Q&A: How do you budget for online deals?
I am trying to go to cash-only and just use the bank account for bills! But how do you budget for online deals? I love the idea of going cash-only, but hate missing out on all the deals! Is there a good way to do this or am I just not going to get the deals now? -Holly
Our family uses a “hybrid system” for our expenditures. We use cash envelopes for items we would typically buy locally (you can see a list of all our cash envelope categories here) and then we use debit cards or online bill pay for our utility bills, insurance and other bills which are paid on a monthly basis. This works well for us and, from the experimenting we’ve done, we’ve determined we spend quite a bit less by paying for the bulk of our expenses with cash than if we were swiping our debit cards.
However, the question people often ask is, “If you use cash only for clothing, food and so forth, does this mean you can’t purchase any items from your cash envelope categories online?” Well, actually, no.
We are on a strict written budget and cash envelope system and we only buy things which we have the money allotted ahead of time to pay for. We use gift cards accumulated through Swagbucks to pay for some of our online purchases or we buy online with our debit card and then refund the money from our cash envelope to our bank account.
It might seem like a hassle to refund the money to our bank account, but we’ve found that this actually encourages us to be a lot more thoughtful about purchases. Instead of just jumping on a good deal because we’re afraid it might not be available for long, it forces us to think through whether it’s something which is a good deal for us — meaning it’s something we need or have been planning to purchase, something we can afford in that budget category and something we will use. In many cases, because it is a bit of a hassle, we end up talking ourselves out of the purchase before making it!
If you don’t feel comfortable using a debit card online or don’t want to mess with refunding money from a cash envelope to your bank account, I’d suggest purchasing pre-paid cards from the money in each cash envelope category. Keep these cards in their designated envelopes and only use them for online purchases from that category. This allows you to protect yourself from potential debit card fraud while still sticking with your budget and using money you’ve specifically set aside for that budget category.
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