to give or not give up my credit cards: a case study

credit cards

Disclaimer: I reference a lot of alcohol in this post, but I promise I normally don't drink as much as this nor am I an alcoholic. Although, let's be real, the first stage is denial.

Also, this post was written in collaboration with Cinch Financial

I love my credit card. And I may get flayed alive by the Dave Ramsey fanatics out there, but for those who can use them wisely (like yours truly – I would definitely be the villain if Visa ever wrote a superhero comic), I think they can be a great tool to earn some free swag.

For instance, two years ago I opened a Chase Sapphire credit card. I was remodeling my kitchen at the time, so I knew I would hit the spending limit within the time window to earn their initial bonus offer. You know what that netted me? $500. Straight. Cash.

This past year, one of my best friends moved to Phoenix, and I thought it sounded like a great opportunity to dip my feet in the wonderful world of travel hacking. So I signed up for a Southwest Card, charged my annual continuing professional education courses on there (which my company reimburses me for), and again, earned the big upfront bonus. That landed me 50,000 Southwest miles, which is enough for two roundtrip flights to Phoenix. Sunshine and desert air, here I come.

It doesn’t end there. Most years, I’ve earned up to $250 in cash back on my credit cards, and while Dave is right, it doesn’t make you rich, it definitely is worth being able to fly out to see my best friend. Twice.

[RELATED: Credit Cards: The Good, the Bad, and the Best One for You]

However, like many of you, I read a lot of personal finance blogs because I feel like it keeps me on the straight & narrow. I love the sense of community, the advice, the inspiration…you know what I’m talking about. And when it comes to credit cards, many out there have come to believe that because credit cards take the feeling of actually handing over money away, it makes it easier to spend it. Which means you’re spending more.

Not good.

In fact, the New York Times featured an article last year supporting this fact, stating that while paying with cash does make you more appreciative of what you’re purchasing, it also makes the act of purchasing more painful.

Thus, I, the credit card fanatic, decided to put this theory to the test and spend a weekend sans my Visa and use only cash to see if it actually made me more mindful of the money I was spending. Here’s how it went down.


Today was the end of my work week, so I brown-bagged and worked through lunch (as usual) and left the office around 5pm. My best friend from Phoenix (you know, the one I just mentioned) was in town for a wedding and had a few hours sans-bride duty to hang out, so we had planned to meet up around 6:30 at the Rathskellar, our favorite and the BEST outdoor beer garden in Indy, to catch up. My boyfriend and I decided to eat beforehand so as not to waste money on pounds of fried food – love that he’s on board with this frugal life – and then headed out to meet her.

There was a $5 cover to get into the bar because they had a band that night, so I fronted the money for the two of us and got in. It annoyed me more than anything (because I wasn’t really there to see the band), but I think that would have been the case whether I had used cash or a credit card.

Keith (my boyfriend – follow me on Insta to catch glimpses of him) got our first round of beers, and to be honest, I don’t know who got my second. Maybe Keith again? I truly have no idea – I was too deeply entrenched in conversation and the fact that I was seeing my best friend after two long months that the second seemed to just magically appear in front of me. So I’ll just issue a public thanks here and call it even.

It was so wonderful to catch up with my friend in the flesh, but because we had to leave by 10:00 (Keith has to work early on Saturday mornings, which sometimes is a great excuse to have after a long work week), we stopped at two beers, and I was able to drive us home. Thus, no Uber costs and I got out of the night only $10 poorer. Win.

Total Spent: $10


We were off to my small hometown in southern Indiana today to celebrate Strassenfest, the annual German festival of our county’s hub city, so after Keith finished work, we loaded up the car and spent the next 3 hours on the road.

After what luckily felt like a short drive, we arrived at my hometown, where we were met with a cooked lunch (shout out to you, Mom) and a chance to hang out with my parents for a while. We then decided to meet my high school best friend at one of the two bars in our small, you’ll-miss-it-if-you-blink town.

Now Fleig’s (pronounced Flige’s with a hard G) is the epitome of a local dive bar. Cases of beer stacked along the wall, juke box in the corner, a couple of notepads they use to write down your tab…that laid back, small town charm is one of the things I miss about being back home, and I had been dying to take Keith to this little gem ever since we met.

I picked up the tab after about an hour of chatting, and between the three of us, I spent a whopping $20, including tip. Yes, that’s for 6 beers. It was such a great deal that I didn’t mind handing over the money at all. Have I told you I also love how cheap it is there?

