Unlike a lot of my friends, I didn’t get a credit card until I was much older and for this I count myself lucky. I watched as many of them racked up debt they couldn’t afford and spent more than they earned. When I did finally get my first credit card it was like a whole new world of opportunity opened up to me. I could shop online, book trips over the phone and pay for a night’s stay in a hotel – all things I had to borrow a card to do in the past.
But things soon got out of control. Although I started with just one card, I somehow ended up with four. I’d alternate spending, which actually made things worse. Come the end of the month, I’d look over what I’d spent and wonder how on earth I was going to pay it. It was then that I decided to put an end to my plastic spending.
Wondering how to live on a cash diet? Here are a few ways to get started.
What Is A Cash Diet?
For simplicity’s sake, let’s say that a cash diet is spending only what you have. Cash diets certainly aren’t for everyone, but there’s no doubt that they work. In fact, some people find that they’ve saved as much as 20 per cent when they switch from plastic to cash. Switching to an all-cash diet means being extremely disciplined. It involves:
- Knowing what you spend each month
- Calculating income after spending
- Monitoring bank accounts
- Using your credit card very minimally (and only in some cases)
- Watching your credit score
How To Get Started
Start by calculating your monthly bills. How much do you need to set aside each month to pay everything off? This includes your rent or mortgage, car payment, utilities, phone, cable, groceries and gas. Don’t forget the little things; if you have a monthly gym membership or dues for an organization you belong to, these go on the list too. Factor in savings and debt, assuming you have a debt load you want to get control of.
Make A Payment Plan
Next, decide how you’re going to pay each of these things. It might not be practical to carry cash everywhere you go. You may, instead, want to use your debit card. There are ways of ensuring that you don’t spend everything before the end of the month. If you’re worried, though, go the cash route. Allow yourself a weekly allowance and set it aside somewhere safe. If you need to, open a second account that contains only the money you’re allotted for the month. Find the best chequing account for you online and get started. Some will even allow you to do online transactions.
Should You Banish The Plastic For Good?
Make a firm decision about your credit card. Is there room for it while on your cash diet? If you need to, keep one on hand for necessary purchases, like gas. You could also lock the card away, agreeing only to use it if absolutely necessary. “Absolutely necessary” things include booking travel, renting a car or reserving a hotel room. All other purchases are considered unnecessary if you can pay for them using debit or cash.
Finally, while on your cash diet you’ll want to closely monitor your credit score. Some companies will shut down your accounts if they remain inactive for a lengthy period of time. Have less available credit can lower your credit score. To avoid this, make small purchases from time to time and pay them off immediately.
Want to get your spending under control? Why not try the cash diet – even if only for a month? You’ll be surprised by how much you save.