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Marek and Lori Fuchs have never fought in their 20 years of marriage—except over money. In this column, Mr. and Mrs. Fuchs, a real-life married couple with three kids (ages 11, 7 and 5), will articulate their very different approaches to personal finance. Last round, they butted heads over whether to save for their children's college.

This round: She says, "We'll use cash, not credit cards, to pay daily expenses." He says otherwise.

Mrs. Fuchs says: Listen up, big spender. From now on we’re only paying for our daily expenses in cash. 

Credit cards are like those bad boyfriends I had before I met you, honey.  They look good, promise me the world but quickly turn demanding.  I know cards are incredibly useful—hey, I’ve had intense relationships with several. But there is a certain psychology that flares when you’ve got a pocket full of credit cards. The things that we want become things that we need.

Just last week, I needed new sunglasses (I really needed them, because I, uh, I lost my old ones).  I went to Sunglass Hut where, naturally, I’m immediately drawn to these great looking glasses by, let’s say, a big brand.  I didn’t look at the price but was ready to whip out my credit card.  But wait. I’m paying by cash these days and need to stay within what I had in hand, so I look at the price. I put them back and hunted for a more reasonable pair.  See, I saved myself—I mean us—by paying cash. 

Sure, you need them to make plane reservations and shop online, but it is easier to stick to a budget if you use cash all other times.  That, my friend, is our new program. Now let me have your card. 

Mr. Fuchs says: Carrying around a wad of cash has been widely accepted since the earth cooled as the best way to get mugged.  Moreover, if a credit card company did not keep record of my expenses, I’d have to divine my deductions at tax time.

As far as your newly declared policy goes, what happened with talking things through?

Mrs. Fuchs says: I have been talking things through and I took notes. Pay attention:

“Spending money just feels different if you pay it in cash,” says Scot Stark, the president of Stark Strategic Capital Management in Freeland, Md.

And Bill Driscoll, a certified financial planner at Driscoll Financial in Plymouth, Mass., adds that people tend to “$10 and $20 themselves to death" with careless little credit card purchases. He recommends taking out a budgeted amount of cash each payday and paying for everything you need with it, even your morning latte.  A man like you can’t suffer through life without a latte, so you’ll have to get serious about budgeting. 

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And one more recent conversation struck me (this one is sure to get you).  Just the other day, I told our littlest one that I didn’t have enough money to buy yet another Bakugan [an action figure/card game sort of thing].  He replied, “Just use your credit card.”   He was shocked when I explained that I still needed the money to pay back the credit card company.  Do you want to help raise another generation of Americans who live beyond their means? Paying with cash is a good lesson for the kids.  No more will they think we can just grab what we want. 

So you see why I am taking away your credit card, honey?

Mr. Fuchs says: Well, Stark says it’s markedly easier to return a faulty big ticket item like a flat-screen on the fritz when it’s purchased on a credit card versus with cash. Remember, sweetest?

Then again, he did point out how easy it is to keep financial records through Microsoft Money or other software (Stock Quote: MSFT).  “If you are not organized enough to do that,” he said, “you are not organized enough to trust yourself with a credit card.”

Yes, Stark and Driscoll are quite clear that only those with perfect payment habits should use credit cards. How do I stack up?  Well, I may look good (better than those old boyfriends), but I’m not perfect, especially in bill payment timing.

And also, upon further review, I’ve actually had my credit card stolen more times than I’ve ever been robbed of cash.

OK, sweetie. It kills me to say so, but you win this round. Keep my card. Let’s make specific big purchases like airline tickets and flat screen TVs with our credit card.  Other than that, we’ll go with cash.

Related Stories:

Husband v. Wife: Save for College or Retirement?

Should You Go on a Cash-Only Diet?

Living Without Credit Cards

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