Purse with cash and cardsRecently I read in The Guardian that in 2017 card payments had overtaken cash for the first time. I was surprised that it had taken until 2017 to be the more popular option – even more so that it was reported to have happened a year earlier than expected.

The article got me thinking about my own spending habits, and how much I actually pay for anything using cash. I estimated in my head that at least 90% of my transactions used plastic – and decided to put this theory to the test with my own version of the money diaries.

Did I actually need any cash for my everyday spending? How much of my spending was using a physical card – and how much of it was done online using bank transfers? Were my spending habits normal in comparison to other people?

I documented every transaction over the course of seven days – here is what I found:

Monday

Payday usually involves waking up with a temporary smile on my face. I have the same routine for every payday, I check my bank balance on my phone, savour being out of debt for five minutes…and then start making transfers.

This morning is no exception, and I can already see that my rent and bill payments have been transferred into our joint account. I move some money into my savings and also pay off a small chunk of my credit card.

This week I’ve decided to meal prep, after realising that I spend too much money on eating lunch out. This means I don’t spend any money during the day. That evening, I go out for a meal with friends as our bestie is moving to Scotland this week. My bill comes to £13 and we decide to leave a tip. I fish around my purse and amazingly find two 50ps so I am able to contribute.

Card transactions: 1
Bank transactions: 4
Cash transactions: 1

Tuesday

I check my bank balance and notice that a direct debit has gone out for my MoveGB membership. I do a few yoga classes each week as well as aerial silks, and this enables me to pay for it all in one go rather than via individual classes.

At lunch, I head out to the post office to post a card and realise I don’t have any stamps. As I go to pay for one, I look in my purse to see if I can cobble together the 67p. I end up having the exact change and trot back to my desk feeling smug.

A friend buys a tee from my online store – however it’s in a size I don’t have in stock. I go to my supplier’s website and order a few more to keep as stock, and decide to pay for this using my credit card.

Card transactions: 1
Bank transactions: 1
Cash transactions: 1

Wednesday

I manage to go all day without spending a penny until I am stood outside my aerial silks class with some time to spare and decide to treat myself to some new leggings. I order them on my phone in seconds, using the 1-click service on Amazon.

When I get back, Liam and I sit down to sort out money. He paid a 50% deposit for our wedding venue a few weeks back, so I transfer him an eye-watering amount to pay back my half. I also remember that we are still paying off our recent holiday, so I transfer some money to another credit card to cover it.

Card transactions: 1
Bank transactions: 2
Cash transactions: 0

Thursday

I manage to have a no spending day – which is just as well after yesterday. At lunch, I head into town to pay in two cheques that were very kindly sent to us after our engagement. This money will go straight into our savings account.

In the evening I attend a blogger event at a cocktail bar where I was fully expecting to have to pay for a couple of drinks. However, I arrive to a free bar – which means I don’t need to reach for the plastic all night.

On the way home, I meet Liam who is ordering a pizza after watching the football. I resist temptation and decide not to have one, as I know I have food at home waiting.

Card transactions: 0
Bank transactions: 0
Cash transactions: 0

Friday

I find myself wandering into Joy on my lunch break, on the hunt for a pretty floral dress. It’s my lucky day because they have a 50% sale on so I end up picking up a lovely wrap dress for only £20. I pay for this on my debit card.

I didn’t bring any lunch today, so I pop into Sainsbury’s and pick up some sushi and a diet coke, both of which I pay for on my card.

During the afternoon, an envelope lands on my desk – it is a collection for somebody in the office who is getting married. This would usually be a situation where I would part with some cash, but as I don’t have any change in my purse, I decide to only sign the card. I don’t really know the person, so I don’t feel too bad.

That evening I persuade Liam to come out for a walk with me to see the progress of our new flat which is currently being built. The walk is 40 minutes but the weather is gorgeous so we have a look at a map to see if there are any local pubs we can check out.

We find one, which has a gorgeous beer garden and order two drinks. As our joint account has been topped up, we pay for them using this. On the way back home, we pass Wapping Wharf and get fish and chips, again using the joint card to pay.

Card transactions: 4
Bank transactions: 0
Cash transactions: 0

Saturday

Another no spend day! As the lovely weather has continued, we head back to my Mum and Step-Dad’s house in Gloucester. We drive over and have a lovely day with them and my three-year-old niece, with a barbecue in the afternoon.

When we get back to Bristol, we notice a £5 note on the floor outside one of our neighbour’s flats. I pick it up and knock on the door to give it back to them. Somebody answers and insists it isn’t theirs so we ‘should enjoy it’. We take it back and put it into our ‘wedding fund’ money box. 

I decide to open a bottle of prosecco I was given at work whilst Liam watches the football. We are both stuffed from the food during the day, so decide not to have dinner and just chill out for the rest of the evening watching Netflix.

Card transactions: 0
Bank transactions: 0
Cash transactions: 0

Sunday

The final day of the money diaries! We have no plans this day, other than to get our weekly food shop out of the way and catch up on some life admin.

Our weekly shop comes to just over £50, we’ve had to top up on a lot of non-food items this week. We pay for this using our joint account.

The afternoon is spent tidying the flat, watching some TV and preparing for the week ahead. I meal prep again for the week to save money, and get my clothes ready for the following day, including gym wear for yoga.

I finish up the day by completing some freelance work, before heading to bed.

Card transactions: 1
Bank transactions: 0
Cash transactions: 0

It was insightful to see that in a whole week, I only paid for something twice using cash – and this accounted for £1.67 in total. I was also pleased to see that there were two days this week where I did not spend any money at all.

Card transactions took up the most of my spending, however it was interesting to see that bank transfers were a close second.

I expect to see a significant rise of card over cash in the next few years – particularly with technology like Apple Pay and 1-click orders. Could we end up not needing physical money at all? Or do you still rely on cash for your everyday spending? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.