Before we were able to plan our trip, we had to get a handle on our finances. Like many, the mid-2000s found us in more debt than we would have liked and 2009 included the bonus of Bret being laid off from his job. At that point we figured we’d never be able to realize our goal of taking the kids on an extended family trip.
Our church was offering the Dave Ramsey course, Financial Peace University, and we quickly moved to an all cash system. I was not was not a fan of this, and took it as a personal affront that anyone would suggest that using strictly cash could make me more frugal than I already was. I was already clipping coupons using The Grocery Game, and I had loosely budgeted categories for my spending. I was using a debit card for all purchases. I really didn’t see how using only cash could change things but decided that I would try the system for one month to prove I was right and that it wouldn’t help us save more money than we already were.
How wrong I was. I had long heard that using cash caused a mental switch that paying with a debit card did not, but I didn’t believe it until I was paying for groceries with $20 bills. I found myself going to the pantry more to find food we already had or adjusting recipes to take in account food on hand rather than making five trips to the grocery store each week. The savings were monumental, thousands of dollars the first year. Thousands of dollars the first year. This isn’t something I’m proud of, rather I’m dumbfounded that I didn’t realize it sooner. Paying with cash really caused me to think about the $2 and $3 purchases I used to make without thinking about it and it virtually eliminated food sitting in my pantry going unopened and unused.
Sometimes little changes can have big effects and this is definitely one of those times. After a year on the program, we were back on the road towards our dream, but it is a program we still use today and plan to always use in the future.