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.

  • IMG_0229


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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Living On A Cash Budget System–Part 1


Happy Wednesday Friends!

Several of you have asked how our cash budget is going since I wrote here about several of the changes our family made in 2015 which we have called “The Year of The No.”  This is the first of a two-part blog on using a cash system.  Today, the nuts and bolts.


Why a cash system?  For our family, it is a way to keep us on budget.  It is SO easy to overspend each month, especially when you are raising a family and you feel like a walking ATM.  We overspent the most in our grocery and eating out budget–we had a budget, but used our credit cards and tried to keep general track in our heads about how much we had left to spend each month.  That is a wonderful idea if you are a millionaire.  Our goal was to pay the credit card off each month but we realized our overspending was not allowing us to do that all the time.

Side note: We used credit cards because we wanted the points, which we used to do all of our traveling.  It seemed like a great plan! But in reality I realized if we just set aside the amount we were earning in points each month for our vacation budget and stopped using our cards, we would fare far better in controlling our spending.

On the cash budget, we have a finite and tangible picture of how much we have left.  If the eating out cash is gone, we wait another week or so until the paycheck comes.  This is NOT easy, and we don’t do it perfectly all the time.

For those of you wondering how this type of budget works, here is the skinny.

On the 5th of every month (when my husband gets his bigger paycheck), I pay all of our bills which I have set up to process at that time.  I then head to the bank with a total amount of cash withdrawal that will carry us through the month.  They know me by name now…

I take the cash home and separate it into several categories:

Grocery :  you can break this into smaller categories–Costco, Whole Foods, etc.

Non-food items : toilet paper, cleaning supplies, dog food, wrapping paper

Miscellaneous : the unexpected each month

Eating Out/Entertainment date nights and family meals

Sports : we pay a golf coach in cash so we need this category

Gifts: some months need this more than others, so you can just keep adding

Allowance : for each family member–Jon and I get allowance too!


I divide all the money up into a mini-file folder (I’ll call these “envelopes” here).  I carry this file-folder in my purse at all times~ and I’ve had to swallow my pride about how silly it looks pulling this blue plastic thing out to pay instead of my wallet, but hey, maybe I’ll start a trend.

I have a few other categories where I stash cash each month–these are things that may not be monthly but we want to have money set aside when the time comes to pay:


HoA Dues

Car Registrations




1. It should be noted that I SPLIT the grocery, miscellaneous, and eating out into two amounts and set one aside for the second half of the month.  I have learned the hard way that it is way too easy to use it all up in the first two weeks.

2. Figuring out how to put in each category takes research.  I recommend going through bank and credit card statements for the past three months and itemizing what you spend where to get a general idea.  You may have to tweak it for the first few months to get it just right.

3. You can create whatever categories and amounts work for your family–I know some folks who break everything down into very specific envelopes.

4. What about gas and other categories?  We use our cards for gas, and then pay all of our bills with checks or auto pay.  We also have a college savings and regular savings category, but these get transferred directly from our paycheck to a savings account by our bank on a set day of the month.

5. Once the cash is gone out of a certain category, do you best to not borrow from other categories.  For example, if you want to go out to eat but that envelope is gone, try not to borrow from the grocery envelope which still has money in it.  This is where the discipline happens.  The better you can get at being patient until the next paycheck to fill the envelopes back up, the better you will stick to your budget.

This has been challenging for us, because we tend to feel constrained and run out of money faster than we would like to!  However, we know that this is the best way to keep financial peace in our lives. In my next post I will share some of the ways I have learned to cut spending and live within this cash system.

Come visit GraceFULLhome on our blog if you are an email subscriber!  Just click here.  There is a lot more to check out AND you can comment there!  Please comment if you have tips to add–many of you already do the cash budget and our community would love to hear how it’s going for you.




A Story of A Curve Ball

My final New Year’s Resolution this year is centered around the topic of finances, and I am excited to share with you some things I have read, learned and a great tool for managing your budget.  But, before I get to the “practical” things, which I will do in my next post, I want to share with your our personal story on this topic.

Jon and I have been through quite a financial journey these last few years, going from a place of comfort and margin to a place of discomfort and a LOT of hard work to make ends meet.  Please don’t misunderstand, we have lived completely comfortably by the world’s standard the entire time, but relative to what we had before Jon’s income changed due to the economic crash in 2009, it has been a long push for us to stay in our home and not incur debt.

