I have a surprise for you. Are you ready for this?
Here it is:
When you don't have a job, you don't have money!
You're shocked, right?!
I'm not, because I did this already, a year and a half ago. I'm so over being poor.
I'm also a little restless and bored.
So I took on a challenge. It's not a unique challenge, and it's not even a cool and hip young-person challenge. Oh, no.
This is a challenge from the Guru of Greenbacks herself, Suze Orman!
Last December, she declared that to get back at rising credit card interest rates and fees, people shouldn't buy on credit anymore and just do cash: a Back to Cash Movement!
This summer she had a guest on the show who took the challenge and tried to only use cash for a month and felt successful in managing her spending. I found this intriguing, and so, knowing that I have a very limited amount of money to spend period, I would give it a try. Especially because the last of the wedding bills came through this month (on credit cards).
[I'm actually very responsible with credit cards. I almost always pay the complete amount. If that's not at all possible, I pay as much as I can (a big chunk, way way more than the minimum). My first year of teaching (classroom supplies, school clothes, rent, books for grad school) required so much money that I was in debt the whole time--somehow I had to keep charging as much as I paid each month off the balance. So it took a little more than a year to finally get rid of that. Early last year I had a huge car repair right after I got fired, and without a real job, it took three or four months to pay it off.]
But I've been really good about not putting things on credit cards (other than wedding stuff), and it's easy to keep those pretty clear. So my motivation with this challenge wasn't fighting debt out of desperation. It wasn't about drowning in credit card interest. (Thank god.) It was more about freaking out that I still have regular bills to pay (cell phone, car insurance, other things), in addition to things like FOOD, and only what was left in my bank account. If nothing goes into it, how long will that last? How smart am I being with what little I have?
I do get reckless when I have a job. I'm not talking dropping hundreds of dollars on useless toys, trinkets, toys. But I won't say no to a reasonable urge: I'll buy a book or two here. I'll buy a few clothes there. I'll have a few drinks out with friends. I'll buy a plane ticket! (For a vacation, not just any old time, obviously! :D) I spend money because I have money. (I also save it, of course. But naturally, saving is the first thing to go when I don't have an income. I can't spare anything for later if there's not much coming in now!)
So, back to the plan. First I reviewed my spending on mint.com and then set up a very spartan monthly budget plan. I decided I would only use cash for everything possible--groceries ($80 regular plus $100 for Costco), restaurants ($30), transportation ($20), and miscellaneous/shopping ($50). So that's a grand total of $260 to last me an entire month.
I have one week left and less than twenty dollars to get me there. There's no way I'm going to make it.
I'll provide a full report once the month is over!