4 Simple Steps to Start a “Fun Money” Cash System

Guest post from Jadah of Family Sponge

My friend Linda introduced me to the term “fun money.” It seems like a funny concept, and it took me over three years to finally adopt it into my own life, but now I want to share this life-changing and simple cash system to you.

My husband and I have always had a toxic relationship with money. If we have the money, we spend it. If we don’t have the money, we spend it. Then one day, we maxed out our credit cards, and we could no longer spend money we didn’t have.

I actually used to be good with paying my full credit card balances at the end of each month. I had an excellent credit score, owned my own condo by 22 years old, and was very responsible with bills and credit card payments.

But then I had a baby and fell in love! I left my job to stay home with my daughter, our income got smaller, and our expenses increased. I mean I “had” to have a Phil and Ted’s stroller. I had to.

Even if I already had a Graco stroller and Peg Perego stroller and was a baby-wearing enthusiast who didn’t even use a stroller much. I thought I “had” to have that $400 stroller!

Fast forward three years later: my husband and I use a cash system.

We were forced to really look at our budget and enter the world of conscious spending. The funny thing is, we never had a budget, so I had to create one.  We only use our debit cards for paying for gas, a few random online purchases, and our online bill pay. We use our cash system for groceries, toiletries, and “fun money.”

Here’s how the “fun money” cash system works:

1. Designate what the “fun money” will be used for.

Our “fun money” is for anything that is not a living or survival expense: movies, eating out at restaurants, iTunes music, clothes, tickets to a concert or game, gifts, enrichment classes, books, office expense splurges, etc.

2. Budget a set amount of money per person.

We budgeted $200 per month per adult and $100 per child (Zoe’s fun money goes towards her classes like ballet). So that’s a total of $500 per month budgeted for “fun money” in our family. That might sound really high to you. If so, choose a number that is doable with your own budget.

3. Set up a “fun money” payout date on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis.

We chose to distribute “fun money” bi-weekly based on my husband’s paydays since his checks from work get direct deposited into our bank account.

4. Choose a person who will withdraw and distribute the “fun money.”

Since I work from home, I make a visit to the bank on payday and put our “fun money” into an envelope labeled with our names on it.

It’s nice to have this fun money to do what ever we want without having to worry about going over budget or spending money we don’t have.

Do you have a system for “fun money”?

Jadah Sellner is the editor of Family Sponge and a work-at-home mom who blogs about creative inspiration and balancing family life. Her passion is to build a community who strives to reach optimal levels of love, respect, and healthy living.

photo credit

Share This:

Subscribe for free email updates from Money Saving Mom® and get my Guide to Freezer Cooking for free!

Read Newer Post
«
Read Older Post
»

Comments

  1. says

    We used to have a fun money line item, but now my husband is in law school so we are doing without :). That said, having this category really really helped me not to sweat it when my husband came home with extra treats from the grocery store – it would just come out of his spending money category. Ours wasn’t that large – $50/month per person, but being the saver that I am, I saved mine up and added birthday and Christmas monetary gifts to it, and eventually bought a DSLR with it. I didn’t feel guilty about the purchase, because it was a result of not buying all those “splurges” over a couple of years.

    • says

      Check my comment a little further down. My husband is in full-time Seminary but we still do fun money (thought it is tiny). It is a life saver. Totally relate to the “husband-in-school” life. :)

    • says

      I love that you saved up money for your DSLR and did not feel guilty about the splurge. I think that’s what’s great about designating a fun money line item. No one is pointing fingers on how each person is spending their money. We do this with free-time too. My husband and I take turns on putting our daughter down for bed. Whoever has the “off” night gets to spend their evening however they wish.

      • MomofTwoPreciousGirls says

        We have two daughters and we switch nights putting each of them to bed. The oldest is much more difficult so it takes about 1.5 hours to get through her routine, the little one only takes like 10 minutes. While some free time was a result (although whoever is not taking the oldest has to do the nightly pick up too) we had other reasons for this.

        First, was a chance to have some alone time for each of us with each of the girls during the week. With busy work schedules and daycare for them, it gives us some wind down time to really concentrate on each child.

        Second, it gets them used to having either one of us put them to bed (learned this lesson the hard way when dh tried to put the oldest to sleep the first time!). This was a big help a few weeks ago when I had to go away for business and dh had to do the routine for both of them for 5 days!

  2. says

    We do the same thing. My husband and I each get $100 a paycheck (we get paid twice a month) for our fun money.

    We also each save/use that money to buy each other birthday, Christmas and other gifts.

    For us, it has been a great tool in our marriage because it keeps us from disagreeing with each other about our personal shopping purchases.

    If we are having a tight month budget wise or if we are saving for a big purchase or trip then we often discuss it and each agree to give up some or all of our fun money that paycheck to go towards that extra cost.

    • says

      I totally agree about avoiding the disagreements over money with personal purchases. I love this system so much. And the fact that you use your “fun money” for birthdays and Christmas makes those gifts that much more special. We usually go Dutch when we go out to eat for date nights (split the check). But every now and then, my husband picks up the tab, and I swoon. I feel like a real lady being wined and dined. :-)

    • MomofTwoPreciousGirls says

      This was a big deal for us.

