Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Living By Cash

I know – we live by faith, not by cash.  However, Ben and I recently decided to switch to a cash budget in order to track our spending in a better fashion.  Life in NYC truly is by faith, especially when your income doesn’t meet your out-go.  But God is faithful, and He has never let us down!

I guess it took me a while, but I have finally figured out that most of New York City works on cash transactions.  Especially the little stores and grocers that I shop at!  Most of these places have a minimum purchase of $10, $15, or $20 in order to use a credit or debit card.  I found myself constantly going to the bank ATM for cash.  The bank is close, but it is the opposite direction from most of my shopping.

I also found, to my great frustration, that I was constantly going over my food budget.  I would get to the store, shop my list, sometimes add a few extra items, and my total was never what I wanted it to be!  It was time to rethink things…

After discussing things and crunching numbers, we came up with a weekly budget which we think is doable.  My dad and brother are Dave Ramsey buffs, and I knew about the envelope system from Money Saving Mom.  We had a family budget, but we didn’t always follow it to the number, or consult it as frequently as we should have.  Since the Lord is providing for our needs, we want to be good stewards of everything He gives us.  This includes not wasting our money because we don’t know exactly where it is going.

I use this sturdy divided file for all my cash categories.  I also keep the weekly/monthly budget in the front, and there are extra pockets at the back for my coupons.


Now, from each paycheck we take out cash for our food, toiletries, gas (for the car), and tithe.  We then set aside a portion for our rent, phone, gas, and electric bills so that when they are due the money is ready.  We were not doing this on a weekly basis.  Now when I go to the grocery store, I have my cash and that is all. 

Great idea, right?  Right…as long as you can buy the items you need!  I was still coming up short, but I didn’t have my debit card to back me up.  The system still needed some work.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI used to shop with coupons, and I could get a lot of food for a little money.  It’s not that easy here in NYC.  I don’t subscribe to the paper and the coupons weren’t that good.  Only the bigger grocery stores accept coupons, and I think only one of those stores doubles coupons.  I had been rather discouraged about couponing and had basically given up.  I don’t have the means (read car), time, or energy here to run around to five or six stores in order to get the absolute best bargain for every item on my list.

Here is/was our solution:  Plan my menu around the sale items.  I was planning my menu, and then going to the store and trying to buy all of the ingredients.  Before, I was able to stock up on enough items that I could plan my menu this way and still save money.  Now I am learning to shop the sale flier, get a bargain, and then plan a menu.  It’s still not perfect, but it is working.

Around here the sale ads start on Friday.  I switched my shopping day to Friday so that I can be sure and find the sale items in-stock.  Then I plan my menu for the coming week, and everything is on hand.

Here are some other things I am doing to save money:

  1. I buy my fruit and veggies at the fruit stand, not the grocery store.  The prices are much cheaper.
  2. I buy my milk at the corner market – it is at least 25 cents cheaper, and usually more.
  3. I make all of our bread in the bread machine.
  4. We eat at home seven nights a week, with an occasional exception.
  5. I make my own laundry soap.  Read more here.
  6. When I can get a bargain on meat, fruit, veggies, etc., I buy a bunch and freeze it.  Sometimes I make it into a meal first and then freeze it.  I also enjoy canning  when I find the right price.
  7. We eat at least two meatless meals a week.  When I do add meat, it is never as much as the recipe calls for.  I only use one chicken breast in casseroles and dishes for both Ben and me to share.  You would never know the difference, and it saves money.
  8. I stretch hand soap by reusing a foaming soap dispenser.  I fill it about 1/4 full with soap (sometimes just using plain dish soap) and then fill the rest with water.  Your hands still get clean, but the soap lasts a lot longer.
  9. I mix my loads of laundry {don’t tell my mom}.  Yes, I sometimes put lights in with darks, towels in with whites, etc.  If I run the washer on a full load, I am using the same amount of energy and soap for the cycle.  It only takes a little more water instead of twice as much (though we don’t pay for our water, so I don’t reap those savings).  And it sounds like less work to do one big load instead of two half loads!
  10. We line dry everything.  Though many times it would be easier to go to the laundry mat and use the dryer rather than have my living full of drying racks!
  11. We use as many reusable items as possible – dusting cloths instead of disposable dusters, rag and bucket instead of a Swiffer mop, cloth shopping bags (when I remember to bring them!), cloth napkins, rags instead of paper towels, cloth diapers & wipes, and a vacuum with no bags.

So far it’s working for us.  Do you use only cash?  Got any other money saving tips?  I’d love to hear them!


  1. Hi Andrea, Nice post. I dont do the cash env. although I probably should. I know I would spend less. But, I would like to add to your #8, I read this and have used this to save on soap....when you get shampoo dirt cheap you can use it in your soap dispenser as well as you hair. Neat idea, huh?

  2. WOW!!! What a great post, Andrea!!! I think this is an ongoing working cycle with my too! At times in the past I have had a system smacked into order...and then other times, like you said, I just was always seeming to go over the budget. It can def. be hard...but I think the cash only is so great and "freeing" if you know what I mean. I really need to get back at that and your post has really inspired me! :) Also...where did you get your little organizer? I haven't ever found one so sturdy and with the insert extras yours has? Happy planning!


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