having it in cash is very good for visual people but I had a 1% cashback perk on my credit card which I miss. I’m also totally uncomfortable carrying a big amount of cash. So I won’t carry the whole amount. Only $50 of it max.

  8. Little Lamb says:

    I use only cash as well and have for some time. It’s great! I don’t carry all my cash though. I have jars at home and when I know I am going out to get groceries I will take out the amount I want to spend at the store and that’s all I carry. It helps you stop and think about what you are picking up too because you only have a certain amount on you. It has also helped with some impulse buying because I don’t carry my debt or credit card either. So when I am tempted I can’t buy it because I don’t have any money on me. I love it!!!

  9. Pingback: I Feel Dirty! « Small Steps for Big Change

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