Rediscovering Mom’s CASH Budget Box and Why You Should Start Your Own

Yesterday I was helping my parents pack and came across their Cash Budget Box from 1986!

This moment was obviously quite nostalgic (and got me a little misty) but do you know the feeling that totally surprised? Inspiration.

I am always telling clients about a CASH Budget Box and how you use it instead of a debit or credit card as a way to control spending.

It felt like pure kismet that I stumbled upon this box in October as it’s National #FinancialPlanningMonth.

Why the CASH Budget Box Method Still Works

You don’t have to be a doctor to understand the psychological impact of utilizing a cash budget instead of plastic.

And I don’t care if it’s 1940 or 2019, it still works!

It’s the reason spending $15 of your $20 bill stings just a little bit more than a quick swipe of the debit or credit card.

You can actually see and feel your money disappearing and this in turn helps you to make more conscious spending choices.

Not to mention, you start to think about the cost of things and whether they’re short term vs. long term and necessities vs. desires.

I understand that you’re going to have to use credit for things like your mortgage. I’m a Mortgage Loan Officer after all. This particular budgeting system is for the CASH categories only.

Transitioning to a cash budget vs. managing your debit or credit spending via an app or software isn’t going to feel natural at first. And much like any healthy practice, it only works if you do so your commitment to sticking with it for at least a month to see if it works for you is vital!

Ready to try it out?

Here’s how to Create Your Own CASH Budget Box

#1. Choose your CASH Categories & Determine your Budget

Think about which areas in your life that really don’t require you to use your debit/credit card(s).

Then think about the areas where you tend to spend a little more than you should or where you go completely overboard. Everybody has their “thing”.

Next, choose your categories and define them. Entertainment to you may not be the same to me and Food to me could mean just groceries while to someone else it could mean restaurant food. A clearly defined category will be easier to stick to.

Then, outline your budget. My mom’s 1986 CASH Budget Box included everything from gas and lunch to entertainment and monthly allowances for myself and my brother. But you have to find your own sweet spot between an amount that is insufficient and an amount that’s just enough to allow you some freedoms while you save.

Having trouble with this part? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. That’s why I’ve included this Monthly Budget Worksheet to help get you started!

#2. Find THE Box to Help Keep you Organized

My mom’s CASH Budget Box was an old recipe box but you can find just about anything online these days to achieve the same concept. The two things that you absolutely need are:

  • A small box just big enough to hold stock or large index cards
  • Dividers that can be labeled with your Cash Categories 

*Pro-Tip: If you can remember to get receipts and put them in the category after you’ve removed and spent the cash, that will help keep you on track even more with your bank account amount. It’s old-school but it works!

#3. Pull Cash When Needed

Find a time where you can make a trip to your bank or local ATM to pull out your budgeted cash.

You may not be able to do this once per month and that’s okay. Simply divide your monthly budget in half and refill twice a month instead.

#4. Use Cash ONLY for those Categories

I know. It’s going to be hard, at first.

If you find that you can’t resist using your debit or credit card for the cash only categories try leaving it at home, freezing it in a block of ice, or giving it to your partner or friend to hold.

Breaking the bad habit of overspending is the entire motivation for this challenge so mentally prepare yourself to be a little uncomfortable temporarily for a practice that will ultimately help you save money and become a more conscious spender.

My Recommendations

#1. Manage Your Categories

If you find you’ve underestimated or overestimated a healthy budget amount in one or more categories, adjust them accordingly.

#2. Track Your Expenses for (at least) Two Weeks

If the debit card or cash comes out so does a little notebook or this Expense Tracking Sheet - write it down. Don’t cheat by looking on your bank’s phone app or website! Make it a chore when you choose to spend!

If you find that you’re having a hard time sticking to the CASH Budget Box or if you’re still struggling with overspending, check out these Expense Reduction Tips!

You’re On Your Way!

That’s it! I’d love to hear your stories and see pictures of your CASH Budget Boxes so please, share them with me on Facebook and Instagram!

Remember to stick with it (it only works if you do). Good luck! And remember, when you’re ready to find out how to use smart strategies like this to get the home you REALLY want, ask for me a free consultation!


* Specific loan program availability and requirements may vary. Please get in touch with the mortgage advisor for more information.