Category Archives: just-cash june

Just-Cash June 2013

Here's a guy who's never going to get robbed at the ATM

Oh, hey.

This is a short post to let y’all know that I’m doing Just-Cash June again this year. Join me if you feel motivated to try out a different way of spending. So far I’ve used nothing but cash in the first week of June.

The rules can be found here:

One thing to add is that if you already use cash as your primary form of spending, try doing just Plastic this month. The goal isn’t cash in-and-of itself, but to stir the pot and give something new a try.

I’ll let you know how it goes throughout the month. So far, the most annoying thing has been entering cash spending in Mint. I use their app on my phone so I can do it from anywhere but it’s still a pain.

Just-Cash June: Final Thoughts

June is over and I’ve removed the tape from inside my wallet. My credit and debit cards are free! Let’s take a look at how my household spending changed this month compared to an average taken over the past year:

Total spending down 22%. We invested the difference towards retirement. If we’re able to permanently keep up this savings level, I could retire 7 years sooner! Think about that for a minute…

Spending in “Auto” and “Entertainment” were cut in half. When’s the last time you paid for gas with cash? It’s a pain in the ass! And I remember turning down those extra drinks at the bar, since I never had an open tab. Amazingly, I got everywhere I needed to go this month, and felt as entertained as always.

Spending in “Personal Care” and “Shopping” categories down 75%. I guess the added hassle of paying with cash and tracking my purchases was enough to get me to stop buying shampoo and other non-essentials.

[A few notes on the results: I deferred a couple expenses that couldn’t be made with cash (e.g. new tabs for the scooter), so my spending for the month should be a tiny bit higher. Also, I paid no yearly bills this month (e.g. auto insurance), which makes this a relatively inexpensive month.]

I must admit I cheated a couple more times towards the end of the month: once to pitch in towards a class gift for my son’s teacher (money was being collected online), and once to have some books shipped to the boys at summer camp.

This exercise was eye-opening for me as it reaffirmed my belief that money is actually intangible and the paper or plastic we throw around are just abstractions of the concept of “money.”

The paper abstraction (dollar bills) are simply wired into our brains at a lower level than credit or debit cards, so it’s easer to remember what you’re trading away when you spend paper money. This concept is why casinos use chips for gambling. Chips are even more abstract than bills or cards, which makes people more likely to spend a lot of money at the casino. Imagine if you had to gamble with cash at the roulette wheel? That’s pretty much what I did all last month.

From now on, the trick will be keeping this mindset of being at one with my money, but adding the various convenient payment forms back into the mix. Let’s see how it goes!

A final thought: By not using credit cards, I kept about $60 in the local economy that otherwise would have gone to credit card companies in the form of transaction fees. Money-savvy people often like to boast about how they’re not helping the big banks get rich, but if you’re using a credit card, you’re syphoning profits off the stores you patronize, and moving that money to the banks’ bottom line.

July Challenge: Give away 100 things

I had so much fun with Just Cash June, I’m going to do another monthly challenge next month: get rid of 100 things in the house by the end of July. Venessa is doing it too, so as a house we’ll be rid of 200 things total.

Cleaning house reduces clutter, and may allow you to move into smaller living quarters or take on a housemate, which will save big bucks. And giving things to charity is a tax deduction, so either way you’re helping yourself and the community.

I cheated and started early, by clearing out some books and other assorted things from my bookshelf:

  • 20 books
  • Exercise band
  • Map of Yellowstone

I have a few other things on the chopping block that I need to find. The basement is a mess, which means there’s a lot of things down there that will go. I’ll make updates throughout the month of July to track my progress.

Just-Cash June: Halfway done!

Wanted to check in with everyone, since this is the half way pont of Just-Cash June. The half-month has gone by quickly, and I’ve gotten into the swing of things, buying with nothing but cash. I wouldn’t say it’s habitual yet, since I still look at that taped-off pocket in my wallet where the credit cards reside.

I must admit I slipped up the other day, trying to buy an album on Amazon. I thought I had enough store credit to make the purchase without a charge to my credit card, but part of the credit had some fine print that I didn’t read, and couldn’t be used for buying the mp3s. It wasn’t until after I did the 1-click checkout that I saw a small charge to the credit card. Oops! (Don’t ever use 1-click if you can help it. Mp3 purchases on Amazon require 1-click)

I can already say that I’m reaping the benefits of spending only cash. One of the tips in Your Money or Your Life is to write down every purchase you make, since the simple act of having to take out a piece of paper and write it down is enough to prevent some purchases. I read that tip and thought it was quiant in our day of online budgets and credit card statements, but now that I’m tracking every purchase manually, I see how it does impact one’s spending behavior. It’s a pain in the ass, and I wouldn’t wish a lifetime of manual expense tracking on my worst financial enemy.*

In fact, I’m happy to announce that I’m on track to cut my non-food spending in half so far this month! I’ve invested an additional $150 so far from all the things I didn’t buy. It might not sound like much, but if I keep that up until I retire, that becomes an additional $2,000 of income per year in retirement**. Imagine telling your boss you stopped using a credit card and he says “Joe, I’m so impressed, I’m giving you a $2,000 raise!”

