About 8 weeks ago, some of you may recall that I made a date with cash, that is, to use strictly bank notes and change for a two-month period. Credit and debit cards were not to be used, if humanly possible (Yes, I slipped up a few times).
This challenge came about for two reasons: a) I had lost track of where I was spending my money, and b) I learned through the Occupy the Holidays movement that merchants pay the banks a 2% to 5% fee for each debit transaction. Hardly seems fair, right? Our local merchants fight to stay afloat financially among fierce competition from major corporations only to be nickled and dimed in transaction fees. No, I decided that banks already had enough of my money and everyone else`s.
And apparently I`m not the only one who feels this way. This International Women`s Day, Women Occupy will be staging a protest against the Bank of America. Interrupting business as usual, the group will be protesting the bank`s predatory economic policies that are destroying families and communities.
My date with cash, my own little protest, was anxiety-inducing in the beginning. And truth be told, I probably would have given up if I hadn`t opened my big mouth and blogged about it. But anyway, I learned a lot.
Every Saturday, I calculated how much I needed for the entire week and took out a large sum on Sunday, grocery day. This is also the approach advocated by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. The FCAC is a great site for banking tips and interest calculators to help you keep your debt in check. In most cases, this lump sum approach worked, but I still had to run to the bank on more than a few occasions.
1) The daily latté was a luxury I couldn`t afford. I opted for regular coffee, which amounted to a $2.00 savings a day. A latté still finds its way in, but only occasionally.
2) My closest branch ABM is at least a 15-minute walk away. Therefore, I did a lot more walking, and as a result, my clothes are looser now. Yes, cash only may also serve as a weight loss plan.
3) I also stopped buying things to eat when I felt hungry. Instead, I brought an apple or a V8 with me every day. Makes your bag heavier, but worth it.
4) I paid $13.00 in interest on my credit card in January, compared with only $2.00 in February.
5) My bank statement was half a page long, and I could actually remember the transactions (Eureka!).
6) Advanced planning helps you to organize a lot of other aspects of your life. I planned more meals and organized my time better.
7) I talked to a lot of people about how they kept track of their money. I was surprised to learn that most of them peruse their accounts online a few times a week.
8) I now have a small savings, and February will be the first month in a long time that I have not gone into my overdraft (no small miracle).
If you, too, are fed up with the uber rich banks taking your hard earned money in interest and monthly charges, then you may want to try cash only. Or you might just want to check out some of these user-friendly FCAC tools to help you make informed decisions about your finances:
Credit Card Payment Calculator: This tool shows you how long it will take you to pay off your credit card balance if you make 1) the minimum payment, 2) the minimum payment plus a little more, or 3) a fixed amount every month. But more importantly, it shows you just how much you will pay in interest (makes bankers salivate).
Banking Package Selector Tool (chequing): This tool shows you which bank offers the lowest monthly charges to accommodate your banking needs. It all comes down to how many transactions you make a month, and the monthly balance you maintain. It`s a good idea to have at least three previous bank statements on-hand to identify your own banking habits.
The Credit Card Quiz: If you think you know everything there is to know about credit cards, think again. Here are 10 questions to demystify some common credit card myths.
This was crossposted at The Unexpected Twists and Turns.