We went home to clean up and then met a couple of friends of ours back in town at a local pizza joint for dinner before making our way to the fest. Again, Keith picked up this tab, so I didn’t have to open my wallet.

We’re pretty good about spending evenly in our relationship, so since he bought dinner, I was responsible for the drinks that night (did I mention we were going to the fest solely for the beer garden and polka music?). I ended up buying the buttons to get in for $5 a pop (ugh – always seems like a waste) and then $20 worth of drink tickets, which translated into 4 beers. And that was it. I felt no qualms about handing over that $20 bill either because it bought us a solid 2 hours of entertainment with some old friends. Seemed like a worthy expense to me.

[RELATED: The Two Most Dangerous Words for You & Your Money]

We had gotten there pretty late and they closed the beer garden at midnight, so we were simply forced to stop buying, which helped my bank account tremendously. There are no Ubers or taxis back home, so we relied on my friend’s niece to transport us back to my parents’ house and ended the night stuffing our face with our leftovers from dinner. 1am pizza always seems to taste amazing.

Total Spent: $50


Sunday morning was spent at church, and we went to a Mexican joint with my parents for lunch before heading back to Indy.

Because my parents, brother, and I all live in different cities, we came up with a rule that whoever is playing host that weekend is responsible for picking up the check at the end of a meal. It makes things easier than having to constantly battle over who is going to pay, even though my dad still tries every time we go out. But I’m just as stubborn as he is, so when we’re in my city, I usually win that battle.

Thus, my parents bought our lunch, and besides the $30 I spent on gas (which did not pain me either – Do you remember when a gallon used to be almost $4? I can manage $2.25.), there was no more money spent for the weekend.

When we got back home, it was the usual laundry, catch-up on blog work, etc., and normally, we would have gone out to get dinner since we were so exhausted from the traveling and late night on Saturday. However, we’re lucky in the fact that coming home from my parents’ house is like coming back from the grocery store. They send EVERYTHING back with us.

“Did you like the watermelon? Oh, take the rest.”

“How about some salsa? I just canned some fresh batches this week. I’ll send a couple along.”

“Merkley burgers were on sale this week, so we picked up two bags. Take one with you. We won’t eat them.”

It’s absolutely FANTASTIC, especially for us because we are so busy, and it not only saved us a trip to the grocery but a few days’ worth of money for food. My mom even baked a full pasta casserole for us, which we ate for dinner Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. And it was so good that we didn’t even mind noshing on the same thing for three days straight.

So Mom & Dad, you won MVP for the weekend. Congrats.

Total Spent: $30

So what was the overall verdict? To be honest, I really didn’t feel much difference between swiping my credit card and paying with cash. I think it may be due to the fact that I’m fairly cognizant of what I’m spending all the time (and it was a fairly cheap weekend, all things considered), but that’s just a side-effect of being a super-saver/frugality queen.

However, I do think that if you have a problem-child category, like shopping or dinners out, using cash like Dave Ramsey suggests with his envelope system would be HIGHLY beneficial.

For instance, if you want to ensure you don’t go off the deep end while at the mall or out at the bars with your friends, only bringing the amount of cash you want to spend (and no credit card) will force you to stick to your budget. It’s allowing you to make the conscious decision before the effects of moment you’re in get the better of you and allow you to spend otherwise.

Now, before we part ways today, I did want to give a huge shout-out to Cinch Financial for bringing this topic to mind. If you’re a follower of my blog, you know I don’t promote a lot of products or services, which means that when I do, I’m a believer in what they’re offering. And because Cinch introduced me to this “Pain of Payment” concept, I’m hooked.

Essentially, Cinch Financial acts as your personal financial advisor, and I fell in love with how that role was described by them – I mean, how luxe, right? Cinch analyzes your entire financial life instead of just one small piece of the larger puzzle (like budgeting or paying your bills on time) and, because of this, are able to provide step-by-step, actionable advice as to how you can better your financial world. And it’s advice you can take or leave because hey, you’re in control here.

Watch the Cinch Financial Demo

The best part? They aren’t compensated by the products or services they recommend, which means they are 100% unbiased. No one is pushing something because they get a kickback. No one is saying to sign up for a savings account with this institution even though another is better. No one is telling you to refinance your loan through a company when it’s not the right move for you.

They give you the ideas and the tools to better manage your money and do it in a way you can trust. 

If you’re interested in being one of the first beta testers (like me), then click the link below to sign up. Look forward to saving more and meeting my goals sooner with the rest of you!

Sign Up to Beta Test Cinch Financial’s New App

credit cards