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Blog: If Your Money Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy
The Results of my "Cash or Credit Card Experiment"

I have concluded my eight week experiment, however it has felt more like an adventure instead, of using my credit card instead of my cash envelopes. I have written many points on how using cash is so beneficial and helps you stick to a budget better.  I got curious and wanted to change things up a bit in the beginning of January so I decided I would try using my credit card instead of taking cash out for my everyday expenses like groceries, gas, household items, clothing, dining, etc.  What if those credit card points are worth it?  To get the points quickly, what better to do than charge those things I buy most often.  I let my husband know that I was going to start my experiment so he wouldn't wonder what in the world was happening with our credit card balance.  So here are the results of my experiment and my conclusion on which monetary vice I  plan on using in the future.  I think the results were quite interesting and in the economic times we are living in I really got some insight about cash vs. credit.  Don't we want to maximize everything we can right now?  So join me as I share the cash vs. credit card experiment results.
Our pay periods are the first and the fifteenth of every month so it is easy to budget, especially pre-budget in Quicken.  I usually work on my next month's budget about two weeks to a month in advance.  Sometimes looking at the whole month helps me see if there is extra money after the first two weeks.  Instead of using it on something right away, I check to see if I need the leftover money for the last two weeks…are you still following?  I hope that didn't sound too complicated.  I usually have an entry in my Quicken register for "Cash" and then "split" that amount into my cash categories that I listed above (groceries, gas, etc.) in my register entry.  So I kept the running balance or guesstimate balance in my head how much I put on my credit card versus how much cash I would have taken out.  For instance, let's say $200 was my two week budget for groceries.  If I went to the store and bought $100 at one store and $25 at another store for groceries I knew I had $75 left. 
Here's how my weeks went on a two-week basis:
January 1-15.  Things went good.  I was able to keep track of our "would be cash items", like I shared above, and paid our credit card back right away.  Maybe this was a good idea.  I'm getting points on my credit card and staying in my budget.  Actually spending less in some categories since I know I will have to pay it off and stay in my budget.  The hubby is spending less than his two week spending money too.
January 16-31.  It is still going pretty good.  A little bit harder to keep track of, but I did pay off our entire balance of our credit card which makes me feel good.  I did spend more than what I did the first two weeks.  I got off budget somewhat, not too bad though. I have to admit it was a little too easy to whip the credit card out because I guesstimated that I could pay it off pretty easy.  Tried to keep in budget for birthdays too, I had some birthday parties to go to and the kids both have birthdays in these two weeks and I had a family party for them.  We also had to take a trip to the beach for my husband's work.
February 1-15  My husband's promotion went through and hopefully we will see the increase in pay by the end of the month.  Since I know we will get back-pay for the month I decided to pay off a couple of outstanding medical bills worth about $400.  I also thought I would start finishing up my daughter's room and since the comforter set was on sale I would buy it.  Valentines Day was coming up and I needed to get some Valentine gifts.   My husband was happy to be getting his promotion and wanted to spoil me and get caught up on a gift he promised me since our second child was born, who just turned two (he promised to buy me diamonds every time we had a child) and wanted to get me diamond earrings.  What better day to give them to me than Valentines Day?  They were beautiful and a pretty expense on the ole credit card too.  He also makes an elaborate dinner for me on Valentines and our anniversary so we spent extra on our groceries.  He also checked out a gun range and was able to get a membership there much less than what another one was offering so he bought a family membership, on the credit card.  I found a few more cute things for the house, put them on the credit card.  Need to pay off some clothes I bought too.  Found some great deals though.  We should be getting the raise on the March 1 paycheck. 
February 16-March 1.  Raise did not come through yet and won't until the next pay period (hopefully).  The alternator went out on the car. Thank goodness we have some money in savings to cover emergencies.  Business trips for my husband always go on the credit card and I can repay the credit card for those items.  Everything else is still sitting on the balance.  I have more receipts to enter into Quicken than I want to, but fortunately I started downloading them from online so I don't have to enter them all directly.  The balance is higher on our credit card than I expected it to be…what did we buy?  Even though I was able to get triple coupons at a grocery store and double coupons at a store I buy my household items at I feel like the interest is going to eat up my good savings.  I do not really feel like this is worth it at this point.  I feel like I have lost touch with our budget and have no idea how much I have spent on our cash categories.  I ended up just putting our "Cash" category money straight to our credit card to help pay down the balance instead of pay it off.  Interest is going to eat up good savings and I am thinking the plane ticket I am earning would be much more worth it and easier to put money aside for a trip in a savings account or money market account.  I feel frustrated and not in control.  I can really understand why and how people can get into credit card debt fast! 
My conclusions:
  • No, credit cards are not worth it if you can't stay within your budget or have a budget to set spending boundaries. 
  • It is very easy to buy and then try figure out how you're going to pay for it, and unless you've saved for it, the money won't just show up but the interest on your statement will!
  • I realize if I want to use my credit card for items that are out of the ordinary, first save for them, then purchase it on the credit card and pay it off with the money saved, not depending on maybe future money that will cover the cost.  Funny how car repairs or other expenses happen at the worst times!
  • Take the credit card OUT of your wallet or purse if you don't want to use it…those "points" will whisper to you at the checkout "think of all the points you could get with this purchase".   They usually win.
  • In tough economic times, create control in your finances and stay out of the path of least resistance.  Planning, budgeting and being wise really do pay off. 
  • I can't wait for the raise to come through so I can pay off our stupid credit card! 
  • Instead of "interest" on my credit card I want MY interest to stay focused on keeping out of debt! 
  • We have planned on buying a new vehicle this year (after faithfully keeping our brand new cars we bought 10 years ago) and I need to stay focused on our budget so I can put a good chunk of our checks in the bank to save up as much as possible to put as much cash down as possible…I will NOT be able to do that using my credit card like this.
  • Yep, cash is better.  Unless you use your credit card in an unusually disciplined manner, and I mean disciplined, it can get the best of us in some trouble. 
  • I can't wait to have cash in my hand again and have no guilt!