      For DH he likes to get fast food a couple times a week (I hate this for the fact that it is SO unhealthy and the fact that it can cost $10 a pop). He also really likes gadgets, so he always puts a little aside so that when the next big thing comes out he will have cash to buy it when he adds in what he sells the prior gadget for…he upgraded to the new Ipad for only the tax out of his fun money (we call it blow money).

      Me, (probably just as unhealthy) is my daily coffee.

  3. says

    We do something similar, although we call it “personal spending.” Each month I designate $60 for each of us ($120 total) for personal spending. We can use it for whatever, but if we need new shampoo, soap, or other personal necessities, that also comes out of the $60. I roll over whatever is left at the end of the month into the new month, so if there’s something bigger ticket we want we can save up for it. It allows us to buy a few fun things per month without our spending going crazy!

    • says

      Let me know if you decide to change it to “fun money.” Adds a little excitement to that extra pocket money. :-) We have a separate budget for toiletries. But if my husband or I want the extra special “expensive” shampoo or wants some Body Shop or Bath and Body Works that has to come from our “fun money.” And yes, when you don’t give yourself a budget or system, you do spend like crazy! We were so guilty of that. We are still working on containing ourselves when we get extra money because we always want it to go to the fun money.

      • MomofTwoPreciousGirls says

        This happened with my annual bonus! We decided 10% would go to something fun and the rest went toward our goals.

  4. Sam says

    We just started this. It has rely been helpful! We aren’t to the point of designating money for fun for our 5 children though.

    I totally understand the stroller….I “had” to have a BumbleRide and I already had a couple nice strollers. I just sold it on craigslist to fund a play set.

  5. Tricia says

    We also have money that each of us can spend however we choose. We each get $140 a month to spend. This money is for anything my husband or I want to buy that is not already in the budget: clothing, purses (for me!), drinks/dinner with our separate friends, splurges, iTunes music. It works really well since we know exactly what we have each month for these purchases. If you don’t spend it, you still have what is left over for the next month!

    • says

      Tricia, I’m a bag lady too! I just love purses, bags, clutches, backpacks, reusable grocery tote bags– anything I can stuff things in. I try to find my steals at second-hand stores. I found a super cute Zebra clutch from a thrift shop on Kauai last October for $14 – I just adore it. Do you guys not count meals you eat together as fun money? If so, what a sweet deal for you two!

  6. Patti says

    My Mom told me to make sure my husband and I had “popcorn money” in our budget when we married 35 years ago. We decided to have a his, hers, and joint checking accounts. The joint account pays for our needs. My account has the grocery store and clothing money in it, as well as, stuff related to me such as my gas money and haircuts, etc. My husband pays for his lunches out, his gas money, and other stuff he buys. It has kept us from arguing about money and it even made him start to carry his own lunch when he finally realized how much eating out cost him!!! I couldn’t have gotten him to do that on my own but when it was his idea, he really went crazy. Every weekend he stocks up on “his” groceries for lunch for the week and he buys whatever he wants. I, on the other hand, save up “my” money for treats such as a massage or going out with the girls.

    • says

      I love it! I think that is so smart to have the 3 accounts. When we get a little more money I’d like to do the 3 and an additional just for savings that we can’t touch. Our current savings is a little too easy to get to.

      I love that your husband figured that out on his own. I’m sure a lot of other wives stressing over the budget and their husband’s spending habits (or vice versa) will love to read your story about your husband stocking up on groceries. My husband does that same with his work lunch meals.

      And I should consider saving some fun money for a massage. That sounds lovely.

    • valleygirl says

      I would love to do this….my husband is bothered by it though. It makes sense to me though! And no reason they can’t be linked to move money between them if needed.

  7. JW says

    I think it’s important to have a fun money category no matter what your level of income. It keeps you sane and helps you learn to spend fun money wisely.It doesn’t have to be big, though.

    My husband and I had a season of life (a really long season! :) ) when our fun money line item was $20 a month. No, I didn’t forget a zero. We got REALLY creative about free treats and entertainment, which we continue now even though our budget is bigger.

    But without that $20 to splurge or rollover and watch get bigger, it would have felt like our budget was jail. Sometimes you just really really want a croissant from the bakery or to see the latest blockbuster in the theater. Having a little money there makes you feel in control. Yes, you can do/buy that, but you think carefully about why you want to. If its a valid reason and worth it to you, spend guilt free! If it isn’t, during the process of thinking, you will probably come up with a better lower cost alternative to meet your “need.” Without the money, you might be tempted to just resign yourself to feeling deprived and say “oh well, when we have money I’ll do it” and not really process what it is you really want.

    Like I said, having $20 instead of $0 helped us develop good habits. Now that we could afford to see the latest movie each week or buy a Starbucks daily, we don’t because we’re in tune with what our real desires are. If we’d just “gone without” that whole time we wouldn’t have learned how to handle fun money as wisely and might be more willing to blow the whole $$$ each month now.

