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The One-Month Cash Challenge

Another month, another batch of bills in your mailbox. Sometimes it feels like the end of your paycheck always come before the end of the month. Where the heck does all that money go anyway?

Do you really want to know? Because you can find out . . . and it won’t even be that hard. It just takes a little time, tracking and tenderness with your moola.

So before you dust off the treadmill and start adding kale and seaweed butter to your grocery list, make a resolution to get your money in shape with our cash challenge.

This Cash Challenge Is Easier Than You Think

Wait, is this easier than returning (or regifting) all those informative books from Aunt Betsy who thinks you’re really into birdwatching for some reason? Absolutely! Just follow these simple steps:

1. Make a budget.

Before you can win, you need a plan to win. In the money world, we call that plan a budget.

Hopefully you don’t think “budget” is a curse word—because it’s not a binding agreement with your finances to never spend a dime on fun again. It’s a way to see all the money you’re earning and spending so you aren’t standing at that bill-filled mailbox wondering if your bank account is ready for action.

Lucky for you, budgeting has never been easier. Our free budgeting app, EveryDollar (aka the best budgeting app), lets you create your first budget in as little as 10 minutes. You can pop about three bags of popcorn in that time.

2. Pick your cash-only categories.

After you make your budget for the month, pick some categories to make cash-only. Write down the total amount of cash you’ll need for each. Then go to the bank, pull out the cash, and divvy up your money into envelopes so you can start using it. It’s that easy!

Stumped on what categories to make just for cash? Try the ones you tend to overspend on:

  • Grocery Money—Stock your fridge and pantry, and keep the amount budgeted for restaurants separate.
  • Restaurant Money—Make sure you include enough for tip and tax!
  • Household Goods Money—Think shampoo, toilet paper, beard balm, razors, diapers, etc.
  • Entertainment Money—Enjoy movies, mystery dinner theater tickets, concerts, or kids’ museums with this cash.
  • Clothing Money—Hello, post-holiday sales. Get into my shopping cart. 
  • Fun Money—This is your stash. Use it for any self-indulgence you want.

3. Don’t spend more than what’s in the envelope.

The whole point of this cash-only approach is so you can watch the money physically going out. You can see how much is left. You can touch it. You can smell it. You can taste it (though we strongly don’t recommend that).

You’ll know when the money’s about to be gone and you’ll know when it is gone. When that happens, the spending stops. Which means no more overspending. This is how you take control of your money!

4. Budget every month before the month begins.


And yeah, it’s just a one-month challenge—but it takes some time to see how the spending really goes so you can adjust your category totals. Don’t get discouraged! Creating new habits always come with a few bumps. Just keep going and expect things to stop being rocky after the first three months.

Is Using Cash Really Worth It?

Maybe you like the idea of using cash in theory. But do people realistically use cash nowadays? This isn’t 1999, after all. You really don’t want to deal with the headache of writing and mailing checks again or paying inside the gas station.

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Have we got some good news for you! You don’t have to do that. We’re not suggesting you eliminate modern-day conveniences like automatic bill payments or swiping your debit card at the gas pump. (We’d never send you back to the Dark Ages).

We like using cash because it puts you back in control of your money. You won’t longer be wondering how much you have left to spend on your date night or coffee run because if there’s still money in the envelope, you’re good to go! If it’s getting low, you may want to scale back or return that punny mug you bought on an impulse.

Cash Is King

Still not convinced? Here are even more reasons why cash is king!

What you have is what you get.

Unlike with credit cards, your cash envelopes (thankfully) can’t deliver an endless stream of purchasing power. If you don’t spend wisely, you won’t spend at all. Habits change in a hurry the first time you empty your restaurant envelope a week before your next paycheck. Seven days of eating PB&J sandwiches or chicken noodle soup may be the best overdraft protection there is.

You spend less when you use cash.

Plastic doesn’t hurt like cash. Once you’ve spent some quality time with Benjamin Franklin, you’ll think twice before sending him to a cold, hard cash-register coffin. A study on spending behavior found that swiping a card actually encourages you to spend more.(1) But when you use cash, you’ll naturally find yourself shopping around, looking for deals, and spending less.

Cash can get you a deal.

There’s no better bargaining tactic than a pocketful of cash. It works better on salespeople than a pocketful of kryptonite on Superman. Try spreading the scent of cash around the next time you’re hunting for a car. Fun is sure to follow.

Your identity is safe.

Sick of database breaches? So are we! Cash won’t reveal your name, address or Social Security number. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Cash is convenient.

From your daughter’s piano teacher to the oh-so-cute kids fundraising in front of the grocery store, there are just some times in life when cash is still the easiest way to pay.

Purchases become a blessing, not a curse.

When you avoid debt, something incredible happens: Your brand-new transmission, reupholstered reading chair, and even your favorite cereal won’t accrue interest—ever.

Get Started on the Cash Challenge

In order to fully enjoy the benefits of using cash, all you have to do is swing by the bank and take cash some out. Now you’re ready to budget well, spend less, and bargain more.

When you cash-flow your expenses, you learn the benefits of cash you didn’t even know existed! We doubt you’ll ever want to go back. Give it a try next month and see for yourself. And if you need a little encouragement or want to brag (and you will), share your progress on Facebook and Instagram. Hashtag it up with #cashisking2019. (Plus, it rhymes.)

Budgeting with cash is only the beginning! Make this the year you take control of your money and stop overspending for good. Financial Peace University, Dave’s nine-lesson course, can help you reach your money goals in 2019!

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Ramsey Solutions

About the author


Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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