Does Cash Not Have That Real Feeling Anymore?

Paying with cash doesn’t always make money seem more real. Maybe it’s time to take another look at this common piece of budgeting advice and see if it still make sense in the 2010s.

Have you every bought a book about budgeting and been left wondering if the author had ever really faced a financial crisis?

The idea of buying a book to find out how to save a few pennies is a bit silly, really. One piece of advice in many of those books is even sillier: Pay with cash and you’ll see just how much money you’re really spending.

This strange idea is based on some logic: If you have to get money from an ATM, organize the bills in your purse or billfold, then count them out and hand them over, you’ll start to realize that every dollar you spend is real money that had to come from somewhere. In a debit card culture, it’s easy to swipe and go without realizing just how much money is going.

That sounds sensible, doesn’t it? Those of us with limited money in our accounts can’t swipe and go without considering the consequences, however. We have to keep track of what comes out of our accounts to avoid overdrawing them. Cash in our wallets and handbags is already deducted from the account and doesn’t have to be accounted for.

If a soft drink at a fast food place is $2 and you see you have several bills in your pocket, you can afford a Coke, right?

There’s nothing wrong with using a debit card as long as you’re tracking your spending. If you prefer to get all your money in cash and track it with a list on the outside of an envelope like some of those financial gurus suggest, that’s fine, too.

Keeping track of where your money goes means you’re stopping yourself from wasting your resources. Don’t try to trick yourself into spending less by using slight of hand to shuffle your money as some financial experts suggest. Learn to be wise about your money because you care about yourself and your situation.

I believe tracking how my resources are used is an important part of a simple, deliberate life.

Are you pleased with how well you manage your money?


  1. Gip, the intro about buying books to learn to save money reminds me of one time when I bought a book about “How to cut your spending in half”. Not retail, obviously – I think I got it lightly used for maybe fifty cents at a garage sale. I recall being disappointed to discover that I was already doing most of what the book suggested.

    It had advice like “shop at thrift stores” and “shop at discount grocery stores.” REALLY? Wow, that’s…erm….profound? 🙂

    Great post Gip!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Robert. Books about money are like books about dieting. They’re always disappointing because we all already know what to do. We’re just hoping for a shortcut that doesn’t really exist.

  2. I’m a bit like the Queen – I don’t carry money (well rarely anyhow). I’d say 95% plus of my transactions are by credit card. That way I know exactly what I have spent each month and on what, and the Hubby does a double check – so no hidden impulse purchases for me! I even get cashback for the luxury of having an extra 30 days of my money in the bank each month. It also means I rarely fritter away money. If you withdraw £20 and at the end of the week do not know where it has gone that isn’t economical to me. Most places accept credit card now, and my grocery shop I do on-line. The benefit of having guaranteed purchases and insurance, as well as not having the likelihood of having my wallet snatched is also key. I advocate credit cards! as long as used wisely, and not used to gain credit.

    1. Jo, that’s a perfect example of how to use credit cards responsibly. I use my debit card because I don’t trust myself to save my money and pay off a credit card at the end of the month, but I should at least give your system a try.

      I’ve heard the queen only carries extra white gloves and note cards about who she will be meeting. Is that what you carry?

  3. Totally right about money and diet books. The diet books I prefer are menus that help me envision what to eat and when to eat it until I get the hang of doing it on my own. Do you know of any such “menu” type book about money? Or is that where the analogy breaks down? (I think it’s time for my afternoon tea, can’t think my way out of paper bag at the moment!)

    1. Thanks for commenting, Meg. You’re right about diet books, and I don’t know any similar money books. They all seem needless complicated or make suggestions that are so far removed from my current situation that I can’t see how to adapt them.

      I’m glad you’re here.

  4. I use credit cards to earn points, but I really love cash. Just carrying cash around makes me feel like my slaving away for someone was worth it. I learned budgeting quickly when I started converting each contemplated purchase from dollars to hours that had to be spent working for the man. That put a stop to frivolous spending right away!

    1. Yes, when you convert dollars into hours and then also add in time spent shopping for an item, gas used and meals you had to eat out because you were out shopping for the item, the real expense adds up quickly. Then, when you add in costs to wash, repair, maintain or otherwise deal with an item, it’s easy to see why I like living an increasingly simple life.

  5. Picked up your comment back over at my place, but for some reason my comment replies aren’t endless – the stream ends… so this may be a bit criptic a comment but you’ll know what I mean. Would you like me to edit it as a GP, so that it reads better from yours? Also there is a little editing required, picked up a couple of grammatical things… would you believe I proofread as a living some days? haha!

    1. You can change how many levels of replies you allow, but at a certain point, they end up shoved so far over to the right that it’s best not to bother. It’s somewhere in the Settings.

      Here’s a better idea for the guest post, Jo. I have something I want to do based on your post and mine for January 14, so why don’t you write me something completely different as a guest post for the following week?

      Email me if you’re interested in that.

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