    • Stephanie says

      I agree. My husband and I are on a cash budget and have streamlined as much as we can as we pay off student loans. We each have a gas allotment for the week, I have an allotment for groceries, and then we have $20 for spending money. What I’ve come to love though is that at the end of each week whatever we don’t spend we put into our “back pocket” to use for a rainy day – or a splurge. Like you said, it makes us feel like we’re in control of our money rather than it controlling us. And it is our choice to spend it or not.

      Side benefit of a cash budget system: every week (or whenever you “pay” yourself your budget) you feel rich! When it comes to the end of a week and you have no cash left you are tempted to feel like you blew it all – but you couldn’t have ruined your budget because all of the cash was already allotted.

      Budgeting has been a peace-saver in our marriage. We have not fought over money – in fact we get excited about it together.

    • says

      JW, I’d love to hear what you did (and still do) to treat yourself on a tight budget. And I know all about seasons. Can this winter economy be over already? Have you seen Tony Robbins video about weathering tough times? Pretty inspiring. You can check it out here: http://familysponge.com/health/weathering-tough-times/

      I love how you said “we’re in tune with what our real desires are.” So true! Conscious spending is so important. It’s also great to model this for our children.

      • valleygirl says

        We too are very tight and always have been compared to most standards. We don’t go out much (don’t have the time right now to anyways) and when we do together it’s usually just a coffee date. If we go out to eat we find coupons or split a meal to make it cheaper.

    • says

      Not everyone can do $20. When you’re making less than you need to cover bills, it has to be $0. Our grocery amount is $0 most months.

      There are many unemployed and underemployed people who just have to discipline themselves to not spend on anything that’s not a neccessity–and to take the neccessities to a whole new lower amount (lowering utilities and any needed expenses, like food).

      Wants and needs are not the same. Sure, it would be nice to be able to have some wants, but needs come first–and at my house, they are often delayed fo a very long time.

      • Becky says

        Yes, I’ve been very surprised while reading these comments about fun money. We are fortunate to have a substantial income (in relation to what I understand many Money Saving Mom readers have), but I still really struggle with finding fun money. I do nearly all of the spending for the household, & I feel generous when I can find an extra $10 or $20/month to give my husband for pocket money. After paying for regular bills, a couple of sports for the kids, groceries/toiletries, gas, home maintenance, & clothing, it’s a stretch to even stay below budget each month. I know that not every item on this list is a total necessity, but they trump the fun money I think. I need to figure it out though because I know that I would feel bound if I didn’t have even a dollar or 2 in my wallet most of the time, & I want him to feel that good feeling of “getting paid” for his efforts again.

  8. Marie says

    We budget $40 a month for my husband and $40 for me. It’s not much but if there is something we want that doesn’t fall into another catagory it comes out of our money. It means that if there is something we want we have to save for it. Also we don’t have Christmas money budgeted for us so that comes out of this money if we buy each other gifts. It really helps us not impulse buy and also really make sure it’s worth the money since it’s “our” money.
    I also through all loose coins in a jar and we use that money for something we might be saving up for.

    • says

      My husband uses the loose coin jar for Starbucks. I let him have it. :-)

      Doesn’t a limited budget with personal spending make every purchase so much more meaningful? I noticed that when we didn’t have a budget I would buy so much that I didn’t need– all impulse buys. Target loved me when I didn’t use the fun money cash system. There have been many times I had a basket of things at Target and took 75% out because I didn’t want to spend my fun money on it. I feel empowered now.

      • Becky says

        Yes! Target even gives me trouble when using cash because it comes out of so many different envelopes in my cash system. Still easy to overspend on items I don’t totally need since I have all of that cash near the beginning of the month. Sometimes, I have trouble stretching the grocery budget later because of a dang Target trip–sounds like I need to avoid Target from now on. :)

    • MomofTwoPreciousGirls says

      DH saves his own change for whatever he wants too!

      All of mine, plus whatever I find on the street, and whatever my kids get goes in their piggies. I cash it in when they get full and generally will have about $600/year from that, which goes in their savings accounts!

  9. says

    We don’t have too much of a system for fun money. We live in a small town and spend most of our time together, so there’s not much temptation to buy extra things and we have money we use to eat out or go to a movie together. We do occationally divide up money from working overtime, credit card points or gifts so that we can each get what we want. I guess we’re both very used to living simply so that we don’t feel deprived but still get to have fun things here and there.

    • says

      Living simply is awesome. We just moved back to California from Kauai. There was not much recreation on Kauai because it is definitely small town. So we were not tempted to spend, spend, spend on entertainment. We had the beach or the bookstore– and that was it. But now being back in a big city, there are definitely times I wish I could spend a little bit more because we love road trips and going to all the cool museums and music concerts.

  10. says

    We also do fun money (and call it by the same name, too!). Each parent has his/her own ($20-$30 per month), we have family fun money ($65), Date Fun ($75) and Other Fun ($30 – used to help host others, take someone out to eat, etc). It’s been great for keeping my impulse Starbucks buys in check, as well as giving us freedom to go to eat as a family (or do whatever) as long as there’s money in the designated envelope. Recently we’ve upped my husband’s amount so that he can have cash to cover the occasional trip to Aldi or Trader Joe’s on his way home when I ask him to pick up milk, eggs, etc. Works great for us!

