Strategies for Saving and Spending in a Cash Society

One of the many adjustments we had to make upon moving to Nepal was learning to live in a cash society. While there are a few places that take credit (I can think of one!), the majority of shops, restaurants, services, and utility providers accept only cash. When you pay cash for every last little thing, it just seems to fly out of your wallet!

We came to this country with next to nothing, so there is always something that needs to be bought. Jo needs socks. Shep needs bigger pants. Mom needs shampoo. Dad needs undershirts. The trash guys need paid and the water bill is due, too.

Add all those up after a week of language school sans free time, and we have ourselves a pretty hefty shopping list. Putting it on the debit card would feel pretty painless. I could even tell myself its not THAT much, but handing over a stack of 1000 Rupee notes (equal to 10 USD) is enough to send me into a total panic!

Aside from our big monthly hauls, we are always picking things up here and there. There’s a shop for meat. A shop for fruits and veggies. A shop for clothes. A shop for underwear. A shop for office supplies. A shop for toys. A shop for beauty products. And so on.

I have a constant awareness of products around me that we want/need. The fresh strawberries call my name from the side of the road. The shoe shop with the fuzzy boots makes me suddenly aware my feet are cold. I saw a new brew at the coffee shop this week. I have 500 Rupees ($5) in my pocket. The wheels are turning… I wouldn’t swipe my debit card for a smoothie, but I could pull out a few of those rupees.

Separating my wants from needs has become increasingly difficult and sometimes overwhelming for me. If I have it in my head I need a new scarf, for instance, I am undoubtedly going to pass 40 shops hanging them in their windows!

Some strategies that have helped me with saving money in this cash society…

  • Let my husband handle the money. Ask him for money when I need it. Thankfully, he is a generous man!
  • Take the change when he pays taxis. A little bit adds up over time and pays for my needs here and there.
  • Resist the urge to buy a 40 cent snack every time I pass a shop–or 75 cent coffee…let’s be real, that’s the real struggle here.
  • Buy in bulk whenever possible. Nearly 18 lbs. of strawberries on my counter at the moment for which I paid $20. This is why freezer bags are constantly on my someone-send-me list.
  • Be willing to try brands other than the ones I am familiar and comfortable with.
  • Know when convenience is worth the extra $$$ and when it’s not.
  • Make a shopping list and STICK TO IT (even if they got a shipment of Reese Cups in this week!!)
  • Meal plan based on what is in season.
  • Know how much is/was in my wallet at all times. Be aware of what is being spent and where.
  • Shop American brands we like online during sales and arrange for them to be brought or sent. Many times this is cheaper than paying the import tax for clothes we aren’t necessarily fond of. Learning my lesson on that one.
  • Avoid the “dummy tax.” Know how much things should cost. Set a limit on what I want to spend. Know that many shopkeepers will start high because I am a foreigner. Speaking the language is insanely helpful in this scenario.Dave Ramsey probably wouldn’t let me advise anyone. I am just thankful for all the Lord has provided for our family and all that I have learned about stewarding His financial blessings in this wonderful country.

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Do you have money saving strategies that help you steward God’s money?
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!


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  1. Pingback: Gospel Rich in an Impoverished Land - Amber Taube

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