You’re out on the town with your friends, and they keep suggesting new places to go out–and new ways to spend money. You catch a movie and grab some popcorn and candy, then you hit a nice dinner downtown. Next, they want to swing by a local bar, and, next thing you know, you’ve had a few drinks, too. The next morning you check your bank account and see you managed to blow through $200 in a single night out with your pals.

Depending on your income, that might exceed your monthly “fun money” budget. When you’re out with your friends and you just keep swiping your card and having a good time, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re spending. What can you do to slow the spending?

Well, you could try out a cash diet.

What’s a Cash Diet?

A cash diet is a spending paradigm where you only spend money with actual paper cash. Rather than swiping your card for dinner or drinks, you make sure you only spend your fun budget out of your actual wallet. This allows you to keep a direct eye on your spending, forcing you to reckon with a physical representation of the cash you’re spending.

This serves a few purposes. The first, and most obvious, is that it literally physically prevents you from going over budget. This works best if you leave your bank card at home and just rely on the cash in your pocket for your nights out, but those with strong discipline can just stick to “cash only” without leaving their bank card at home.

The second is that you are psychologically to spend less when you actually see your cash reserves dwindling. This can help you save money by physically representing your spending as you go about your daily life.

Making It Work

The best way to do this is to go by the bank after each paycheck and get out however much money is in your “fun budget” for the pay period. Then, only use your bank card to pay for things like your bills, unexpected large expenses, and planned purchases that aren’t part of your entertainment budget.

The rest of the cash, your “walking around money,” so to speak, is then yours to spend as you see fit. This allows you to still have the money you want to spend on fun things without worrying about going overboard and spending too much!