Plastic Fast, Week Two: In over my head

It was not a good week in the land of cash.

A convergence of expenses — mainly an empty gas tank and dog dish and an impulsive grocery store outing  — left me holding the bag with not enough bills. So I wrote a check to cover my assets.

In the second week of giving up all my plastic, I spent $28 over my self-imposed $140 cash allowance.

While I didn’t use my plastic (technically a success that way), I discovered operating on cash doesn’t work well without some sort of structure, like an envelope system. I also slacked on writing down my outlays, so had to spend more time figuring out my weekly totals.

I filled up my car’s gas tank on Tuesday, earning a 3-cent-per-gallon discount by using cash. I only had one squirmy kid with me and there was no line in the convenience store, so it wasn’t as big of a headache as I’d feared.

On Wednesday, I needed to get more prescription food for our pooch. That cost $27.08. Also, I paid $13.50 in cash to the drop-in daycare, where Owen played while I visited the dentist (a check-up paid for by check).

I planned to spend about $45 when I went to the grocery store Thursday. I knew I was limited in cash, but shopped like I wasn’t. I was lured by excellent prices on produce, pop and Pop-tarts, and went off-list not considering the consequences. As I watched the total climb at the register, I quickly realized I was in over my head. My total was $60.86, more than I had in my wallet. I was too embarrassed and stubborn to put anything back, so I wrote a check.

A neighbor girl helped me out with the kids after school, so I needed to pay her. I’d promised Eve lunch at McDonald’s on Friday. And my favorite thrift store had a 49-cent sale Saturday, where I spent $3.14. That put my week’s total at $168.19 (not to mention my husband’s supermarket trip for Super Bowl snacks).

I suppose I could justify that I was $44 under budget in Week One, but my goal was to spend less than the $140 target each week. So this week, I’m penalizing myself for my extravagence. I’ll have only $112 to work with. I already spent $10.49 at the store this morning, a desperate run for toilet paper and coffee creamer.

Time to pinch my pennies.