Sawback and One Tenth of a C-note: Thoughts on Cash

August 15, 2016

In case the title of my post didn’t explain the post content, it could more boringly be called “My Thoughts on Cash.” It comes from an I Love Lucy episode call "Sales Resistance" – since you now know how much I love that show it should make perfect sense:)

The brief summary of the episode is that Lucy tries unsuccessfully to not be persuaded by the salesman’s pitch for the Handy-Dandy Vacuum Cleaner.

But anyway, yes, here we are talking about cash. Cold hard cash. Not sure why, but I was thinking while preparing for my trip to Boston (I’m in Boston right now) how different my relationship is with cash/greenbacks/actual-bills these days. I want to tell you a little before and after story. Okay, maybe it’s not a story since there’s not much of a plot line and only one character (me) but here goes anyway:)

BY (Before YNAB):

Before falling in love with YNAB and budgeting cash was like free money. Cash-back at the grocery story, someone paying back for something in cash, returning something purchased on a credit card and getting cash? The cash in hand was all free money! F-R-E-E-E! I never tried very hard to factor it into my very loose budget but, even though I considered it free money I always had that vague sense of unease as I spent it, not sure of what else it should have been covering. For this reason I didn’t get cash back on debit purchases very often because I was unsure how much of this “free money” I could afford.

AY (After YNAB):

I get cash back all the time. Shoot, I could do it every day and be okay. It no longer goes into the black hole of guilty spending. Because I enter all my receipts I know that I’ve got processes (please read this as “processeeees” – it makes all of us feel smarter) in place to log this transfer of cash from my Checking account to my Cash account – one balance goes down and one goes up. Now I have cash on hand almost always and sometimes have a lot. [Sidenote: remind me to tell you about the night when my car was broken into when I left my purse with lots of cash in it on the front seat.] Anyway, I always have cash and spend it on all kinds of things. The second huge difference – the first being keeping a record of the transfer of money into Cash – is tracking that spending, just like I do all my Checking account purchases. One admission: I’m not perfect at this and every couple of weeks I need to log a spending entry of $2-10 to “Random Guy” (my Payee for random stuff) against my Random & Household category.

The beauty of a tool like YNAB is that it doesn’t matter which account you buy from. It matters entirely what your category balance is. So if you buy something on a credit card and end up returning it for cash, the purchase AND RETURN both occur in the same account. Cool right?!

It’s so nice to trust myself with cash again! I can do this since I know where almost all of it goes and it does productive stuff instead of spending itself on who-knows-what. I am AT THIS MOMENT making an entry in YNAB for a cash tip for the person bringing workout clothes to my hotel room so I can get out for a walk around the Boston waterfront. Boom. #Accountable.

Isn’t that a nice story? I’m happy to get it illustrated with pictures in case you’d like to read it to your children as a bedtime story. Just you let me know.

A couple other cash-related items:

Gift cards: YNAB recommends tracking these and I did at first but have since stopped. I’ve received Amazon gift cards and for a while I was putting some amount of money in the Gifts category and some in the Clothing & Luxuries category but that became a nightmare of tracking gift card money and my real money.

Gift cash: This I do log in YNAB as “Income” or sometimes I’ll put it right into a category, usually Clothing & Luxuries since this is the category from which I buy my fun stuff.

As I was writing this post it occurred to me that I maybe haven’t broken out the difference between Accounts and Categories. They are pretty self-explanatory but just in case…


Accounts are like piggy banks. They are places that hold money that can be spent. Actual piggy banks or wallets holding bills and coins are an account, as is your checking account or a savings account or a credit card account. The credit account is obviously different than the other types since YOU don’t actually have any money in that account. It’s just you spending future money you’re planning to get…bad plan and one I know a lot about:)


Categories are like envelopes you put your money in. Or like stacks of money with sticky notes on them of what you’re going to spend that stack on. Or…? I’m out of analogies:) Cash should always be an Account, not a Category.

Any questions about cash I can dig into for you? Hopefully this is a bit helpful!

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