Chuck the cards to keep within a budget

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After ran a story on the
seven-day money challenge, readers flooded us with e-mails describing their own savings success stories. They also had lots of advice and tips for others who need help sticking to a budget.

The money challenge is simple. Figure out how much cash you need to cover a week’s worth of expenses such as groceries, gas, food out and entertainment. Then, get that amount of cash and put away your credit or debit cards. As you go through the week, jot down in a notepad what you’re spending or you won’t remember where the money went. Can you make it seven days? Or will you run out at midweek?

This exercise will help you understand your spending habits and identify where you can cut back in order to keep within your budget. If you need to create a budget, just use this handy
work sheet.

The stories that follow are from readers who are conscious of their spending and proud of their saving ability. Maybe one of their tips will help you get on the road to saving.

Dump the cards

Debit card offers control
I just completed something similar to what you recommend, and it TOTALLY CHANGED MY LIFE! All I decided to do was STOP using my credit cards.

I used to “try” to do that, only to cave in halfway through the month and end up with a $2,000 bill to pay (on just one card — no kidding). I now only use my debit card, so it comes immediately out of my checking account, and I have to know exactly what is in there. I also decided to pay all of my bills using only my checking account, instead of halfway through the month putting my cell bill on a credit card, or an insurance payment, etc.

For the first time I actually feel in control of my spending, and feel like I can attain the financial goals I am setting for myself.

Thanks for the great advice. If people only knew how different it is to be in control of your spending.
— Andrea T

Break the credit card habit
My husband and I stopped using credit cards about three months ago. It was REALLY hard for me because that is what I have always used and it was a habit. After a few rough weeks I am happy to say that it is working for us. We each get a certain amount of cash every week and we have our budget for groceries too. Slowly we are seeing our credit cards going down and we feel more in control. I miss shopping, but that is something I have to save money for. It’s working for us and we are going to stick with it. Your article was good and I think more Americans need to try cash and get away from credit.
— Rebecca M.

Consider interest payments
How much do you spend on interest alone? Is the credit card worth it in the long run? Probably not. Think of it as your money working for you. If you could get 2.9 percent interest on your savings, why would you pay higher interest on a credit card? Does it make sense? No, it doesn’t. So think of it like that and you may save some money.
— Scott D.