Because I love projects... I've kicked off a new month-long new experiment that I'm calling "Cash-Only February."
What's the experiment? I'm going to see if I can get through the entire month of February without using my credit card. I've enrolled my husband and kids, so this will be a full family project.
Why are we doing this?
- To help us be more mindful of our spending.
- To help the kids understand the value of money and how to make spending decisions.
- To encourage creativity and resourcefulness.
- To bring the family together with a challenge that will require collaboration and cooperation.
I am not trying to eliminate spending, I'm just trying to bring us back in touch with the choices we are making with our money. I think using cash makes the spending feel more "real", especially for kids.
While eliminating spending is not a primary goal, I do think the project will have the effect of reducing our spending in February. And wow, will it feel good to have a credit card bill that is light as a feather for a change!
Why February? It's the shortest month of the year. :) And I like that we're just coming off of the holidays, when we could use some "quiet" on the spending front.
What are the "rules" for this month-long game?
- Everything must be purchased from a fixed pot of cash that we establish at the beginning of the month. I estimated what we would need to satisfy our basic needs during the month, and included unavoidable known expenses, then added a bit of cushion for the unanticipated. I took that amount of cash out of the bank on February 1st, and placed it in an envelope. We can spend freely from the envelope during the month, but we may not refill the envelope. I aimed for an amount that is enough for the month, but not so much that we don't have to make careful, considered choices to make it last the entire 28 days. If it were too easy, we wouldn't achieve the goals listed above.
- Stocking up beforehand is allowed. I put together a rough menu plan for the month, and on January 31st I stocked up on the non-perishables I knew I would need. (For things like produce and milk, which must be refreshed during the month, we will have to dip into our cash envelope.) I also refilled prescriptions, topped off the gas in the car, and stocked up on pet food. I tried to think ahead, but didn't overthink it, as I want there to be things that come up during the month that we didn't plan for, to introduce some challenge.
- Documentation is required. I made a simple chart to track the money we take out of the envelope, so that we will know where it went. I plan to make this visible somehow to the kids, so that they can follow along and participate. I'm also keeping a list of things that come up that we want to buy, but don't, because of this experiment. It will be interesting to see if we still want those things once March arrives. I'm hopeful that delayed gratification will help us realize we didn't really need those things after all... or help us appreciate them all the more once we finally buy them in March.
I'm hoping that this experiment will start some new habits or family routines. For example, to extend time between gas fill ups, perhaps we will bike or walk to school. Instead of buying fresh bread, perhaps we will make it with our oft-idle bread maker and what's already in the pantry.
I'll plan to post some updates throughout the month so that you can follow along if you like. Or, better yet, join us! It's not too late!