    • says

      That’s awesome that you call it fun money too Susan! I like the idea of separating the fun money into family fun money, dates, etc. We have talked about adding specifics into our budget. Especially for the family fun. We love Trader Joe’s. That’s where we do all of our weekly grocery shopping. We have a budget for that too. :-)

  11. Kristen says

    We budget around $50 per month, each – which doesn’t sound like much – but we do things differently than you. We have clothing, eating out, gifts, home improvement, misc, hair, gifts/presents, dog stuff – all as separate cash envelopes each with their own amount allocated. It would be too hard to just have one large “non-necessity” envelope for us. For example, getting our dogs groomed or bringing to the vet isn’t a necessity – but I’d hate to spend all the “fun” envelope and not have money for them. It makes things way easier for us to do things this way.

    • says

      I like how you have made it more specific. Oh, I wish I could have a separate budget for hair and clothes. Since we budget our fun money my husband just cuts his hair. He would rather spend his money on iTunes and food than pay for a nice haircut.

      What kind of dogs do you have? We have a little 12 pound chihuahua-daschund mix we got from the shelter. But we never take her to get groomed. Now I feel bad that we don’t pamper her with a little grooming. :-)

      • Kristen says

        Yea, I like it because I get my hair colored. The budget isn’t huge – I only go a couple times per year. I get a cheap hair cut and go to a nicer place for hair coloring. It really helps us for clothes. I’m a person that will NEVER buy new clothes because it’s a “waste” of money. It’s a way for me to not feel guilty buying a new pair of jeans or sweater when I need one – and easy for us to buy my husband new dress shirts, etc for work.

        We have two miniature schnauzers. LOL don’t feel bad :) I used to share my two my self, but I never did a good job with it. I find it’s just easier to bring them to a professional groomer 2-3 times per year (I let their hair grow out over winter to keep them warm outside as we are in MN, and then cut it off early spring and once more in mid to late summer).

    • Susan says

      Why do you consider vet visits a non-necessity? You have a reponsibility to your pets to keep them healthy. I hope you’ll reconsider and budget for vet and immunization costs.

      To cut down on expenses, I started cutting my dog’s hair myself instead of taking him to the groomer. He’s a cocker spaniel and NEEDS regular grooming or his hair will be dragging on the ground. I couldn’t stand the mess of grooming him at home, so I compromised and now take him to a do-it-yourself doggie wash/grooming place. A lot less than a groomer, and money well spent.

      Also, I like to support local business. I’d likely still be going to the groomer had she not moved away. That’s when I made the switch.

      • Kristen says

        You mis-read what I wrote. I explicitly stated that I budget for vet costs. Things like teeth cleaning (where the dog is put under anesthesia to have their teeth cleaned) isn’t a necessity – but that is a vet visit and something we budget for.

        To many people, many vet visit items would not be considered necessities. For example, bordetella, tick and flea treatment, and teeth cleaning are all things that we budget for – but many wouldn’t consider necessities. That’s why it’s important to have a separate envelope for dogs, so that these expenses are planned for and budgeted for.

        I used to cut my two miniature schnauzer’s hair – but it looked like crap and never looked as good as a groomer – but I definitely wasn’t doing anything with their anal glands – which groomers typically do, so we just budget for that expense. But more power to you if you can handle the whole anal gland angle :)

      • Kristen says

        You misread what I wrote. I didn’t say I don’t bring my dogs to the vet. I own a dog daycare and hotel – so I am very aware of a dog needing regular immunizations, etc. I actually explicitly said that I have an envelope specific to them, for this exact purpose.

        Some aspects of vet visits many people consider NOT to be necessities. For example, many people do not get the Bordtella vaccine for their dogs – something that we require at my facility – and I always get for my dogs. Additionally, some people think that teeth cleanings (don’t confuse with teeth brushing, teeth cleaning is done by the vet and they are put under general anesthesia) are optional – but we don’t, and we budget for them. That is why having an envelope specific to dogs is important for us.

        We used to groom them ourselves, but it never looked as good and we definitely didn’t express their anal glands – but more power to you if you can handle that :)

        • Jessica says

          I hear you on what I consider important and others may not when it comes to my puppy.

  12. K* says

    I love this post! Sometimes I get bummed out on money saving blogs because so many people practice extreme deprivation (not talking about Crystal, of course!) that I feel guilty even buying the occasional latte after reading them!

    I think what works for an individual person or family is the best. For me, having some cash to spend on frivolous things that I don’t “need” keeps me sane and from feeling depressed while meeting my goals.

    • Jessica says

      I know what you mean. When I first started following blogs I noticed this also. I really like the lady from My Frugal Adventures stance that she saves on what she can to splurge on what she wants.

        • Jessica says

          My Frugal Adventures is a blog. Charlene is the author and in her about me section she discusses it a bit. Her views can also be seen on the different deals she posts and her grocery break down.

