Growing up, I only bought things with cash. I didn’t get a checking account until I got my first job. Before then, I kept my cash in an envelope in the top drawer of my dresser, stashed beneath some old sweatshirts.
If I used up all my cash, I was broke. And I had no one else to blame.
Then, I went to college. And I learned the meaning of plastic paradise.
I’m pretty sure it was during my first week in college that I got my first credit card. It was like the second rite of passage to adulthood–move away from home and…get a credit card.
It was in college that I discovered the meaning of one of the worst 4-letter words in the English language: DEBT.
It wasn’t a ton of debt–under a thousand dollars–but still, for someone who had previously only used cash, it seemed like a lot of money. I paid it off my junior year with some help from my mom that came with an extremely harsh tongue-lashing that I still remember to this day.
Did I feel bad for being in debt? Yes. Did it stop me from using credit cards? No.
When I got married for the first time, my husband Erik and I ran up a large credit bill in the thousands of dollars. We vowed to pay it off within a year. It took a lot of scrimping and pinching, but we did it. The pain of paying interest stayed with me this time. After that, I tried to pay my credit card bill in full every month.
That was almost 13 years ago. Just because I haven’t been in debt since then doesn’t mean I haven’t spent money stupidly and wastefully. I have. But, a few years ago, I finally figured out a way to cut down on my bad spending habits. I went old school Super Frug–just like my parents and grandparents (and their friends) did before me…
I pay with cash.
Research has shown that people who use credit cards unconsciously spend more than those who use cash. Studies also show that there is an emotional pain that comes when you hand over cold, hard cash for a purchase, whereas using a credit card allows you to focus on the instant gratification and benefits of the purchase.
Paying with cash makes me think through my purchases.
– Do I really need this or do I really want this?
– Am I buying this because I need it or because I’m upset or sad or bored?
– Am I going to die if I don’t buy this?
After Marcus and I pay fixed expenses such as mortgage, utilities, health insurance, doctor/dentist bills, and car insurance (usually by check), we give ourselves a monthly allowance for groceries, dining out and entertainment. When we run out of cash, we stop spending.
Paying with cash is simple but not necessarily easy. Being Super Frug isn’t about easy choices; it’s about making smart, informed, and sometimes difficult choices that are in line with your values. Paying in cash wasn’t easy when I started, but over the years, it has helped me to truly understand the value of the dollar and to spend more wisely.
Now, I no longer keep my cash in the top drawer of my dresser. I keep it somewhere else that’s a lot harder to find.
Now when I pay with cash, there is still some pain, but it’s pain I’m willing to feel in order to live the life that I want to live.