How often do you imagine what life will be like two, five or ten years down the road? When you do, what do you see?
You might see your family traveling around the world. You may think about how great it will be to buy your dream home. Or maybe you see yourself retiring and working at a nonprofit, volunteering full-time at your church, or serving in the mission field.
It’s a good daydream . . . until you experience that gut-wrenching feeling in your stomach that makes you wonder, How can we ever afford to live that kind of life? A lot of people feel that way because they just don’t have the margin in their budget. They don’t think they can afford to live their dreams for the future, or even their best lives in the present.
But those dreams really can come true—with a lot of hard work and commitment.
One of the fastest ways to make your dreams a reality is to pay for things with cash. It sounds almost too simple, right? You might even wonder if it’s realistic in the world we live in—a world full of credit card offers, school loans and 30-year mortgages. But the answer is yes, it’s completely realistic, and it’s going to put you on the fast track for bringing your dreams to life. Here are a few reasons why.
1. You spend less with cash.
Paying with a card is convenient, but that doesn’t mean it’s your best bet. A Dun & Bradstreet study found that people spend 12–18% more when they use credit cards instead of cash. Pause for a minute and let that number sink in. Say you walk into a shoe store to get a new pair of running shoes. If you bought the shoes with cash, you might spend $100. But if you use a credit card, you might spend closer to $120 for a “better” pair of shoes. That extra $20 might seem like a drop in the bucket, but what if you’re making a $1,000 purchase? Those numbers add up—and quicker than you realize.
2. You’re more likely to stick to your budget.
Cash is emotional. If you don’t believe it, try making a $5,000 purchase with a card and then with a thick stack of $100 bills. It’s different because when you swipe a card, you don’t experience any loss. But when you hand over all of your greens, you are physically exchanging something for something else. Paying with cash gives you a better understanding of what your purchase is worth to you. It’s much harder to part with your money when you see it actually leaving your hand, so you’re less likely to make impulse purchases or buy something you don’t need or really love.
Plus, if you use the envelope system, you have some tangible accountability. It’s easy to pay with a card and lose track of how much you’ve spent on groceries, entertainment or clothes. But when you have a set amount of money in a labeled envelope, there are no questions. When that envelope is empty, it’s just that—empty! So long, overspending.
3. You won’t go into debt with cash.
When you’re using a credit card, it’s easy to make purchases and tell yourself that you’ll pay the bill at the end of the month. But that’s a slippery slope. That mindset is how people end up with maxed-out credit cards and $15,000 in consumer debt. Yikes. That’s the last thing you want, especially when you have such big dreams for the future. The best way to avoid that trap is to pay for things with cash. And the best part of it is that you won’t owe anyone anything at the end of the month—because you’re only spending money that’s already yours.
If you can stick to your budget, avoid impulse purchases, and stay out of consumer debt, you’re setting yourself up to succeed. Paying with cash puts you ahead of the game, especially in a world where we’re told to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t even need.
If you’re skeptical, just give it a try for a month. Get a feel for how much more emotional dollar bills feel versus a credit—or even a debit—card. You might be surprised to find just how much you save, how well you stick to your budget, and how much debt you avoid.