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Money Fix: Going cash only saves money

Learning to live without credit cards, despite the

Learning to live without credit cards, despite the proliferation of advertising, can have a huge payoff for a consumer, experts advise. This advertising was posted in Nov. 19, 2009 Credit: AP / Michael Probst

If credit card bills are keeping you awake at night, get tough: Go cash only.

Don't close accounts, just tuck cards away somewhere safe, like your lockbox.

1. Rethink the way you live. "You don't need credit cards to live your daily life," says Leslie Tayne, a Melville attorney specializing in financial issues.

2. Create a budget and stick to it. Cash your entire paycheck. Get envelopes and label them for various categories. Divvy up the amount you need for groceries, gas, etc. "You may feel overwhelmed at first, but you'll feel differently as you see how this gets you on the right track," says founder Howard Dvorkin.

3. Plan ahead. Switching to cash-only works best when you're organized. Take time to search for the best deals for what you need. Make shopping lists and avoid impulse purchases.

4. Use your debit card instead of credit. "A debit card is basically cash; you'll be more thoughtful and less likely to purchase what you don't need," says Ted Sarenski, a CPA/personal financial specialist in Syracuse.

A major part of living a credit-free life is making sure this paycheck lasts until the next one.

5. Tolerate the inconvenience. For sure, going all-cash can be inconvenient. You don't want to walk around with a wad of cash either -- think theft or loss.

But, the payoff can be huge. Says Gail Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, "People who pay with cash spend 20 percent less. Use the savings to pay down credit card debt you've accumulated."

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