Payoffs and Challenges of Living on a Cash System- Part 2

So are you thinking about trying a cash budget yet? If you want to read Part 1 where I talk about our decision to go all cash with our finances, click here.  Today I want to share some of the realities of living with this system. It requires big picture thinking and patience with the daily grind of learning to say “no.”


There are huge benefits to tucking your plastic away in a drawer:

1. You have control of your money since it is literally within your grasp at all times.  No more estimating how much you have spent on eating out this month–the $17.00 left in the envelope lets you know.  Because you have clearly defined your budget you can do your best to stay within the spending parameters.  If you have the mindset that your budget should include money in savings or retirement, you will begin to feel confident and peaceful about the State Of Your Finances.  If you would like a new budget sheet to work on click here (twice):  MONTHLY BUDGET WORKSHEET PDF Screenshot 2015-05-08 03.58.57


2. You can create margin for when the unexpected expenses come up–like every week.

3. You learn to live within your means–a powerful concept in modern-day America.

4. You train yourself to have patience and self-control, which flows into other areas of your life.

God knew the burden that financial stress can put on humans.  It weighs on us like a heavy backpack and we feel unable to reach back and take the straps off our shoulders.  It prevents us from having life “to the full.”

The thief comes only to steal and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

The thief (Satan) finds whatever way he can to steal and destroy in our lives…money just being one of them.  However, with some steps of discipline and savvy spending, we can lift off the backpack and find peace.


The cash system, however, comes with its challenges which I have learned in the past several months of implementation.  It’s essentially behavioral change, new habits and just plain practicing the word no.  I keep reminding myself that no discipline is easy, just like when we choose not to overindulge with food and are left feeling deprived or a little empty.

Because my husband is a great provider for our family, saying no to things that were always “yes’s”( like stocking up on batteries or light bulbs) feels silly.  But we have to keep in mind that financial peace comes from not spending everything we make, which means the “no’s” need to settle in like a familiar friend who has come to stay–but only until the next paycheck.

I am daily trying to choose financial peace and margin even when it doesn’t feel great in the moment.



It is possible to change the course of the ship with little habit changes.

1.  Every Last Drop.

I ran out of my favorite hair product, a five dollar bottle of Aragon Oil.  BTCS (Before The Cash System) I would toss the bottle out when it emptied to the last few drops.  Instead, since I had a few days left until a new cash cycle, here’s what I did:


2. Finger off the “buy” button, or better yet, no online shopping.

I was shopping some great sales for my family at Old Navy Online and found a certain style of jeans that I had wanted.  BTCS I would have ordered them because of many justifications–I really “needed” this style, they were on a great sale, what if I couldn’t find them again, etc.  Instead, I lifted (okay, pried) my finger off the “Buy” button and clicked off the site.  Guess what?  I can’t even remember what those jeans were like–must not have needed them that badly.

3.  Reuse.

While stuffing a gift bag with a present for someone I noticed the tissue in my wrapping bin was a little crinkley.  BTCS I would have thrown it away and used some crisp fresh tissue sheets.  Instead, I flattened out the sheet as much as possible, re-crinkled it (go figure) to fit in the bag and voila,  recycled tissue and beautiful gift.

4. Delayed Gratification.

I dropped my IPhone on a hike a month ago.  It cracked.  But not enough to shatter it.  BTCS I would have most likely had it replaced sooner than later.  Instead I decided to use it cracked, indefinitely.  People would comment and I would just say, “Yeah, it doesn’t really bother me.”  Until a week ago I dropped it on our stairs, and it shattered. For real, like cut my fingers to use shattered.  New phone screen and point made of the importance of margin.

5. Practice scarcity.

We are getting used to a bare bones fridge for the last week before payday. BTCS–full fridge…always.

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My self talk as I drive away from the bank at the beginning of the month, envelope stuffed with cash, usually sounds like this, “Amy, THIS month you can make this cash last until the very end.  It can’t be that hard!”

However, by the third week in I am grouchy and annoyed that there is no grocery money left, or eating out money, or allowance, or any money really.

Life always throws curve balls that eat up the cash faster than I would want.  But I remind myself, “Self, stick with this.  You will feel so great when payday comes and you balance the bank account and you have margin!” It’s true.  It feels amazing.  I just did it two days ago.  Margin feels spacious, light, airy, free.  Room to breathe and stretch your financial wings just a bit.  It’s the same feeling as stepping on a scale and seeing 3 pounds come off after a week of self-control and hard choices.


This is big picture thinking friends.  It is living life to the full– not letting money or things or wants keep us shackled.  It is not easy but it is possible.  The first four months for us have been shaky with sharp learning curves.  In March we bailed half way through the month when all of our grocery cash needed to go to a big car repair from a service that took cash only, and then had to get back on the saddle a couple of weeks later when the next pay check arrived–which meant paying off the money we put on the credit card to buy our groceries.

It took a few months to figure out what our true budget expenses were, and a good long conversation with a trusted friend on the same system with how he uses it with his family–down to the amount in each category.  We have chosen to spend over our set budget for graduation presents, or a special occasion.  It’s all teaching us about what expenses we need to have a cushion for next year.  We give ourselves grace, hold ourselves accountable, and know this is a process that God is walking with us.

In His Grace,


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