Last week my debit card got canceled because of fraudulent activity. Not a big deal (to me at least). I was far more upset that they canceled my card. How exactly am I supposed to access my money now? On the phone my bank told me I could get rush shipped a card in 2 days or I could go to a branch and get a card. I chose the latter (this is foreshadowing of what a mistake this choice was). The next day I went to a branch (first time in a bank since I bought my house 4 years ago), but they only gave me an ATM card. They told me they’d submit a request for a debit card which I’d receive in 7 business days. Wait what? Doh. Now, for the eternity that is 7 days all I have is this ATM card.
Couple of things: First, I didn’t even know ATM cards existed. Second, I don’t do cash. It’s annoying. I don’t like carrying a big wallet (I just have a little thing that holds a few cards) and I don’t like paying with cash because it’s irritating and slow. And because I’m too impatient to give exact change, I end up with seven dollars in change weighing down my purse. So, being the resourceful human that I am, I decided I would just use my credit card for a few days until my debit card came in the mail. I keep an open credit card just because it makes me feel safe. It doesn’t have a balance and I haven’t swiped it in a store in about a year. So when I went to use it at a store for the first time, I realized it was bent and wouldn’t swipe. Womp womp. Pete has a blog post about your card getting declined being the reality check you’ve been needing. For me it was a death knell. Now I’d have to use cash for a whole week. Gross.
Here was my process of getting cash:
- Where is an ATM? Googled it.
- How does an ATM card work? Turns out, same as a debit card.
- Remember that there are fees for not using your bank’s ATM. Doh.
- Attempt to jam cash into my baby wallet that was not designed for anything larger than a stack of 4 cards.
- Proceed to ask every cashier I encountered, “Do you accept cash?” The third cashier I asked looked at me with such derision and said, “Are you serious? Yes, everywhere accepts cash.” Got it. #millennialproblems
My week of cash use was interesting. I went into it as just an annoying thing that happened to me, but it ended being exactly what my budget needed. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been struggling to keep up with a budget. Mostly because I get busy and forget, and also because I was doing it sort of backwards. At the end of the month I’d go through all my transactions and put them into an Excel spreadsheet. It’s great that I was keeping track, but by doing it at the end of the month all the mistakes had already been made. There was no point where I was checking to see if I was on track throughout the month. So when I had to start using cash for a week, I learned fast that spending $35 on jeans meant I now have $35 less than what I originally withdrew for the week. I had to actually count my money before going to the grocery store. If I had planned on spending around $60 at the grocery store but only had $50 in cash left after an unplanned stop at Old Navy, well then, I better figure out what’s getting cut on my grocery list. It was sort of ground breaking for me (and yes, I am embarrassed by that).
During my cash week I started keeping track of my spending on my phone in my Notes app. It’s just a simple list broken down into categories like gas, groceries, and stuff I don’t need (yes, that’s a real category). Now, instead of waiting until the end of the month, I’m updating my list as I make purchases. Which isn’t as bad as it sounds because I don’t make purchases that often. When I budget daily it takes 2 seconds, back when I waited until the end of the month it took me 15 minutes (and it wasn’t that helpful). So far the daily method is working out for me. But we’ll see, my debit card replacement arrived last night so we’ll see how I do when my plastic temptation is in my blessedly flat wallet.
Jasmin is Vice President of Marketing & Operations for Pete the Planner®. Jasmin runs special projects, manages programming for clients, and stews over new and creative ways to engage people with their finances. In her downtime you can find Jasmin hanging a light fixture or painting a room at her fixer upper.