I was very determined, to help me get back on track with my budget, to use only cash for this month. There is of course some bills that needed to be paid online but I really wanted to use cash for any other transactions. For the most part, I was successful and if you're curious, please read on for my thoughts on how things went.
After taking into account my major bills, I split the rest of my money into four categories: food (groceries/going out to eat), transportation (gas), personal (to be used for anything else I need or want to buy, including gifts for others), and savings. I set a weekly amount for each category and withdrew it on pay day, except for savings as I'm doing the 52 week money challenge at the moment. I also had a notebook to write down every transaction.
It was rather odd to have cash on me at all times but something I got used to rather quickly. I usually only take cash out when I need it (like if I know I need to get gas, I'll estimate the amount it'll cost and withdraw that). It also made me extremely conscious of how much I had and that that amount was what I had to work with.
I've attempted doing an 'all cash diet' in the past but never made it past halfway through the month. Mostly because I would be lazy and forget to write down where the money went. This time around, I sat down at night to record things if I bought anything that day. I think things went more smoothly during this attempt because I was making such a conscious effort to write things down (it also helps you remember just how much money you have available to you).
The biggest problem I had was concerning the 'personal' category. I generally don't go out shopping all that much, and when I do, it's for something specific so I can just get in and out quickly. Online shopping, however, is another thing entirely. I can spend hours window shopping online which can be very dangerous (however, I'm able to give a great wishlist for gift ideas to family). I did order some things from Villainess when they announced their anniversary sale, so to compensate that, I did not pull money out that week for 'personal'. I'm trying to think of a way to work out this category so I can do some online shopping when it can fit in my budget (have to take into consideration shipping costs as well so ordering something really needs to be worth it).
Did I overspend this month? Yes and no. Someone is being very nice and picking up for me two bottles of BPAL that are exclusive to Dragon*Con. However, I got some money from my grandma which covers it; I would have gone over my budget otherwise. So, not 100% successful in this endeavor, but I did far better than I though and I'm going to stick with it. I did see a big difference in my spending habits this month which was the entire point of this exercise. So, I think I can cross off this goal on the List.
If anyone is looking to do something similar, I recommend this site. I used her Budget Binder format to keep track of things in my notebook and she has some really good advice (I really enjoy watching her shows on CNBC, especially Princess).