Save $ By Spending only Dollar Bills

Julie Fast, a local mental health writer lost half of her income when the economy slowed. She knew it was time to make some big changes- so she did it in a little way- with dollar bills. Instead of going cash only, Julie went to dollar bills only and it has changed her life. Julie takes out dollar bills from her bank and then keeps the money with her mother. She then has to think daily of what she will spend. Julie says, “When you pay with dollar bills, you truly see the value of your money.” Her goal is to be out of debt by the end of 2010.

These are some of the ideas she shared with us in our AM Northwest Studio today:

- We have  become so dependent on credit cards that money has become virtual- and it’s hard to even comprehend virtual money- so we spend it without being conscious of what things cost.

- Eating out is a huge money drain. I have completely changed how I eat out. I take a specific amount of money with me including tip – and it’s about half of what I used to pay with a credit card. The first time I counted out $11 in ones for a chicken sandwich I ate in about ten minutes, I really changed. I won’t by myself a new book because it’s too expensive, but I’ll have a $20 meal? That’s crazy!

- Every penny you spend when you are in debt puts you further in debt. Period. There is no way to get out of debt if you keep spending beyond your means.

- Find your leaks: cable, cell phone, unneeded insurance, magazines, coffee. It may not seem like much by itself, but I literally found $560 in leaks when I started my plan. I now try to pay out of my online checking account or by check.

- Find out to the dollar what you owe every month in terms of rent, bills, credit payments etc. Everyone says this of course, but when you go cash only- literally cash only- you have to know exactly what you owe.

- Having a debit card or money in the bank doesn’t work for me. I have to keep it at my mom’s or I will spend it. It’s not about will power. It’s about breaking many years of poor spending choices. I have so many regrets.

- I’m upset with myself that I waited until a recession to make the changes. If I had done this a few years ago, I would be debt free. But, at least I started.

Tips from Julie

  1. Take a specific amount of money to a coffee shop or restaurant. This may mean you can only have an appetizer, but believe me, it’s plenty of food! It you say to yourself, this is a ten dollar evening- you will get mighty creative!
  2. Hang out with people who are financially responsible. I used to call my friends cheap skates- now I admire them and learn from them! They are the ones making it through these ‘tough economic times.’
  3. See this as the wonderful lesson and opportunity it is. I vow to never, ever be in this position again. I will get out of debt and I will learn how to spend responsibly for the rest of my life. This is too uncomfortable to ever go through again.
  4. Remember what your grandmother told you.  My grandmother who lived through the depression sure is sounding smart right now! We are all doing everything she used to teach me growing up. She wasn’t a part of the “I deserve the best even if it’s on credit” generation. A penny saved is a penny earned.  Always have cash in the bank for an emergency. Save long term for the big purchases. Wow! I wish I had listened!
  5. See credit cards for what they are- they are not real money, deserved money, money for vacations, or anything else the TV tells you. They are virtual money- it’s the same has a hologram. We have to break out hold on using credit when we don’t have money.
  6. Let the amount of money you have determine what you do- instead of deciding to go somewhere and then taking money to pay for everything. If you have ten dollars to spend- this means you can only do something that costs ten dollars!
  7. Do things that don’t cost money. I can’t believe it, but instead of going to a coffee shop to meet a friend, we went to a park and sat on a blanket!


Many people will say they have done all of this and those of us who haven’t are behind the times. They are right- others were smarter than I have been. Paying cash only is nothing new- paying with dollar bills just takes it to a new level.

For more information about Julie Fast, visit her website.


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