6 Tips for Moving to a Cash-Only Lifestyle

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Credit cards have become essential in the online world we live in, but data breaches in the news have raised privacy concerns regarding credit card security. Many people are transitioning back to a cash only lifestyle, and you could too with these tips.

In response to recent data breaches from credit card accounts at Target and Michael's, many shoppers are embracing a new payment method that guarantees personal privacy: cash. According to an Associated Press poll cited in The New York Times, 37 percent of respondents said they started buying more often with cash than card after the aforementioned data breaches. If you find yourself interested in a cash lifestyle but don't want to close your bank accounts and live off the grid, you might find an increased sense of security and control over your spending. Here are a few practical tips for managing your cash-based personal economy:

1. Use the "Envelope System"

Paying for daily expenses with cash can either make budgeting a snap or a swamp -- it all depends on how you manage your supply. You don't have to literally use envelopes, but if you separate cash for different purposes, then you'll be able to avoid over-spending on one category. You'll know when your lunch-money budget has been used up and realize you need to pack leftovers from home, all while leaving your gasoline fund untouched.

2. Don't Forget About Money Orders

Money orders are terrifically versatile payment tools that are often overlooked in today's digital banking universe. You can use them to pay for rent and utilities without showing off your bank account information. They're available at the post office, bank or retail outlet. No account numbers are needed and your recipient can cash it at any bank. While money orders are readily negotiable because -- unlike checks -- they have already been paid for. Best yet, they can also be replaced if lost or stolen.

3. Know Your Daily ATM Limit

Most banks limit on the amount of cash you're allowed to withdraw on any given day from an ATM. Being aware of this limit means that you'll be able to plan ahead if you want to make a large purchase spontaneously, or if going into a branch of your bank isn't feasible. Memorize your credit card PIN, so that in a bind you can withdraw a cash advance through an ATM. Credit cards charge high interest rates on cash advances, so keep this type of card use for emergencies and reimburse your account as soon as possible.

4. Ask for Smaller Bills

If you withdraw money at the bank, it might be tempting to request bills in fifty or one hundred dollar denominations for the pleasure of holding big bills, but these are inconvenient to spend. If you need a bottle of aspirin at the mini-mart and you only have a $50 bill in your wallet, you might be wary to split such a large bill. Putting your funds into $20 bills is wiser, as they're universally accepted and don't draw unwanted attention.

5. Choose a Creative Stash in Your Home

Obviously you shouldn't keep your life savings stuffed into your mattress, but keeping enough money for a week or two at your home is useful. It's important to exercise some basic self-protection against break-ins, and keep the cash in a non-obvious location. Small built-in wall safes are excellent, as are cleverly re-purposed food containers and books in a large bookshelf.

6. Save Up Pocket Change for Your Bank

Using cash for daily purchases means you'll have pocketfuls of coins at the end of each day. These coins pile up rapidly, and, if you've accumulated a five-pound jar of quarters, you may be tempted to just dump it into a grocery store coin machine. Bring your trove of loose coins into your bank instead, where they won't take a cut of your change. Once you put these simple tips into practice, you'll relish the sense of personal privacy that a cash-based personal finance system provides. Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan via Flickr.  


Betsy S.

Betsy S.

Washington, United States

I’m a professional content writer working exclusively through Scripted, and I have experience researching and writing on a broad range of topics. My employment background includes market consulting, real estate, non-profit organizing, healthcare-related social work and communi...

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