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16 Apr 2014

Walmart Killed My Cash Budgeting System!

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by Jesse Mecham

Hey, YNABers. Jeremy here. When my friend, Kenny, handed me a copy of Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, it felt a little like getting a speeding ticket. What are you trying to say, dude? Kenny’s intent was pure, but I was feeling the sting of having been tapped on a bruised area.

The book sat on my shelf for a long time, but Kenny’s excitement at how he was applying the principles finally pushed me to start reading it. Soon, I was stoked to get a grip on my finances and have success stories of my own.

I cashed my next paycheck in small denominations. They looked wonderful all laid out on the bed. I cheerfully divided it up into my envelopes. It felt so good take definitive action and I was hopeful for the first time in ages.

My enthusiasm was louder than the nagging in my head that wondered when the novelty of this process might wear off. Sooner than I thought, as it turns out.

The first strain in my envelope relationship was when I went to grab a shopping cart. I smacked my forehead and spun back toward the car when I realized I’d left my envelopes at home.

The second was when I returned. I realized I didn’t love carrying envelopes full of cash around. I can be a bit off center, to be sure, but the crunchy sound they made in my jeans pocket made me wonder: is this what it will be like to walk around in adult diapers?

The last straw was at checkout. After a dozen or so items beeped though the scanner, I realized I had items from at least four different categories whizzing by. My heart sank.

How was I supposed to handle that? Say, “Excuse me, ma’am, but could we please remove those last three items from the auto department, add the produce, and finish that transaction so I can get change for the money in this envelope?” And then do that three more times?

Simple as that, Walmart killed my cash budgeting system.

Are there workarounds? I’m sure. There are folks much smarter than me who use cash very successfully. One of my best friends in the world is the Chuck Norris of envelope budgeting, as far as I’m concerned. He makes it look effortless. Then again, he rescues people from burning cars for a living. You know, when he’s not singing, playing multiple instruments, and writing with incredible talent.

Me? I’m just glad I found You Need A Budget (YNAB).

Nowadays, I swipe my debit card and let the clerk sling items past the scanner. I calmly enter the transaction on my phone and split it into my categories. Hit “save.” Done.

Meanwhile, my wife’s purchase at another store instantly updates our budget as well. Using YNAB, I can live the debt-free life of a cash budgeter, with the accuracy and convenience of a card.

Your Next Step

Remember, budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. You can do this! Today. Right now. What do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress. (Ok, so kind of a lot.)

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