The only time I ever have cash is when I know I’m going somewhere that doesn’t accept card; seeing the dreaded sign ‘cash only’ is burden for many Londoners! Having cash, especially change, is not only a nightmare as I’m in fear of losing it in the depths of my handbag or in the hole in my jeans pocket, but it also seems slow and messy. Why would I pay with cash and then wait for my change, when I can tap my card, and be done?
Although there are obvious pros to being cash-less, don’t let me fool you, there are cons too. We are all guilty of buying that extra drink at the bar simply because we can or popping into the shop on the way home to get pasta sauce and coming out with the entire store because it is now easy and pain-free to do so. You don’t have to face the reality of what you’ve spent until you check your bank statement later (if you check it at all)!
This constant exchange led me to spend way over my budget, so I decided I would use only cash for a week to see how my spending habits would change. I put my card away and started fresh Monday morning with £50 to last me the week.
During the average day, I would buy at least two cups of coffee whilst out-and-about, but not today! Instead, I did the obvious and had my caffeine fix before I left the house and that was it for the day. You’ll be pleased to learn that I coped, and it was easy! Having to break into a £10 just for a cup of coffee didn’t seem worth it; I became much more aware of spending on the first day just by carrying cash. Monday’s are the busiest day of the week for me, however, so I did buy lunch which cost a fiver.
Tuesday, money left: £45
One annoying factor I encountered with going cash-only was when going to pay in a restaurant, it makes everything easier if you can tell your server how much you want to pay on your card and then simply tap. But no, here I am counting my pennies trying to find the exact amount rather than having to wait longer for my change to be given. Admittingly, it made me think about what I was going to eat as again I only had a certain amount of money on me. I, therefore, shared a pizza with my friend and had a coke, spending £10.
Wednesday, money left: £35
It is the middle of the week and I had a mid-week slump. It’s rare that I don’t pop into the local shop on my way home to pick up something I probably shouldn’t, the thing I find, though, is that I never leave with one thing. As in most stores, they have the ‘great value’ section, so I went in with simply £1 and that was enough to hinder my craving. Rather than spending the £5+ I usually would, giving myself a small amount of change was the best way to save money!
Thursday, money left: £34
Like most of us, the constant temptation of online shopping is always looming when you have a debit card. Making the process easier, online stores now remember your details and all it takes is one click to buy something. Going cash-only, however, stopped me from doing any online-shopping. Although to a certain extent it’s inconvenient if you desperately need an item of clothing, but if you are simply browsing and drawn into sales, then to only have cash is a godsend. I didn’t need to buy anything, and as I couldn’t, I saved a lot!
Friday, money left: £34
Friday is probably the most difficult day to only have cash, as Friday night is inevitably pub night! On a typical Friday, the merrier I get, the happier I am with tapping my card (and I never forget bags of Mini Cheddars for the table) and would therefore easily spend £20+. This week, however, I only took £10 cash, which I knew would get me two glasses of house white wine. It is so easy to overspend, especially if you have an overdraft, but going cash-only means you can only spend what you physically have, rather than borrowing from the bank and getting in debt.
Saturday, money left: £24
Ok imagine, it’s 11 pm, it’s freezing, and I need to get an Uber home… but no card means no Uber! Although there is the option of a Black Cab, I didn’t have enough in my budget to be spending £20 on travel when I could top-up my oyster with a fiver and still get home safely. Apart from this, I spent £10 in Asda buying food for dinner.
Sunday, money left: £9
It’s the end of the week and I have £9 left. Not only have I saved so much that I wouldn’t have if I had been using my card, but I have money remaining! On Sunday I spent nothing as I laid in bed all day watching Friends.
Altogether this experience was an awakening to how not only having cash is useful in certain situations, but also it has made me aware how easy it is to waste money now that cards are contactless. Learning to set yourself budgets and making sure that you stick to them is crucial and checking your account balance really makes reality hit.