    • says

      I love that you brought that up! It’s so true that when you deprive yourself from fun things, you can get all out of whack. Like a diet, you restrict yourself from food you love, then when you have some freedom you go crazy. I think everything in moderation is perfect. And yes, some of my fun money goes to a good latte. But I have learned to master my own chai tea latte at home which keeps me from spending too much at Starbucks or a local coffee shop. Here’s my chai tea I make quite often at home: http://familysponge.com/food/tazo-chai-tea-latte-recipe/

    • says

      I agree completely. Our budget is very tight and has been since I became a stay-at-home-mom, but every year I get cash from my in-laws for my birthday and sometimes for Christmas, too. It’s amazing how this small amount can last me the whole year and helps me feel empowered, not deprived.

  13. kathy says

    We also get an “allowance” every week, just like the kids do. We each get $50 a week. It has been a huge blessing in our marriage. Since I am a stay at home mom, I began to resent my husband eating out, getting coffee, etc. but at the same time I didn’t feel like I was “entitled” to these things. Now, we both get the same amount, we can use it for whatever we want without feeling guilty or resentful. We share everything else but this is our own money to do with however we please, no matter how impractical!

    • BethB says

      I can’t bring myself to call it an “Allowance”. I use “Personal Money”. Ha ha. :)

      We’re on our third month of a mostly cash system and it’s funny how many discussions we’ve had about what constitutes a personal purchase. My husbands comic books, for example, are factored in to our monthly budget rather than his personal spending. They way I look at it is I’m guessing more of our clothing budget will go for me so it evens out. The coffee he buys at work comes out of spending cash because he doesn’t drink it at home on weekdays whereas I do. We don’t have conflicts in our marriage about these things but I can definitely see how people can fight about money!

    • says

      Kathy, I love that you brought up resenting your husband’s out-of-the-home splurges. It’s very true that when things don’t seem fair, we start to resent the other person’s “freedoms” or “luxuries.”

      We also apply the fun money cash system approach to our evenings with our daughter. I stay home with my daughter while my husband goes out of town once a week and he gets to eat all kinds of yummy food and play with his co-workers while I hold down the fort. We try to make our parenting duties fair– because as you know parenting is a 24-7 job.

      We make sure that both of us not only get equal fun money, but equal time off to play, veg at home and check out from parenting duties. It’s really nice to know that there are several times a week I can look forward to go out with a friend, take a class or just read in silence while my husband puts my daughter to sleep or takes her out to play. I also give him nights off too to do things he wants to do separate from the family.

    • says

      Kathy, I love that you brought up that you started to resent your husband’s out-of-the-home splurges. It does seem unfair when one person gets to live out certain “freedoms” and “luxuries” while the other person is working just as hard. Parenting is 24/7. 6am to 8pm (sometimes even longer if there are wake-ups in the middle of the night). We working on-call, so stay-at-home moms/dads should be able to get out of the house for some kid-free coffee or adult-only meals. I love that this helped your marriage. It has been a blessing for our family too. And we are happier with this system in place.

      • MomofTwoPreciousGirls says

        In our house my husband is not working right now. A few weeks ago he said he did not want his weekly blow money until he was working again. That he doesn’t like spending my money. I had to explain that I don’t look at it that way. HE needs to be able to blow off some steam too. Having no money will just make him feel trapped and probably resent my daily coffee. The money is OURS. While I may be making money out of the home, he is taking care of the house, so I’m not stuck doing it! We want him to find work again, but while he is home his contributions to our household and family are JUST as important as mine. He doesn’t see it that way, I just need to keep reminding him!

    • says

      Let me know if you do Deborah! It really has been life-changing for us. If you are not used to budgeting at all (like us before we started), you will hit a bumpy road in the beginning. Because you kind of feel like a kid getting an allowance. I was fine with it. But my husband would have a hard time when he couldn’t buy everything he wanted when he wanted it. He’s now doing such an awesome job with it. And he even treats me for date nights out. Makes my heart melt when he spends his fun money on me. :-)

  14. says

    I am a real fan of fun money, though I have to say that your numbers seem high, but I would totally do that if we had the resources.

    We currently live on a part-time income while my husband is in seminary but we have always made it a point to have fun money. Our amounts may shock you, but keep in mind it is in proportion to our income and being in seminary (with no debt). We each get out $10/ month and then we allot $20/ month for “entertainment.” That is a total of $40 for a family of five. Not a lot, and not enough to do anything “big,” but it allows for the occasional ice cream or Starbucks.

    Having fun money, however little, has been crucial to being able to stay on top of the living on such meager means. Psychologically, knowing that I have my “own” money that I can spend however I want, helps me not get discouraged about how little we live on!

    Fun post!

    • says

      That’s great that you can support a family of five on a part-time job. We are taking on some debt, but trying to keep our expenses as low as possible to avoid any unnecessary debt (one-car family, cloth diapers, etc.). The health insurance is the killer for us – it is actually larger than our food bill, which just doesn’t make sense to me sometimes.

        • Sheryl says

          You should check into Samaritan Ministries (www.samaritanministries.org) – it is a Christian “needs sharing” group. It’s alot less expensive than regular insurance and it really works. A few years ago I had to have major surgery that cost around 65,000 – between their negotiation with the hospital and all the money coming in from other Samaritan Ministries it was paid in full. With only the $200 deductable out of my pocket. A big bonus was all the cards with prayers or words of encouragement that came with the checks – like Christmas everytime I went to the mailbox. :-D

    • says

      I’ve got a hubby in grad school and we’ve each got $10/month too. Not a lot, but even just the little bit helps when times are tight.

