You can crush debt if you don’t spend money you don’t have
Have you ever charged something and justified the expense because you knew your next paycheck would cover it?
Me too! (I knew I wasn’t the only one.)
Have you ever not paid off the charge when the bill came because something else came up, or you forgot, or you thought it’ll get paid off eventually, or, heck, you just didn’t feel like it?
And it’s a big reason I got in so much stinkin’ debt.
Using a credit card is one of the easiest ways to spend money you don’t have.
It’s easy on your checking account, because no cash is taken out. But, it’s also easy on your conscience, because using plastic instead of paper actually makes your brain think you’re not spending real money.
Which, in fact, you’re not. You’re *borrowing* money. You’re spending money that’s not yours.
And, – bonus! – you don’t even have to pay any of it back for another 30 days! So, not only can you spend money that’s not yours today on a purchase that will make you feel good right now, you can delay any financial repercussions for weeks.
This, my friend, is how many people get buried under credit card debt. They let their emotions overpower their good judgment.
The opportunity to spend money without any immediate, negative consequences gives the brain a green light to indulge in impulsive and emotional purchases.
This has been proven in several research studies, including a 2016 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. The report findings claim that those who paid with cash had an average transaction of $22, while the non-cash purchases averaged $112.
That’s an increase of over 400%!
Maybe you can relate. Perhaps you’re nodding your head right now. You know what it feels like to get sucked into an emotional purchase, and you throw all responsible thinking out the window.
I really need this right now! I’ll just cut back on other expenses and get this paid off in no time!
Then, “no time” turns into months, or even years. You keep banking on future income, but it always gets spent other things. So, the charges keep piling up, and eventually you numb yourself to the increasing balance on your monthly statement.
If you don’t change your habits and stop the cycle, you’ll never get out of debt.
So, how do you stop?
Simple: you don’t spend money you don’t have.
You limit yourself to whatever funds are immediately available.
You pay with cash, so you experience the true financial sacrifice of every transaction.
Committing to this one rule will keep you from going deeper in debt, and free you from the trap of emotional spending.
What is emotional spending?
Most people consider emotional spending to mean buying unnecessary purchases when you feel stressed out, or perhaps bored or sad, or even when you’re happy.
Basically, your emotions are driving the ship and determining how much money to throw overboard.
We all do it, some more than others, because we believe that buying a new pair of shoes or adding a teal purse to our already bountiful collection is going to fill some little void and make our lives a teensy weensy bit more complete.
Actually, *that’s total garbage*.
When we make financial decisions based on our emotions, we’re spending the money because we want to feel good.
And, this isn’t even a bad thing – as long as you’ve got the extra moolah to cover it. (“Extra” meaning all of your bills are paid, your debt is paid off, you’ve got some healthy savings in the bank, yada, yada, yada.)
Whenever I’ve bought something I a) don’t need, b) really want, *and* c) haven’t saved for, then I’m essentially letting my emotions be in charge and blowing off all the lovely wisdom that’s in my brain.
So, basically, I act like a toddler.
But, unlike the outcome for most unruly two-year-olds, the consequences of spending money I don’t have can literally affect my whole life.
My debt piles up, my savings go down, and my choices in life become limited.
All because I wanted something now.
So, if you’re nodding your head and saying *amen*, then you might be wondering how you can use your emotions to actually help you instead of them always trying to sabotage your efforts.
Well, I’ll tell you.
Pay with Cash.
If you just followed that advice alone without adding anything to it, your emotional spending would be reduced significantly.
But, just for fun’s sake, let me go into some reasons why paying cash will change how you spend your money. Then, I’ll tell you how you can leverage pain to spend less.
Related Post: How To Stop Impulse Buying: 50 Tips To Take Control
Paying with cash will change your spending habits
There are definitely conveniences to using a credit card.
It’s easier to carry around. If you lose it, you can get it replaced. You have a built-in record of your purchases.
And, let’s not forget – those wonderful credit card rewards you get for every dollar you spend.
These all work in your favor – as long as you pay off your balance every month.
Many people use a credit card because they don’t have the cash to cover the expense and can’t pay it off by the next statement. This is a great excuse to spend more, and is often what happens.
This mindset is triggered by the phenomenon known as the “credit card premium“, which is the willingness to spend more money when using a credit card (or gift card) for payment.
Paying with cash is a much more tangible experience, because paper money has a specific value. When you physically exchange that value for something else, you immediately process the consequence of your spending decision.
