Use Cash to Change Spending Habits

By David Uffington

Have you broken your New Year’s resolutions yet? Many people have. When it comes to resolving to get control of your finances, however, the longer you do it, the more you benefit, and that can be an incentive to continue.

If you write checks at the end of the month (or especially if you have automatic deposits and bill paying and never ever see the money), you don’t have a close-up relationship with your cash. Money is far more subjective (and easier to spend) when you don’t actually touch the cash. Consider a no-frills 30 days as your New Year’s resolution, during which time you work to become more familiar with actual money on a daily basis.

Resolve to go 30 days with no unnecessary expenditures. Of course, pay for food, utilities and car payments. But for 30 days go without coffee on the way to work, meals out, impulse spending, movies and popcorn … you get the idea. If it isn’t necessary, don’t spend.

Start carrying cash if you’re in the habit of only carrying credit or debit cards. When you leave the house each day, count up the cash you’re carrying. If you need more, go to the ATM, but don’t give in and use a credit card for purchases.

Empty your pockets of change at the end of every day. Put it in a container with a lid and don’t touch it. At the end of the month, count it up and put it toward a credit-card balance or savings. During the day, see how often you can get change in the form of coins, and add it to the pile.

Pick a few bills for which you normally write a check and instead pay cash for money orders or cashier’s checks.

Any activity having to do with finances is self-rewarding. You get to see the benefits of careful spending rather quickly. As you keep to your resolution, you’ll see your expenses come down, your savings increase and maybe your health even get better if your financial goals keep you from spending money on snacks while you’re away from home. But the first step is to become more aware of money.

It’s said that it takes 30 days to develop a habit. If you reduce your spending to necessities only for one month, it might become a habit you can keep.

(c) 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.