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Everyday Cheapskate: Who Needs Balance?

Mary Hunt on

OK, enough with the lecture. The next time you get your statement, allow that to be your new starting point. Accept the balance the bank says you have, and then reconcile your account every month going forward. You'll find simple fill-in-the-blank instructions with a form on the back of your statement, or you can find something similar online.

Another option is to download an app that will effectively balance your account for you. There are some great apps out there for balancing your checkbook, such as Mint, WalletWhiz, PocketMoney, QuickBank Checkbook and ClearCheckbook.

Dear Mary: I hardly ever carry cash and rarely use credit. I use only a debit card. But still, there are times I feel out of control. How can I get some control over my spending? -- Cindy

Dear Cindy: Merchant research groups have proven it over and again: Customers who shop with plastic spend about 30% more than those paying with cash.

I believe that's because credit and debit cards (paper checks as well) are stand-ins for our money. They're not the real thing, but more like "play money."

I know for myself that swiping a card or writing a check for a purchase doesn't require the same kind of mental consideration as paying with cash.


I suggest you put yourself on a cash-only diet for the next 30 days. Don't carry a checkbook or plastic. Except for payments you must send through the mail, force yourself to pay with cash. Then determine to keep a written record of how you spend the cash.

While making the switch to cash will be quite an adjustment in the beginning, I predict your mindless spending will disappear.

Tip: If you are concerned about being caught short in case of an emergency, keep a large denomination ($50 or $100) prepaid debit card, such as a MasterCard or Visa gift card, tucked away in the back of your wallet. I'll bet you'll have a tough time cashing them, but you'll know you are prepared if you get stuck.


Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.



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