Here are some additional benefits of shelling out the dough instead of swiping the card:
- you’ll avoid debt
- you’ll spend less frivolously
- you’ll have more leverage when negotiating a deal
- you’ll lose weight (it’s true! you’ll skip the appetizers, desserts, and alcohol to lower your bill)
- you’ll master the art of delayed gratification
- you’ll feel more in control of your finances
- you’ll value your purchases more
- you’ll keep track of your spending better
- you won’t be counting on future income
- you won’t spend money you don’t have
There are many more solid reasons you’re better off paying with cash, but you get the point. The long-term effects of paying with cash aren’t sequential – they’re exponential.
Related Post: 5 Daily Money Habits To Crush Your Financial Goals
Paying with cash is painful
This is something I’ve learned from personal experience.
There is an emotional reaction whenever we spend money on something. However, it’s different depending on how we pay for that something.
When we use a credit card, there is no physical exchange. We swipe our card and then a stranger hands us a bag filled with stuff we want. The emotion we feel is *happiness* because we feel like we’re being rewarded.
And, if our purchase is on sale? Woohoo! How can I NOT buy it? Why, that would be irresponsible! Yes, yes, buying it *right now* is the responsible thing to do…
This, my friend, is called the “shopper’s high“, and it’s tough to combat if all you’ve got to defend yourself is a flimsy credit card.
Now, consider the alternative: paying with cash.
This IS a physical exchange. You put your hard earned dollars into someone else’s hands, and they give you your precious in return.
You feel the money leaving your grasp, you see the money being put in a locked register, and you experience the full weight of making the purchase.
This is also an emotional experience. It’s called pain.
It’s much more difficult to part with cash than it is to swipe a card. And, it’s the space between our pockets and the purchase where we decide if the pain of parting with our hard earned money is worth the pleasure of having more stuff.
Paying with cash is painful, but it keeps us from making stupid, emotionally charged decisions.
Don’t spend money you don’t have by embracing the pain of parting with your money. You’ll spend less, but you’ll value what you spend your money on more.
Tips to use a cash only spending plan
If you’ve gotten used to the convenience of spending money that’s not yours, then switching to a cash-only spending plan will prove challenging.
The good news is, you can take certain steps to support your efforts and set yourself up for success.
Here are 5 tips to stop spending money you don’t have and commit to a cash-only spending plan.
Tip #1: Create a budget you can stick to
Following a budget will give you more control over your spending. It will help you see how much of your income is left over after you’ve covered your necessary expenses. The gap between the total of these expenses and your net income can be added to savings, applied towards debt, or used for discretionary spending. This amount will define your spending limit.
Tip #2: Avoid spending triggers
Minimize the temptation to spend money you don’t have by avoiding situations that trigger impulse buying. This might mean reducing your time on social media, unsubscribing from email lists, or even blocking certain websites. Create barriers between you and spending opportunities so that following through would be more difficult than not buying anything.
Tip #3: Use the envelope method
After you’ve paid all of your necessary expenses, divide up your remaining income into separate envelopes. Determine how much cash you’ll need for groceries, gas, clothing, entertainment, etc., then put these separate amounts in their own envelopes. When you run out of cash in an envelope, you can’t spend any more in that category until your next paycheck.
Tip #4: Stick to a list
An effective way to only pay cash is by sticking to a shopping list. Write down every item you need before heading to the store. Then, don’t stray from the list. If you can, write down the approximate price of each item so you know what to expect at the register. Take only the amount of cash you’ll need, and don’t wander into departments that are irrelevant to your shopping mission.
Tip #5: Don’t carry your cards
If you really want to commit to a cash-only spending plan, then you don’t need to keep the credit cards in your wallet. Put them in a drawer (or better yet – a safe!) at home, and leave them there. If you’re an avid online shopper, remove any credit cards from your payment methods and only keep a debit card on file.
Video: Dave Ramsey’s Envelope System
Move at the speed of cash
It’s taken me decades to draw my boundary line around today.
What cash do I have available to me today? Not tomorrow or next week or next month. Today.
If it’s not there today, then I just have to wait until it is there.
Like Dave Ramsey says, decide to move at the speed of cash.
Whether you pay with cash or charge up your credit cards, pain and pleasure will always both be part of the experience.
You can either endure the pain of giving away the bucks, but then take pleasure in what you now own.
Or you can take great delight in buying something you don’t really have the money for, but then later experience the discomfort of paying it off with interest.
From now on, I’m letting the pleasure of buying something new be the consequence of enduring the pain to pay for it, instead of the other way around.
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