Since moving to a more expensive (and totally worth it!) apartment we have really had to buckle down and be very disciplined with our cash. And one thing that has helped is using . . . cash!
We have adopted the jar system recommended by Gail Vaz Oxlade, though I have never seen her show or read about the system, but rather got the run-down from a friend who was trying it.
Our system is a bit different, but the powerful parts are 1) using actual cash–it really is harder to spend than invisible bank card money–and 2) having a “term” that renews on a set schedule. For us this is weekly, for others it may be bi-weekly or monthly.
Basically, we have a few jars on top of our fridge, which we add funds to on a weekly basis. Our jar configuration is one way our system is a bit different. We have a jar for grocery money (this includes toiletries, cat supplies, cleaning supplies, vitamins, etc), and a jar for each of us: me, my partner, and the kids share one.
Every week, we get an allowance that is to cover clothes, make-up, going out, books, coffee, craft supplies, anything that is personal and fun. The kids’ money is to cover things like homeschooling supplies, clothes, museum passes, etc.
One great thing about this system is that it has brought our discretionary spending under control. It is one thing to talk about how it all adds up, and another thing to look at a limited amount of cash money for the week and decide how you want to spend it.
Suddenly $5 at Starbucks doesn’t look so piddly when you know at the end of the week you’ll have nothing left in case you want to go out for a coffee with friends or buy that latest political biography.
The key I think to our success with it is that our amounts are quite sufficient. Every week I have grocery money left over that I can then put towards stocking up on sale items or making bigger bulk purchases. And having a little bit of fun money each week keeps us from feeling deprived.
Our weak points are that we have some money that is left unaccounted for in our account, and several types of expenses that we label “general funds”. Once we have a better idea of what our bills are at the new place I would like to get that leftover amount into cash as well.
And eventually I would love to see a big jar labelled “savings” that just keeps getting fuller and fuller 🙂