posted on: 3/4/2009 11:30:00 AM by Triste Horrell
category: Finances

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Discuss This Post

by CY on 4/29/2009 1:40:41 PM:

hello...hello.. interesting read. I gave my parent's credit card to them, and decided to use my EFTPOS card/debit card. I used to do that when I was in Australia. the Eftpos system really allowed everyone to use their ATM cards and spend within their budget.. but in Malaysia, it seems that everyone i know has a credit card... and yes.. the interest rate that comes with it. never really remember it... I guess I have to start from zero again to learn to save for the things I need, rather than thinking about my image and have the temptation to spend on a credit card... LOL.

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If Your Money Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy

by Triste Horrell

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About Triste:

Being an organizing expert makes one want to be a "showroom" in all areas of life. However reality can hit hard when you're a mother of small children and a military wife and own an organzing business. Of course Triste would like to have a picture perfect Better Home and an even Better Garden. Throw a Pottery Barn in the backyard for exceptional creative time to become the wiz-woman for all the ideas and inventions that the world could not live without. But Triste has settled on the fact of telling herself "I can be perfect in my mind and no one can mess up my space there!" In reality Triste is very self-motivated and has true business accomplishments like having SYSTEMIZE since 1997, the first home and business organizing firm in the state of South Carolina. She has been repeatedly recognized in her Greenville, SC area for her organizing expertise and makeovers on local NBC and FOX news, Greenville News, local magazines such as Greenville Magazine and Upstate Parent and NPR radio. She has turned people's lives around by focusing on what she calls the "four building blocks of being organized" consisting of space, time, financial and personal. This is even represented in her business logo. "That's what I'm in business for, turning people's lives around!" Also applying her popular 3 Steps to Systemize have not only organized her clients but KEPT them organized for years.

Triste's Website:


Downtime Activities

  • Reading Magazines
  • Spending time at our cottage
  • Keeping our Westie pretty
  • Putting tealights around after the kids are in bed
  • Adventures with my awesome hubby
  • Making microwave smores...just for me
    1 graham cracker, broken in half 1 small piece of chocolate 1 big marshmellow On one side of cracker put piece of chocolate and marshmellow on top. Place in microwave and heat for approx. 17 seconds (while cooking replace marshmellow on top of chocolate if needed). Put other half of cracker on top, eat and enjoy and watch out for oozing chocolate!

My Organizing Tool-Box

  • Time - Outlook
    This is a great way to keep papers off the desk and track where you need to go, task list, jot down quick notes on the virtual "post-its, keep up with contacts in the virtual Rolodex
  • Personal Finances - Quicken
    This simple yet practical program keeps your bank accounts in tact...did I mention simple?!
  • Business Finances - QuickBooks
    I have used this program for years and have set many clients up on it. It is a must for keeping track of business transactions and keeping tax time easy...push a few buttons and out come the reports, your done and your tax preparer loves you.
  • Space - turntables
    I love these things! You can put them in cabinets, the fridge, garage, and closets. They are inexpensive, easy to find and available at any discount store and you can even find fancier ones. If you are not sure what they are, they are the white (or other fancier kinds) and spin around like a lazy susan, you can have a single or double-tier one for spices.
  • Personal - Magazines and Internet
    I love to look at magazines and the internet for good articles on personal development, pictures for decorating inspiration and fun projects to do with my family. I keep my magazine subscriptions to a minimum (3) so I can read them and enjoy each one. I look for things on some of my favorite websites for whatever fancies me at that time.
  • Online Recipe Boxes
    Use these on some of your favorite websites, bring the laptop into the kitchen while the recipe is up and you never have to have the paper clutter. One of my and my husbands favorites is Williams-Sonoma.

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