Unexpected benefits of our cash only budget

cashWhen we decided to live this summer on a cash budget, I was nervous. Not only did I know it would be a challenge, but I feared that we would feel deprived and miserable. Almost three weeks into the experiment, that’s not the case at all. In fact, there have been several unexpected benefits.

Weight loss

After almost 6 months of minimal success with dieting and exercising, I was pleasantly surprised this week to discover I’ve lost three pounds. This could be due to any number of recent lifestyle changes, including my limited bread and pasta consumption over the past 3 weeks. But I also suspect our new lifestyle has a lot to do with it. We’re choosing frugal, more active fun instead of pricier sedentary activities, and we’ve cut out restaurant meals. We didn’t eat out more than once a week before, but apparently that was enough to slow my weight loss down.


Since my husband and I are facing this challenge as a team, it’s definitely bringing us closer together. It’s been fun discovering frugal alternatives to our more expensive date nights, and we’re working together to solve problems and overcome challenges.

We’ve been living frugally for almost two years, but this is extreme even for us. Spending the evening playing a board game instead of going out to dinner is a great way to reconnect, and it really feels like we’re breaking out of some of our old routines and enjoying a lot of new activities. Fun!

Less budget stress

One of the worst feelings is checking the budget Monday morning after a weekend of overspending. Since we paid off our credit card debt and increased our income a little, we started getting more and more complacent about our frugality. It happens.

This cash only experiment has helped us get back on track. Now when I look at the budget Monday morning, I know exactly what we spent Friday through Sunday. The weekends no longer derail us, because we only have so much in our pockets to spend.

If nothing else, living on cash only really has led to more mindful spending. It’s not necessarily because I put a premium on cash, but because when you only have so much in your pocket, you’re forced to avoid spending more than that. Knowing exactly where we stand at the end of the weekend is incredibly freeing.


I miss the occasional lunch out at work. Last Friday the entire office left for lunch at my favorite inexpensive restaurant. Because of my diet and my budget, I ate my boring salad. That was the first and only time I felt a little deprived on cash only.

The biggest downside? Oh my goodness, I hate dealing with cash. I hate having change everywhere. I hate that I have to stop and get myself organized after the cashier hands me my change. I really hate that I have to fish around in my wallet for the correct amount when I pay for things. It seems to hold everything up, and it’s just such a hassle. Holding on to receipts and manually splitting transactions on Mint to track our spending is inconvenient and confusing at times. What do you do, though? It seems a small price to pay considering all the benefits so far.

Photo by nicmcphee

8 thoughts on “Unexpected benefits of our cash only budget

  1. anne

    Your progress is very inspiring to me! I’d like to give the cash-only system a shot. thanks for sharing.

  2. Angie

    We’ve been doing cash only for several years. As far as the change goes… because I don’t carry a purse, all of my change goes into my pocket and when I go home it goes into a jar. I use this jar for garage sales & the car wash, but still don’t use it all up. This past Christmas we counted our change and had over $200. It was a nice treat that we didn’t really plan for.

  3. Fifi

    My husband and I do the cash thing mainly for eating out. You are inspring me to live with less. I’m on day 2 and hope to keep it up for the next 9 months as we get out of debt!

  4. Bobbi

    Great post. I am working on this also. I was wondering what, if any, budgeting software you use? Thx

  5. Karen

    Bobbi – I used Mint.com. It automatically categorizes purchases made with debit cards, but for cash purchases I have to split the ATM withdrawal transaction. I just save receipts until the ATM transaction shows up in Mint, then I split it according to how I spent that cash. It’s an extra step, but I love Mint, so it’s worth it to me. And it’s nice that I only have to save receipts for a few days.

  6. james

    I’m in my late 40’s and I have zero debt. I comepletely stopped banking in 1991. I have never apllied for a credit card or loan. I have paid cash only and will continue to til death. The main reason I stopped banking and never applied for a credit card or loan is “I READ THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS AND THE FINE PRINT” and didn’t agree! I repeat, “I READ THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS AND FINE PRINT AND DIDN’T AGREE!” That was back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I know credit card and loan agreements have only gotten worse and I wouldn’t waste my time to read them.
    Here are a few items I enjoy that you don’t!

    1. I get lmost zero juck mail! Well… except for Dish and DirectTV
    2. I don’t waste my time on hold dealing with the mistakes Banks make!
    3. I don’t waste my time on hold doing the Bank and Credit Card Companies jobs to correct my accounts!
    4. I don’t get sold-out by the Banks and Credit Card Companies to Marketers!
    5. I don’t get daily mail from Banks or Credit Card Companies.
    6. I don’t spend hours every month reading the fine print of every flyer or ad looking for hidden changes in terms or account fee’s the Banks or Credit Card Companies send.
    7. I don’t have to deal with jerk-off Bank Tellers.
    8. I have almost zero stress!
    9. I purchase my autos pre-owned and pay cash.
    10. I don’t deal with Auto Sales People or play the Auto Dealers Games!
    11. I decided to living in a modest house and now save $$$ on Taxes!
    12. I have enough cash to NOT waste money on Home Insurance! That alone will save me lots of grief in filing a claim in the future! Being about to afford to kick the Insurance Money off my back feels great! Insurance thieves be damned! I call the shots and it feels great!
    13. No Courtesy Calls from Anyone!
    14. I have a go phone, no land line so no Telephone Company BS to deal with!
    15. No Bank account and debit card means no place holders on purchases! When I leave the gas pump I’m paid in full! The past stays behind me! The gas purchase is paid, no bill for later or the possiblity of account shortages due to place holders on a debit card.
    16. No payment on demand at Bank!
    17. No one stands between my money and me. I have cash and live with cash!
    19. I don’t sign contracts or agreements I don’t edit. I also don’t play the Arbitration Game!
    20. I call the shots, I’m 100% in control of my life. I owe nothing to anyone and I feel great. If I could only get Big Brother out of my life, I would be in Heaven!

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