One of the biggest psychological weaknesses I still carry with me, even after my financial turnaround, is the desire to spend the physical cash in my pocket. I have no problem keeping the credit cards in check, but if I have loose cash in my pocket that’s not perfectly accounted for, some little devil pops up on my shoulder and whispers all sorts of bad ideas in my ear. The next thing I know, the cash in my pocket vanishes and I suddenly only have something entirely unnecessary to show for it.
Here’s a great example. I had been tossing around the idea of picking up a game for my Wii for a long while, but usually when I toss around such things, they never come to fruition. Well, I loaned some money to a person a while back and that person repaid me – in cash.
Now, the smart part of my brain wanted me to do the sensible thing: take it to my bank immediately and put it in my checking account. And that’s ultimately what I did …. after stopping long enough to buy that unnecessary Wii game. I now have a new game to play, but my bad choice here basically caused money that should have been in my checking account instead disappearing into the ether.
This is a psychological hurdle that I’m constantly working to leap over. Here are some of the things I’ve done to help out.
Avoid the cash economy as much as possible. Sometimes you really need to use cash, though, like when I visit a farmer’s market. If I absolutely have to have cash on me, I get it at the last possible second and only get what I really believe I’ll need out of the cash machine.
Find something productive to spend it on if I must spend it. The last time I had cash in hand, I went to the grocery store and bought baking supplies – a second bread pan, a bunch of baker’s yeast, some dried fruit, a bunch of fresh vegetables, and so on. I burnt right through the cash, but it was stuff that I ate at home that was delicious.
Find other uses for the cash that separates it from me. I often like to change it into dollar coins, because I use these for money illustrations with my son and, because of that, I don’t view the dollar coins as free money to spend. Again, the key is to do this quickly after getting the cash.
The real long term healthy thing to do is to get over my mental block when it comes to cash, but for now, my financial situation is best preserved by avoiding cash when I can and using tricks to keep myself from spending it.