    • MaryBeth says

      My husband and I each get $10/month and people we’ve told that look at us like we’re crazy. Funny thing is that we hardly can get ourselves to spend it. It is nice to know however that if I want a Starbucks with a friend I don’t have to worry about it being in the budget. We could probably afford to have a bigger “fun money” envelope but right now getting out of debt is more important to the both of us.

    • says

      Johanna, I think that’s awesome you have $20 a month. We are such creative human beings and we can make anything work with whatever we have. My partner on Family Sponge is starting a church plant in Florida, and I believe they get $20 per month too. I think you make it work with what God provides, and it’s always just enough. And we trust that God provides right on time (even when it’s not on our time). We actually had a smaller budget for fun money, but then my husband ended up making more than we thought he would get for take home pay, so we just threw it into our fun money.

      And you are so right about the psychology of having your “own” money. :-)

    • says

      We each have $0 per month. We’re trying so hard to get out of debt, save for a down payment on a home (someday…) and hopefully adopt a baby. We occasionally “splurge” on something…but we usually do that with birthday or holiday money (or maybe from the savings acct) – but splurges are rare. Hopefully someday that will change!

      • says

        After a while, you get used it. I know we have. It’s been that way for most of the 12 years we’ve been married. At one point, our income was great, we were out of debt, and we were finally able to buy some furniture (no more sitting on folding chairs in the kitchen that then got moved into the living room when we needed them there like we had done for the many years before). We researched it and shopped around, and it was wonderful to be able to pay cash.

        The real estate market then took a nosedive, our income came to a grinding halt for along time, and hasn’t been much since then, so we’re back to $0.

        My husband’s birthday is in a few days, so I’m going to mend some things for him. I hemmed a pair of shorts for him yesterday and I hope to surprise him with having fixed several things. Serving one another is a great birthday gift!

        • Becky says

          Those gifts are the sweetest! How thoughtful of you. I know that I have several things like that laying around, & my husband would be so pleasantly surprised if I took care of them. Very nice–& I love your service mention.

    • says

      Your amounts seem perfect to me. Right now, my “fun money” is made up of what I get for my birthday each December. This past year I got $50 from my in-laws and my husband put together. Fifty dollars usually lasts me until the following November and many times I will use that money to buy Christmas gifts or supplies to make gifts for others before it runs out. I think psychologically I just like knowing that I have the money if I choose to buy something.

  15. Jessica says

    I use to do this but stopped some time last fall. I moved to a new, small town and it was football season (I work with collegiate athletics) so there wasn’t a lot to do and I didn’t need “fun money” weekly. I may have to start this again.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    • says

      Yeah, we lived in a small town on Kauai, and we didn’t use it there. But living in a big city in California with no credit cards, we need the fun money cash system for our sanity. Good luck on getting started again!

  16. Suzanne says

    My husband and I do this even now that we are debt free. We tell each other about every purchase over $150ish (unless a gift but we usually run expensive gifts by each other to make sure the other person really wants the item). We each get an “allowance” of about $80-$100 (depends upon amount left after bills, savings, etc.) per paycheck which for us is 2x per month. That is $ that we don’t have to explain where it goes. If you can afford it, I definitely recommend it!

    • says

      I love that you maintain it as a lifestyle and not as a way to just save money and pay off debts. I think it’s all about building healthy habits for finances, relationships, our bodies and our minds. :-)

  17. says

    We set aside fun money, too, and it’s worked out great for us. However, my husband and I get different amounts- I get less, because I’m not working (outside of being a mom!). It didn’t occur to me to ask for the same amount as my husband- but maybe I should. His job is just so much more stressful than my stay-at-home life, so I just assumed he should get more.

    • says

      I just want to tell you that you are just as valuable as your husband. Income doesn’t determine your true value or worth. I don’t want to tell you what you should do with your money – that’s not my business. But it can never hurt to hear that you, as a person, are worth just as much as anyone else, especially as a Mom. <3

    • Stephanie says

      Just wanted to let you know that I’m in a similar spot as you – where my husband gets a little more than me as spending cash each week. But the way it works out for us is (1) whatever I have left over from the grocery budget I get to use, and (2) it allows him the ability to pay for occasional treats for me and feel like he is blessing me by using “his” money on something for me.

    • says

      You’re so cute! I love that you say your stay-at-home life is less stressful than your husband’s. Your kids must be super awesome. But, I say it couldn’t hurt to ask for a fun money raise. :-)

      • Becky says

        “Your kids must be super awesome.” That made me totally laugh. I’ve been having a few rough days lately & needed that. :)

    • says

      research has shown that stay at home moms are actually worth $150,000 a year salary for all the work they do. I don’t know what your dh does or what is so stressful about his job. But you deserve some spending money, equal to his.
      YOU are a team and YOU have financial goals and YOU work together to achieve those goals and run a family and YOU deserve equal spending money.

