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The Good Enough Mother Experiment: Could You Live On Cash Alone?


The Good Enough Mother Experiment:
Could You Live On Cash Alone?

Those of you who follow me on Twitter  or my Facebook page know I’ve taken the kids south for a little downtime. We have a place outside Charleston, so every chance we get we pile into the car and head down south for a little R & R. It’s a place we can go for a lot of fun and just a little money and in this day and age, that hard to beat!

I’ve always had something of a love-hate relationship with money, cemented when I hit my first speed bump in math back in the 6th grade. Now, nearly four decades later, it still haunts me; I can count on one hand the number of times I have successfully balanced a checkbook and I’m constantly pulling out my American Express card out when it really should stay nestled in my beat-up wallet.

So for this trip, Buff, in an effort to maintain some sort of family fiscal solvency, confiscated said card and in its place, gave me a small piece of paper that actually turned out to be quite empowering! I’d heard people use this term before and the word look vaguely familiar when I spied it at the top of the page. Perhaps you’ve heard of it before? It’s called a budget.

Now before you castigate me for not living within a budget, let me explain that I married a man a lot like my own father; Buff loves to cook and take care of the finances, so I never jumped in there because I didn’t have to. And I will concede that was my first mistake. Like dieting, it’s impossible to lose weight if you don’t know how many calories you’re taking in; you need to keep track. The same principles apply when living within a budget.  Yes, I am aware this is budgeting 101 and that most people know this. Cut me some slack.

So we got to Charleston with money to spare in the gas, food and lodging budget, by using only cash or a debit card and I was feeling pretty proud of my efforts too. And then it happened. A day later, on a trip to the grocery store, I had my epiphany. This budget thing didn’t pen me in as much as it freed me because I knew what the boundaries were. And then it became a game; a challenge to see how far I could stay under budget while still buying the things I needed. Dare I say it? It was exhilarating! For once, I stuck to the list and as much as I hated it, I did the math, figuring out what to buy to get more for my money. Casey and I raced through the store, clutching the list and did not deviate once! I hope you understand what a monumental thing that was for me, whose favorite four-letter word is SALE!

When we checked out, I used a few coupons and the store’s loyalty rewards program and managed to save another six bucks. I was nearly walking on air as we wheeled our loot out to the car. Why? Because I came in 80 bucks under budget! No one is suffering, no one is going hungry, we still have money for recreational activities and everyone is happy, especially Buff. And me too, actually. I don’t feel pressure to buy stuff to make the kids or me, happy. And speaking of the kids, I’ve even told them, when they ask if they can do or have something this trip, that I need to check the budget because we might not be able to afford it. Guess what? No screaming, begging, pleading, just an acceptance that this is the way it’s going to be.  I’m enjoying this so much, I’ve decided to try to do this in my regular life at home too.

So I had an idea. If you don’t already, why not try it with me for the rest of this week? Holster the credit cards and just pay cash or debit. Live off a list and within a budget and see how you feel. Let’s do this! Can you live on cash and not charge a single purchase to your credit card for the next few days?

Leave a comment here if you’re game, and then I’ll check in at the end of the weekend to see how you’ve done. Make sure to share any money saving tips you come across – and where you struggle!

Hey, if I can do, anyone can! So what do you say? Are you game for trying out our first Good Enough Mother experiment…?


  1. Sara (PassPorter Mom SV)

    July 19, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    I’m already doing it! We started a debt reduction plan last year and are about a year and a half away from being completely debt free except for our mortgage. We have closed all our credit cards and are paying them off one by one.

    There are times when it flat out sucks (like when I yearning for a pair of shoes spotted in the Nordstrom shoe department or craving a meal at our favorite plurge restaurant) but for the most part it has been a real lesson on the meaning of “need” versus “want.”

    I’m hoping it keeps our son from falling into the same financial traps we did!

  2. Nicole

    July 19, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    2 weeks ago after buying my groceries and at the urging of frugalista. I decided to live on $100 for the week. That meant parking, gas, and lunch. I ended the week with $4 to spare. I felt good about that. I am trying to do it weekly.

  3. m.e. johnson

    July 19, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    I really have no business here because for a great portion of my life there were only 2 things: cash and lay-away. Except for a house, car or farm implement you got nothing before it was paid for. You had to be trusted beyond redemption to have an account at the n’hood grocers and you paid it off weekly with cash. So I prefer cash. I can keep up with what I spend better. For some expensive items I can get a discount for paying cash (They save on billing, keeping records, etc.). I just like counting it. If I didn’t have to have a credit card for travel, hotels, paypal, etc., I wouldn’t. I’ve closed all but one.

    Daughter is new age. She’ll charge a pack of gum. But she was born frugal so has no problem.

  4. The Frugalista

    July 19, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    This is music to my ears. Credit is so…so…2007! 🙂

    Good luck with the challenge!

  5. Randy Palmer

    July 19, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    As said, good luck. I wish I could try something like this, but not in my industry.

  6. Wendy

    July 21, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    I’ve been doing this for years already too! I got rid of American Express years ago and got rid of all of my credit cards and only use my debt card.

    I just finally convinced my husband to do the same!

    As for the kids who can go “window” shopping 24 hours a day thanks to the internet, I’ve told them I will only make purchases on Fridays for a specific dollar amount. For every outburst during the week or any mess-ups with school, I deduct the dollar amount based on the severity of the situation. Sometimes they’ll get nothing on Friday and sometimes I’ll spend the entire specific dollar amount.

    I try to make dinner at home as often as I can but lately have fallen off the wagon. But plan to get back on after the summer because when doing so, I really save a lot of dough!

    I’ve been on a real purging kick lately and I’m trying to teach my family how there’s a lot of stuff we could do without. When they see all of the stuff that’s being either thrown-out or donated, they tend to agree.

  7. Auntie Lisa

    July 24, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    No can do… I’m too in love with all the rewards points I rack up, letting me get free airline tickets! We pay off our whole credit card balance(s) each month, so the interest is no worry. We are quite frugal, too. 🙂 This last vacation, we spent most nights in a tent… wearing mostly thrift-store clothing!

  8. Katie

    July 25, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    What is this foreign word… “Credit”?

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