I’ll check back in with y’all again at the end of the month.

* In case you’re wondering, my worst financial enemy is anyone who claims to be struggling to make ends meet on a 6-figure salary.

** Here’s the math behind my claim: if you invest $300 a month for 10 years, in a way that earns 6% after inflation, you end up with about $50,000. If you withdraw 4% of that sum, you get about $2,000. Here’s a simple and powerful compound interest calculator I use for stuff like this.

Just-Cash June: Already had to break out the plastic

A few JCJ updates:

  • After only 3 days, I already had to use my only “get out of jail free” card for the month. I was shopping at the grocery store* for a bottle of bourbon (a gift for the boys’ Cub Scout leader). I thought I collected enough cash from the other parents in the den, but the bottle was more than I thought it would be. Lesson learned, carry a bit of extra cash around.
  • I sent cash in the mail. Only a little, to the room parent for the class teacher gift.
  • I bought gas with cash. It felt like something from the 1950’s. “Fill ‘er up with $4 of the cheap stuff!” (The scooter only takes 1 gallon of gas)

* Readers in Washington State will recognize how weird that sentence was to type.

Just-Cash June: Day 1

I’ve already hit a little snag and it’s only the first day. I got a doctor bill from an appointment I had in 2010 (WTF?). I called to see if I could pay cash in person and they said yes. Luckily, the office is walking distance from my work, so it won’t be too far out of the way.

I’d been procrastinating replacing our Brita filter* and I decided today was the day to get it done. Normally, it’s a purchase I’d make on Amazon but today I did something I haven’t done in a long time: I called the stores in my neighborhood to comparison shop over the phone.

The neighborhood grocery store sold them for $13 each, but the drugstore sold a 3-pack for $23. For what it’s worth Amazon sells the 3-Pack for $19.50 + free shipping + no tax.

So I “wasted” $5 by walking to the drugstore, but instead of time spent on the computer (and away from my daughter), I turned the errand into a walk together with her, complete with a side-trip to the playground. Also, I got the filters today and I’m currently enjoying a glass of clean water as I write this. If I’d bought the filter online, it would be a few days before the package arrives.

So far I’m enjoying my little experiment. I taped the credit card pocket of my wallet shut to help me remember to pay with cash. It’s amazing how habitual it becomes to just reach for the debit card.

* Don’t replace your filter every two months just because the company tells you to. Figure out how much water you actually use, and replace the filter every 40 gallons (if you read the fine print, you’ll notice this is the actual replacement recommendation). For our family, it’s every 4 months: we refill the pitcher daily, which holds about 5 cups.  So in 4 months (120 days) we drink 600 cups of water, or around 40 gallons.

Reminder: Just-Cash June starts tomorrow

If you’re like me, you rarely carry much cash in your wallet, so Just-Cash June is a pretty major shift in your habits. Consider this a friendly reminder to visit the closest ATM that doesn’t charge you a service fee. If you’re a member of a Credit Union*, you can use any of the 28,000 Co-Op Network ATMs in the country for free.

* If you aren’t, you should seriously consider making the switch.

Just-Cash June

Want to join me on a little experiment I’m trying next month? I’m going to only spend cash in the month of June. It’s called “Just-Cash June” (unless someone can think of a better name).

Everyone who participates is allowed one non-cash expenditure. I’m not sure what mine will be yet. For many, I assume it will be rent, but I pay my landord via popmoney so I can save mine for something else.

I figured I’d give everyone advance notice so you can get to a cash machine in time.


What are the rules?
If you choose to accept, you can spend only cash from June 1 to July 1. Everyone gets ONE get-out-of-jail-free card, where you can use any payment method you want. Optionally, blog or tweet about your experiences. Did your spending habits change? Was it freeing or annoying? Let me know in a comment below if you’re joining the experiment.

Why are you doing this?
I’ve experimented with Credit Card vs Debit Card spending, and found that I spend less when I use a Debit Card for everyday spending. So I want to continue the experiment to see if I’ll spend even less if I have to physically hand someone cash to make a purchase. I’m still a big fan of credit cards, especially sign-up bonuses, but I’m also a fan of spending less and conscious spending.

What about online purchases?
Unless you can figure out how to pay e-merchants with cash, you have to shop online now or wait till July. Humans somehow survived for 10,000 years without online shopping, so I think we can do another month.

What about bills?
Most bills have an auto-pay feature, which I highly suggest you sign up for anyway. It deducts the amount due from your checking account each month, so you never need to remember to pay bills any more. This is one step to “automating” your finances.*

How will you track your spending for June?
I’ll use Mint’s mobile app, which integrates with their website and lets you add cash purchases. You could use a piece of paper in your pocket if you want to go low-tech.

* The other main step is automatic savings plans such as having your 401k deducted from your paycheck, or setting up a monthly transfer from checking to savings. Set these things up too and you’ll be well on your way to automated, worry-free finances.