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2:42 am - Saturday November 16, 2019

The Problem of Accounting and Budgeting For Cash Expenses

| Budgeting, Credit Cards, Money Saving Tips | Rating: 4.5
by Numan

Where did all that cash go ?

I’ve recently written two posts on payment methods or credit cards vs. cash. I argued that while cash payments help us avoid overspending credit card payments provide us with valuable and timely information for budget planning and review (Credit Cards or Cash: A Costly Tradeoff).

I also provided my tips and insights on how we can make credit card payments more tangible and real to help save us money (How to Save by Making Credit Card Payments More Real and Tangible: 5 Practical Tips).

There is, however, one remaining question which I’ve yet to find a successful solution to. How do we account, and budget in turn, for routine cash expenses?

We can’t avoid paying cash as part of our daily routines. The problem arises at the end of the month when I take a look at all my cash withdrawals and start scratching my head trying to remember where I spent all that money. These cash withdrawals, when summed up on a monthly basis can really amount to significant sums of money.

Aside from having spent those sums of money in the first place there’s the problem of accounting and budgeting for it. How will I be able to answer these questions?
1. How do I figure out my budget busters?
2. How much did I actually spend on eating out this month?
3. How will I know what my actual budget looks like?

The deviation in your budget’s numbers depends greatly on the percent of cash expenses out of your total expenses each month. The bigger the percent of cash spending the less the budget represents what is actually going on.

Our options for accounting and budgeting for cash expenses

What are our options and what are the possible solutions? I’ve narrowed the list down to the following:

#1 Lower your cash expenses

Naturally, the first solution would be to lower cash expenses and pay more with credit cards. A word of caution – paying with credit cards requires a much higher sense of awareness to spending and the realization credit cards are money as well (as I’ve discussed in detail here).

#2 Limit cash expenses to routine, specific expenses

Since cash payments are unavoidable narrowing and focusing them might work better. Most of my cash expenses pay for eating out and usually to buy small trinkets. This way, at the end of the month, I usually take all my cash expenses and assign them to “eating out” budget.

The extra cash spending makes eating out a bit bigger then in reality and helps me pressure myself into saving more on this particular budget item.

#3 Treat cash like it’s another expense

I’ve read about this method somewhere. The author recommended adding another budget item called, very conveniently, “cash expenses”.

There is a basic logic to this method. Adding cash expenses as a budget item makes into an expense which should be minimized. Since assigning cash expenses is often done in accurately we might as well plan and budget for it as just another expense.

#4 Keep tabs – My least favorite

I don’t know how but some people are able to keep tabs on cash expenses. If you’re able to do that, either with a pen and paper or an electronic wallet, you’ve got it made. Forget about credit cards and use cash only. You’ll both save and be able to track your expenses. I think it’s impossible to get it right, though.

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