      P.S. I read this to my dh and he wants to be married to you. LOL (can you tell I get equal spending money?) :)

      • says

        Oh, dear. Maybe I need to have a talk with my husband. After 4 years of working full-time while being a mom, I was so grateful to become a stay-at-home that I didn’t want to ask for much else. On the other hand, his job really is more stressful than mine- he’s a fire captain and deals with life and death situations- so I feel like the extra money is a reward for all the stress he endures. I’m really conflicted about this!
        -Viva, from The Daily Citron

        • sarah says

          I might be in the minority here, but I would say that if you’re satisfied with the amount that is budgeted for you currently I wouldn’t let reading about others who get more or equal to their spouses sway you into asking for more just so you can be “equal” or “fair.” How much money you get to spend on yourself isn’t the only indication of your worth or value.

          My husband gets $60 a month to spend on whatever he wishes. I’m a SAHM and get $0 budgeted solely for myself. I don’t really think of this as unfair, nor do I consider myself deprived. I don’t drink coffee, get manicures, buy purses or things like that (not that I think those things are wrong, they’re just not things I care about). And if I need a hair cut it comes out of the “miscellaneous” line in our budget.

          I don’t feel like I am worth less because of this, it’s just where we’re at. He has things he wants to spend money on, whereas I would much rather have or other budget categories be larger. It works for us. If I wanted money of “my own” to spend, my husband would certainly be fine with it, but we’d have to finagle things around to figure out where it would come from.

          My point is, if you’ve been satisfied with what you have, continue to be satisfied. Especially since you seem torn up over the prospect of asking for more.

    • says

      I feel that as a stay-at-home-mom my husband can have more spending money than I do. But that probably has a lot to do with the fact that I know he is so responsible with money. In fact, when he gets cash for his birthday or Christmas he typically uses it to pay for a monthly bill or add to a debt payment.

      Also, if I ever feel like I really need something I know he will try to make a way to get it for me. So I guess it doesn’t really bother me that I have to make my birthday money stretch out all year while he technically could spend whenever he wants to because he just doesn’t. If he was a real spender I could see how this could lead to some discontentment, but it works for us.

    • ksenia says

      I have to second what others have said: Your job is probably just as hard and stressful as your husband’s. It may be harder on a certain level because you do not get any real feedback or see clear progress as a mother. At an actual job the husband is told “job well done!” and they get the occasional raises or awards or other recognition, which boosts morale. I also can’t imagine having to “ask” my husband as we’re equal stewards of our money (even though he technically earns it). The whole reason he goes to work is so we can provide and raise our kids. If I didn’t take care of/raise/birth the kids then he wouldn’t have much to be working for. Basically, I can’t disagree more with your comment and think you deserve much more credit and fun money than you are giving yourself :)

  18. says

    We have 2 ‘fun money’ cash envelopes. One is our family fun money — for restaurants, bowling, movies, etc. The other is ‘his’ and ‘her’ fun money. We pay ‘ourselves’ some cash and that can be used on whatever we would like with no accountability to the budget (meaning: saved receipts). We use these for little somethings during the month– drinks, snacks, gifts, etc.

    • says

      I love that! We have been talking about having fun money just for family fun. Now I just need mystery money to appear in my bank account every month for that extra envelope. Right now family fun comes from our personal fun money.

      • says

        Thanks for the compliment. One ‘fun’ thing about having various fun money is that if money is tight, these are the first to eliminated/reevaluated for the month. And it seems to keep our extras on an even playing field — family vs me vs dad.

  19. Diane says

    We each get 10 dollars a month for whatever we want although I usually don’t spend it. We each get 20 dollars a month for clothes and 20 dollars a month as a family for gifts. So I guess we just separate what we call fun money into more categories than many people do.

    • says

      Yes, there are a few people who have more categories which I like. Our clothes and gifts definitely come out of our fun money. Diane, where does your rollover $10 go to? Do you save it for something bigger?

      • Diane says

        Yes we roll over all of our envelope money unless it’s obvious we have extra in a category, like fuel, and then at the end of the year we put it as extra payment on the house. I have put some of my personal money on the house and have a note saying how much I get when our house is paid off and a few times I’ve just made gifts to different non-profit ministries I care about (because if I know they need the money a lot more than I do). I’ve always been a big saver and have a hard time thinking of extra things to buy. My husband has no problem buying a new CD or going out to eat for lunch (which would be personal money).

  20. Kate says

    My husband and I each have our separate funds and it works so well! I am a saver and he is a spender. So, I still have money from like a year ago, while he’s already spent his from last week! But it works for us because he can spend it without me worrying about how it affects our budget. We each get $10/week. Also, any money I make from tutoring or he makes from mechanical work that we do on the side outside of our jobs, we get to keep. We split babysitting/housesitting money equally. I saved mine up to buy a puppy and pay for her first year’s expenses – best investment ever! My husband spends his on hunting/fishing/archery “needs” he just has to have! :-) It’s amazing how much freedom you feel like you have with an extra unbudgeted $10 a week!

