It happened accidentally.
I somehow accumulated a bunch of cash in my dorm room and wanted to send my paycheck every month to a savings account dedicated to tuition (because the out-of-state struggle is real). With these two things coming together, I unofficially challenged myself to see how long I could go without swiping plastic.
I don’t think I often realized how much those ice cream runs or small dinners out added up until my credit card statement became basically a record of everything I ate for that month (#relatable, am I right?). It was easy to forget how much I’d already spent in any given week and it was even easier to dismiss the little purchases. After all, it’s so common to think, “It’s fine, what’s another five dollars anyway?” When I started relying solely on dollar bills as my method of payment, I was more cognizant of exactly how much I was spending. I was also able to remember more of what I bought since the action of handing over actual money stood out to me more than absentmindedly handing over a credit card.
Since I’m lazy and never feel like pulling out more cash for my wallet when I’m running low, I learned how to stretch a 20 real quick. This helped me spend less since, again, going to get more bills was just so much work and I wanted to do it as less as possible 😉 When I would see my bills break down into smaller and smaller ones, it was a physical reminder of what I was spending. Not only that, but it also made me think of why I was buying what I was.
I know it’s hard to say no to having fun in college, especially when all of your friends want to get dinner or see a concert and the FOMO is real. You have to realize, though, it’s just one night. If I had already spent my allotted cash or would need it for something else coming up later in the week, I knew I could always meet up with the group afterwards and still have a good time.
Paying in cash is so empowering too! Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel like I have my life more together. I also always take it as a personal success when I can find exact change. It eliminates the whole fumbling to shove everything back in my wallet while the cashier stares at me for eternity thing…you know what I’m talking about.
To be fair, I still use my credit card for gas (because using cash at gas stations is a pain) and automatic withdrawals like Netflix and Chegg, but I think that’s a fair balance. It’s an easy, consistent way to keep building up some credit! Overall though, limiting myself to just the cash on my person at any given time reminded me that I am in control of my finances. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been an all-time saver. Despite this (and after a subscription box addiction at the end of high school and many dinners off of my university meal plan), I figured what harm could come from ending the semester off with as low of a credit card bill as possible?
I had fun with this little personal challenge and intend to continue using more paper and less plastic moving forward. It’s not as difficult as you’d expect and can even lead you to live a simpler (and therefore more genuinely happy) life. But you all already know I’m obsessed with that right now 😉
~Will you try the “cash-only diet”?