It’s pretty amazing to me how spending money with a card feels so different from cash. I get stingy with cash, especially small amounts — but past a certain amount, cash becomes a ‘wad’ and looses meaning. I had this experience when buying a Craigslist car, I had 5 G’s in my pocket. It would have felt the same to carry $700 or $10,000… it’s just a big roll of paper.
With cards, it’s a (seemingly) bottomless pit of swipe swipe swipe. I’m less aware of the amounts involved. There’s no feedback from the process besides the receipt you get back, and the numbers on the receipt are kind of small. Besides, how can you tell how much you have left?
That’s easy with cash - you give someone a twenty, and you get $1.62 back. The experience of getting back change is so dramatic compared to seeing $18.38 on a register and just swiping your card and getting on with it.
So, for me, bank accounts are great for managing large amounts of money, and cash is great for managing small amounts. Of course, small amounts of money turns to large amounts over time!
I’ve been tracking all my spending to the penny for several years now. I’m a big fan of the YNAB (google it) budgeting methodology. The biggest benefit to me has been forcing me to categorize every single expense. Yesterday, I went to Target and bought office supplies, paper towels, Armor All car wipes, pita chips, and kombucha. Out of sheer habit, I dutifully split the whole transaction into parts to match my budget line items — Household, Groceries, Treats, and Car Maintenance. Yay! I actually really enjoy the splitting, I’m a huge data nerd and doing this feels productive.
Unfortunately, all this work doesn’t really help me control my spending! The Treats line item in my budget exploded in red for the last 3 weeks. I half-blame Krishna Lunch for not serving during break week. I got into the habit of going out for lunch and it turned into a 3 week addiction where my per day lunch expenses exploded from $6-7 to over $16! Shit!
I could have adjusted, cooked leftovers or something like that, but I didn’t have awareness of what I was doing until it was time to review the numbers and see the big picture view.
So, for September, I’m trying something different.
I’ve taken my debit card out of my wallet. I bought a binder and put 8 clear pockets in it. The first pocket is labeled “This Month”, and the other 7 are “Monday - Sunday”, one for each day of the week.
Once a month, I’ll withdraw a wad of cash for all my treats for the month, and each week I’ll split it amount the days. Right now, I have $6 in my wallet, $10 in my Monday folder, a $20 in the Tuesday folder, and another $20 in the Thursday folder. Next Saturday, I’ll replenish the folders for the week.
The amounts I chose to give myself are about 10% lower than my average spending for the past 5 months. So I’m challenging myself to spend a little less, but not by much. I feel like I can do this. The real challenge is giving up the swipe habit. I know I’m going to face that moment where I’m out of cash and craving Karma Cream, but the only money available to me is marked “Thursday” and it’s only Monday.
I’m feeling good about this. Wish me luck!
With all the election related political stuff going on, I've been thinking about what my responsibilities are as a citizen to participate in the political process.
I’m feeling some helplessness about it — It seems inevitable that either Clinton or Trump will be President — and I do not support either of them. But deeper than that, I’m usually scared to even bring up politics in my daily life.
I’m blessed to have lots of space in my life for listening and sharing — and yet it rarely feels appropriate or safe to talk about politics. I feel like the potential for emotional charge with politics is so large, it’s usually not worth bringing up. I’m dissatisfied with this.
I do occasionally have political discussions with close friends. Since I associate mostly with like-minded people, it feels a little like an echo chamber sometimes. I’d like to debate a little, hear different opinions, and have my ideas and beliefs tested.
I’ve thought about engaging online, but it’s hard to really connect with others that way. I don’t think I’ve ever changed my mind on a major political position because of an online comment or Facebook post. It seems clear - person-to-person, with respect and empathy, is the most productive way to have political discussions. I’m setting an intention to open up a little and bring these thoughts and issues up with anyone interested that I interact with face to face, even if it feels risky.