Friday, February 1, 2013

Good Reasons to Stop Using Your Debit Card and Start Paying in Cash

It is a published fact that people on average spend more when they are using their debit cards. Just do a Google search and you'll find numerous articles on the Art of Overspending with a Debit Card.

I am the budget-keeper in our household.  This is a weighty responsibility for me, as I never really was  one to balance my checkbook (back in the days when we all had checkbooks to balance).  I have always been more of a "I'm pretty sure I have that in my account" kind of gal.   And, I usually did.  This was back when I was single and had no family to take care of.

Fast forward several years, and I have the same attitude, but with a debit card.  My kind of bookkeeping is dangerous to one with a debit card.  Groceries are $208 and I only have $140 in cash?  No problem!  Put it on the debit card.  Later on, I marvel that I am still are walking around with $140 in my wallet and I haven't spent it yet.  I believe they call this "delusional".

After doing a bit of research, I've decided to stop using my debit card at the grocery store for the entire month of February.  Yes!  Another 30 day challenge.  I love them--they keep me on my toes!  I am also  severely restricting my budget.  I don't know if anyone even reads my blog but if you do and you use Mint.com, you know what I am talking about when I say the fear of God was put into me when I noticed huge chunks of my monthly spending on the "pie chart" diagram was devoted to H-E-B, SuperTarget, and Walmart.  I thought, with horror, that one family of four could not possibly spend $800 in January and $1200 in December....on GROCERIES???  I had to go back and look at my spending habits, so I reluctantly logged in to my bank account and re-traced my steps.

I began to notice a pattern.

I'd spend $175 at HEB and you can tell that's my weekly grocery shopping.  Two days later, however, I'd be at SuperTarget picking up 1) things I can't get at HEB and 2) about a thousand other things I don't need.  That bill would be a little lower, but still, between $40 and $80.   That wasn't my only pattern; the other one was that one of us--either Matt or myself--was at a grocery store of some kind twice or three times a week.  That's almost $300 on groceries a WEEK!  And that doesn't count our trips to Costco, which effectively, run us about $300 for the month.

The debit card makes all of this possible for a spender like me.  I have to reel myself in if I am to be the savior of our household accounts.  So, I'm going to experiment.

$150 per week, cash only.  Debit card stays home.
Costco is once a month, cash only, $200.
Coupons are acceptable but only for things I actually use (4 cans of Aqua-Net for $1 do not count)

I've already spent $50 at the grocery store this week.  The guy looked at me like I was crazy when I was counting some coins out.  I realized I must look like an old batty woman.  I don't care, though.  I earned my stripes and I will stand there and count what I must so that I can rehabilitate myself.  He'll just have to wait!

Hey, patience is a virtue.

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