How I Survived a Cash-Only Diet

By: Leez Kuznetsova

In a world where even farmer’s markets are starting to take credit cards, it’s easy to never think about the hassle of taking out cash. Unfortunately, living on credit and debit cards can often time lead to overspending, paying way too much for convenience, and cementing expensive habits along the way.

That’s why I decided to take control of my spending by only using cash for 30 days aka no more random “treat yourself” dinners, daily Starbucks breaks or shopping trips unless it’s budgeted for ahead of time. Taking this step also meant budgeting for things like groceries, gas, occasional takeout dinners, birthday gifts, and even the less expensive things like midweek ice cream runs, pedicures, movies, and minor fashion splurges at Target.  


So here’s how I survived the cash-only diet and you can too:

Remove any and all temptation – saying you’re not going to use your credit and/or debit card, but still carrying it in your wallet is like saying you’re not going to eat the Krispy Kreme donut that’s dangling in front of your face. If you’re serious about sticking to your budget, do what I did and remove your credit and/or debit cards from your wallet completely.

Put together a realistic budget – there’s nothing easy about figuring out your budget for groceries, let alone trying to account for all of the things that could come up like concerts, birthday brunches, movie nights, and the list goes on and on. But I can promise you the more strides you take toward planning a realistic bi-weekly or monthly budget, the easier it gets.  

If you’re not sure where to start, subtract the cost of your bi-weekly bills (or monthly) from your total paycheck amount. Then, use the remaining amount to factor in what you can afford for necessities like groceries and gas. Whatever is left over will help you quickly see how much you can afford to put toward all of the other activities you want to take part in – as well as not take part in.

Make a habit to take out cash – depending on your payday, make it a habit to take out the exact cash amount that you budgeted to last you through the next pay period. If you’re not sure how to you’ll remember to stop at the ATM, try setting a reminder on your phone or write out the cash amount you’re going to take out in your planner every pay period and then stick to it.   

Learn to say no – whether it’s a whole30 diet or a cash-only diet, learning to say no is key to staying on track. Depending on your budget and priorities, that means you may find yourself making coffee at home, no longer going out to eat as often or missing happy hours with friends. The good news? You’ll also find out how amazing it feels to have the discipline to stick with your goal, develop healthy habits, and save a little money along the way.

Don’t forget to treat yourself – just because your “treat me” fund has gotten smaller doesn’t mean you still can’t treat yourself. In fact, rewarding yourself is highly encouraged. Maybe you treat yourself to an extra coffee or a pedicure every time you meet your goal to take out cash or maybe there’s something bigger waiting for you at the 30-day finish line.

Look on the bright side – instead of getting down about having to change your coffee or takeout habits, embrace the beauty of drinking coffee from your favorite mug in the comfort of your own home or making a delicious recipe you can also enjoy for lunch tomorrow.

Ready to trade in your credit cards for cash and change your habits for good? Try the cash-only diet or inch your way to financial awareness by tracking your finances for a month in a daily journal to see if you can spot areas where you can cut back. Whatever you decide, I'd love to hear about your journey. 

30 day gals