That also meant that the times I did decide to splurge on something like, say, going out for sushi, I appreciated it more. That sushi dinner felt special, and I savored every bite.
While I did run out of cash before the month ran out, I spent a lot less than I have in months past. Three strategies helped me stay on track:
I spent more time at home. I’ve often said that if you leave your New York City apartment, you might as well pay someone $40 to walk out the door because you’re likely to spend that much before you return. So I didn’t leave all that much. That turned out to be pretty easy since I work from home, have air-conditioning, and it was unusually hot out. If I did head out, I made a point of knowing where I was going and what it would cost me.
I found a partner to support my goals and hold me accountable. This one’s easy. My boyfriend is a musician and a part-time Apple employee. He has no margin for error on his budget, so he was all too pleased to hunker down with me. They say when you’re trying to get on a workout schedule, plan with a friend. (Several studies have found that we’re more likely to stick with an exercise routine if we do it with a friend or spouse.) Same goes for when you’re trying to stick to your budget.
I stayed off shopping sites. No more poking around on Garnet Hill “just to see what they’ve got.” It’s just too tempting--and too easy--to click and buy. Knowing I couldn't use cash to buy anything online anyway gave me an additional incentive to stay away.
Bottom line: I’m not likely to subsist on a cash-only existence. But I am sold on the practice of taking a wad of cash out on the first of the month and tracking its path. It helps me manage my cash flow and my expectations, rather than live with the illusion that my wallet is a cup and the ATM is offering free refills. I found that if I start with a full glass at the beginning of the month, I sip a lot slower. And it tastes better, too.