This is Eli

A blog about Eli. A blog about survival – and by that, I mean life!

We were hit by the Target data breach.

Hackers stole millions of credit and debit card numbers. They made off with encrypted personal identification numbers and things like our names, addresses, card expiration dates and the 3-digit code on the back of cards, according to a USA Today article.

Ya'll are cray cray

Ya’ll are cray cray

Those who shopped at Target Nov. 27 through Dec. 15 are at risk for being victims of one of the largest data breaches in history.

Target, happy place.


The day after Christmas, three suspicious charges appeared on our bank statement. Each purchase was made via our Target Red Card. A Red Card is like a Target-specific debit card. It’s connected to our checking account, and by using it, we save 5 percent a purchase. The suspicious charges were made the day after Christmas. We didn’t shop the day after Christmas. We go to Target a lot, sure, but would have remembered three swipes. We called our bank’s customer service department and were credited almost immediately.

The bank’s minions told us to close our bank accounts and start new ones, just to be safe. Uh…damn.

We also need to cancel our Target Red Card. Too bad all customer service roads lead to …on hold…

It’s all a pain, yeah, but that’s not why I’m writing this.

Mark and I have been meaning to use cash to buy stuff, using envelopes to sort our dollars and the whole bit. We started with spending money last month.

The Target debacle pushed us to cash.

I started on the cash-only road because my workplace offered a free Dave Ramsey (“We’re Debt Free!”) course. Dave Ramsey told me to use cash if I wanted to save more and pay off debt. He told me to get a second job.

Work hard, and good things will come to you -- Eli Buddha

Work hard, and good things will come to you — Eli Buddha

It’s a pain to change your habits. It’s a bigger pain to deal with data breaches and ID theft. So, cash it is.

This week, we put ourselves on a budget of $150-$200 for food and supplies, which is well under what we typically spend when we use our debit/credit cards.

We are a family of four with two young children.

This was a challenge.

I don’t remember the last time I used cash to buy groceries.

Not only did I use cash — I used cash I earned waitressing at a moonlighting gig I picked up because Dave Ramsey told me to get a second job.

Uh, my average ticket is like $35 or $40. Ya know how hard I have to smile and hustle to earn even a Benji? Pretty hard. I have to sell about $500 to $600 worth of food and drink.

So when Mark called after I took my cash to the grocer and asked me to pick up Ranch dressing, I was like “NO. Make your own. Ranch is off the table. DUNZO. We have Balsamic vinegar and olive oil. It’s going to have to cut it.”

Don’t talk to me about Ranch when I’m unleashing my dollars so painstakingly earned back into our economy!

Never before have I questioned Ranch dressing, iconic emblem of ‘merica. A staple of wedge salads. Best friend to mozzarella cheese sticks. Tool used to bribe Laila to eat almost anything – for almost anything can be dipped in and made better with Ranch. “Dip it Laila. Dip it. It’s good, see? Dip it. Now eat it. MMMMMM Ranch. Eat it. Eat it. OK give it to me and I’ll eat it.” Ranch dressing. Who doesn’t love Ranch?

ME. Ranch dressing, your necessity is now under heavy scrutiny. Deal with it!

The big shop

Here’s how we did our first big shop with cash.

I picked Sunday afternoon. It’s a good errand day. I left my kids at home. I made a list. I went to three stores to get a week’s worth of food and supplies: Walmart Neighborhood Market (guh), Target and a Sprouts.

Besides using cash and cutting out ‘merican staples like salad dressing, grinding up Eli’s baby food with the Magic Baby bullet helped us stick to our budget. We bought Target diapers in bulk and his formula was on sale.

Buying all organic food is a pipe dream- HA! Our organic staples are butter and milk, some veggies and most fruits. I set out for organic chicken but the $12 (wtf) price tag was too high. I’m sure we’ll live.
Planning a couple of meals and planning to eat the frozen leftovers from meals past helped us, too. We took stock of the ingredients we had and planned recipes around some of them.

So this week, it’s spaghetti, lemon chicken over brown rice, rice and beans and leftovers from the freezer, like beef stew.

A little bla, perhaps, but we won’t starve.

We also roast vegetables — nice and dense ones like sweet potatoes and butternut squash — and have some good fruit staples around, like bananas and apples.

Eli needs applesauce to take enzymes. Mark just keeps getting better in his new role of baby food chef. He makes Eli’s applesauce from scratch.

Regarding my second job at the restaurant — I can’t lie. I’m like: is this worth it?

I concluded it is, for two reasons.

The obvious one: money. We paid for a week’s worth of food and supplies for around $170 in restaurant cash.

We’re going to pay a $500 chunk off of one of our (lucky) debts with the same cash.

Secondly, a job in the waitstaff realm is just the thing I needed to revive the connection in my mind between cold, hard cash and work. I punch in. I labor, cash flows. I punch out.

Using plastic, I don’t feel that connection at all. I am a journalist with a regular paycheck. It’s deposited electronically, appearing as though little green money fairies delivered it to my bank account. It doesn’t hurt me to spend the invisible money after I swipe my plastic card in a magic machine.

Wait a minute…IS MONEY REAL?

Actually, no, the gold standard’s been gone a long time. Still, we need it to survive. I write because my family is trying to survive. We want to be able to afford a little of the unexpected. Unexpected expenses come up for regular people. They come up more for people and families living with chronic disease, like our buddy’s cystic fibrosis. We want to take care of buddy. Right now he’s not getting a medicine because our insurer has refused to pay for it. We don’t have $5K to pony up for it. This is a pebble in my shoe, one of several (like the Target data breach!). I’d like to shake them out. Life’s pebbles can’t be avoided, but I’d like to at least try to walk without pebbles as often as possible. Peace of mind is the end game. We’ll do our best to get there.

It’s time to put the pain back into spending. Goodbye, plastic. Good riddance. Last month, we went cash-only with our pocket money. This month, we’ll try to spend exclusively with cash on a major household expense, our food and supplies.

I’ll let ya know how that goes….What will we be able to save and pay off? I’m really curious.

Has anyone given this a go, and has it changed the way you spend? How fast did you save and take down debt? Let me know!


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