Our story started in the fall four years ago, with the stock market crash.   While one of his well-paying jobs disappeared overnight in Sept 2009, and the other took a large-pay cut, we continued on our existing budget and spending.  This continued for about a year while we lived in denial of our financial circumstances.  You see, our generation had never gone “backwards.”  With our parents and ourselves, the forward movement of jobs and income had always been–forward.  We did not know what a serious stock market crash looked like, and how it would affect our grocery budget.  With that mindset, we thought, “Of course things will turn around!”  Surely the airline Jon worked for would recover and he would go back to his previous pay and status.  It didn’t happen, and we realized after a year that we had spent outside the truth of our income–we had not been living in financial reality.

Once we pulled our heads out of the sand, we decided to do the natural next step–pray for provision and work really hard to make ends meet.  That had been our way of life for the first 10 years of our marriage, and we were going to go back to that, which meant Jon finding a second job again, and me going back to work.  I was in the process of applying for jobs as a teacher again when another job literally fell in my lap–working for a friend at an orthopedic office.  This was an incredible blessing because I could continue the tutoring I had started and work part-time at this job, coming home without any papers to grade or stress spilling over into home life (kudos to mom/teachers–you are saints!!!).   We saw this as the clear provision we had begun to pray for.

Jon invested in another company and we set off into the next three years–a time when we would feel in the valley for much of the journey.  This was not the life we had imagined–both of us working two jobs (I started working with another company from home during this time), making our budget but with no margin, less time for our family, for our kids.   We wondered how long this would last?  .

There were many “no’s” during this time.   Jon’s second business struggled, my side-business moved forward slowly, and we tried to re-finance about 6 times with no luck for strange and un-explicable reasons.  Finally, it happened, but not without hours and days of frustration, and so much time Jonathan put into the effort.   Jon ran for President of the union at his airline, hoping to make some positive change there, and provide income for our family–and lost twice after showing great integrity and strength in the process.  It was a difficult season.

We constantly re-evaluated our situation, should we move?  Each year we seriously looked at this option, but we never felt God moving us that direction. We were continuing to keep our home open to hosting  youth group and bible studies, renting out our basement to some wonderful single girls, and then a sweet family who found our home as a place that served a time and a purpose in their lives.   He was using our home, and we hoped God would allow us to stay just another year. God did continue to provide–just enough, for us to remain.

Finally, at the end of 2013, just a few months ago, we made the decision (after months of processing) that it was time for me to leave my job at the orthopedic office for a variety of reasons–mainly that it was best for our family and kids for me to be home with them.  This was a very difficult decision because it meant that we would most likely need to put our home on the market in the spring.  We prayed constantly that God would give us courage and strength to make this decision when the time came to list our home.  I personally asked God to help me let go, loosen my grip on the foundations that had been built in this place–the best friends to my kids that lived right next door, the familiar paths Jon and I took when we walked the dogs, the flowers and trees I had picked out and planted in our yard, the familiar faces that I waved to every day as I drove through our neighborhood.

I knew that wherever God led us, we would be OK…we would re-establish.  But it was hard.  And the hardest part was we weren’t feeling “called” to leave.  It just looked like that on our financial spreadsheet.  Trust me, God said.

In January of 2014, the same month I turned in my resignation at work, something just short of miraculous happened.  Jon held a “line” at work for the first time in 4 years.  Somehow, in the great airline Pythagorean Theorem, Jon’s seniority allowed him to move to a higher pay level.  Just a fluke, we said.  Then it happened again in February, and then this month in March.  And…it looks like this might be the new norm going forward.  The income Jon receives at this new pay level just replaces the income at my orthopedic job.

Really God?  We can stay in our home for now?  But of course, this is how He works. He asks us to let go, trust, take a step of faith.  Then He provides.  He either provides strength for the “move” whatever that may mean in our lives, or he fills the gap where we were striving so hard to fill ourselves.

Here are the lessons the past 4 years have taught me:

1.  Be Grateful In Difficult Times— even when things seemed so frustrating and difficult, there was so much to be thankful for.  Healthy kids, healthy marriage, jobs.

2. Patience— we didn’t know how long our “valley” would last.  It lasted a lot longer than we wanted, that’s for sure.  We had to trust that God was still in control, that he still had a plan, and that if we stayed in tune with Him we would be given direction and comfort even when there was no end in sight.

3.  Provision— God provided the whole way.  Whether through jobs, or people to rent our basement, or just giving us enough faith and fight for a little longer.

4. Perspective— We do not feel like “we are set!” going forward.  If we have learned one thing through this journey, is that life throws us curve balls when we least expect it.  No longer will we ride on the coat-tails of “continued prosperity,” but humbly accept that God is our provider and when life does shift–which it will–He will walk through that with us.

We will continue to keep our palms open to God’s plan for our life, and hold things loosely.

Thanks for reading our story–it has been in the making for a while.



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