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If you’re trying to save more and spend less, budgeting with cash is a great way to manage your money.
Does it sound too old-fashioned to you? I tweaked the cash envelope system earlier this year to make it easier to follow in a digital world — and it has really helped me save a lot!
Now, I’m introducing Clark’s Cash Challenge to help anyone who wants to boost their savings rate.
How to save more money in 30 days with Clark’s Cash Challenge
Here’s how it works: I’m asking that you choose one flexible spending category (groceries, home improvement, entertainment, etc.) and stick to a cash-only budget for one month.
You don’t have to wait until the first of the month — just commit to 30 days of budgeting with cash in one category.
There are people who refuse to try cash-only budgets because they’ll miss out on credit card rewards. That’s true. But if budgeting with cash lowers your spending by 10%, that 2% cash back from your credit card isn’t so valuable.
Are you up for Clark’s Cash Challenge? There are just five simple steps and you can get started right away…
1. Identify your cash-only category and set goals
Step one is to choose the single category that you’ll manage with cash for the next 30 days. You want to select a category where you think there’s room for improvement.
Here are some examples of variable expenses that may be good choices:
- Eating out
- Home improvement
- Personal care
I’ve selected groceries as my cash-only category, so I’ll be referring to that throughout the rest of this step-by-step guide.
Once you’ve chosen a category, set a budget and list goals for the challenge. How will you make the most of this opportunity and save more money? The act of switching from credit to cash is only a starting point.
For example, my goals to reduce grocery spending involve meal planning, trying a new supermarket and limiting store visits.
2. Go to the ATM!
If you’re someone who puts most of your purchases on a credit card, you probably don’t have enough money in your wallet to set aside for Clark’s Cash Challenge — so you may need to head to the ATM.
Be honest with yourself: Only take out the amount of cash that you’ve budgeted for your cash-only category!
3. Get an envelope and a storage box
When you get home from the bank, take the money that you got from the ATM and put it in an envelope with the name of your cash-only category written on the front of it.
I also like to use a plastic storage box for my receipts, but some people just stuff them inside the envelope with the cash.
4. Only carry the cash that you need
Let’s say you’re going to the store and you need to buy something in your cash-only category. Instead of taking your entire envelope with you, only remove the amount of cash that you’ll need for that purchase.
And it goes without saying that you don’t want to use a credit card for anything you buy in your cash-only category.
5. Evaluate your results after 30 days
After 30 days of budgeting with cash, you’ll hopefully have at least something left in your envelope if you set a realistic budget and remained focused on your goals.
If you use a budgeting app like Mint.com, check the previous month’s spending in your category. Was it higher or lower?
Studies have shown that credit cards make us spend more, but a 30-day cash challenge like this can help you determine if that’s really true when it comes to your personal spending habits.
Good luck with the challenge and let us know in the comments if budgeting with cash works for you!
More stories from our Michael Saves series:
- How I paid off my $86,000 mortgage in 2 years
- 30 jobs in 30 days: Work from home with Amazon Mechanical Turk
- 7 things I learned while using my Instant Pot for 14 days straight