    • says

      I love how you said “worrying about how it affects our budget.” I was the worry wart more frugal spender too. But I am just as guilty of splurges too. I tend to spend my fun money on practical things while my husband likes to spend it on food and music. I would judge him for his spending before, but I was just as guilty, I just justified it differently. Now we don’t have to judge and we can freely spend our fun money with no worries.

      I like the idea of keeping side job money. We should consider that.

      What’s your puppy’s name and what kind of dog? That is so adorable that you saved money to buy your puppy and you planned to pay for first year expenses.

      • Kate says

        My tutoring is a pretty steady income on top of my teaching, but my husband’s mechanical work on the side is pretty sporadic. Either way, I wasn’t comfortable building it into our budget because we couldn’t trust it as much as a paycheck. Also, it gives us the flexibility to say no if we just can’t do it physically (I got mono and found out I was pregnant this winter…it was a rough few months!!).

        Gracie is our papillon. She just turned 1 on February 20. She is soooo precious! She’s my baby! When we got her, I saved $1000 extra just to be sure that if an emergency came up, she wouldn’t be a burden on our spending. We hadn’t been married very long, so I didn’t want to have to choose between a dog-related medical expense and our groceries for the week! She has been perfect, and perfectly healthy, so I haven’t had to use that money. It is still a nice comfort to have, though. Because we saved up for her, we had to wait…which I am VERY bad at when I REALLY want something! Our breeder was amazing though, I have pictures of Gracie from when she was less than an hour old. Too precious! If you’ve never seen a papillon, Google them. Some of them don’t have the best looking markings in my opinion, but Gracie is gorgeous! Great breed of dog if anyone is looking….elegant, smart, and loyal! Highly recommend!!

  21. Erin says

    We use the $5 method. Every time we have a $5 we put it in an envelope and save it for whatever we want. Obviously we let it build up if we want a bigger ticket item or to go to a fancy pants restaurant. This method works well for us because we use cash to purchase gas and groceries (gas stations in NV give a discount if you use cash – strange I know, and seeing the cash disappear at the register when buying groceries helps us stay on budget).

    • says

      I have never heard of the $5 method, but it sounds pretty cool. Maybe we could do that for our fun money. We rarely save our fun money for bigger things. And yes, watching cash in hand disappear makes it a whole lot harder to part with. Even my debit card sometimes tricks me to thinking that maybe there is more. :-)

  22. margaret says

    Wow, I wish I had $200/month of fun money. My husband and I each get $20/month. We usually overspend, but since we’ve started taking cash out each week, we have bought a lot fewer coffees. It also helps that our espresso maker is fixed so we make quite a few at home.

    • says

      Yes, making a fancy coffee at home is the way to go to help curb those Starbucks visits. I know $200 each per month is pretty big, but a lot of personal spending falls under that.

      I think I should show my husband all of these comments because then he would know he’s living like a king with his fun money. He wishes he had more (who wouldn’t). Trust me the fun money cash system took some discipline for two people who never had a budget at all. Of course it was out of necessity. But now we have a habit that will last us a lifetime.

  23. Jenn says

    We do this as well. We call it “allowance”. My husband and I each get $10 per week, my daughter gets $15, and my son $7. Yes it is weird she gets more than us, but she has to pay for her cell phone, clothing, school supplies, haircuts, etc out of her money, and we have other categories for those things. She has her own budget and envelopes for all of her expenses. I will tell you, I quit buying coffee’s when shopping at Target as soon as it was coming out of MY wallet, instead of the grocery money :)

    • says

      Haha, Jenn that’s awesome! It’s so true when it starts coming out of “my” money, your spending habits change drastically. You also start to realize what is important to you. My husband and I used to eat out all of the time together. Now food is not so important to us. I rather spend my money on things that will grow my business, or learning something new, and I am addicted to cute and bright office supplies from Target. :-) My husband likes to spend his money on iTunes music and eating out while at work. So now we eat more meals at home as a family.

    • MomofTwoPreciousGirls says

      That is one thing I’m not willing to give up! I don’t drink, smoke or have any hobbies that cost any money. I RARELY do anything for myself, so I consider my daily cup of coffee (nothing fancy) my “me” time.

      Honestly, anyone who comes near me before I have my coffee is cruisin’ for a bruisin’! :)

      • Jenn says

        HA! I completely understand that! I am perfectly happy with a cup of coffee and french vanilla creamer at home, but I do have friends who think the fact that I get up at 5am willingly is crazy. THAT is my “me” time though, if I can read blogs and sip my coffee in silence before the kids get up (my hubby leaves around 4:45 anyway) I am a much happier Mama the rest of the day than I am if I get up when they do and have to jump into “go” mode right away!

        • MomofTwoPreciousGirls says

          I’m up at 5 to get ready for work! I am out the door at 5:45, and I don’t see the kids until I get home in the afternoon!

  24. Jennifer says

    My husband and I (married 11 years) started “personal money” from the day we got married. We started out with it as a percentage of our income – so it varied based on salaries, raises, etc. So as soon as we got paid, 10% went to tithe, 10% (5% each) to our personal money. It instantly took away the stress and aggravation of having to ask “permission” to buy stuff. Its been a godsend, and I recommend it to all my friends.

    We’ve been blessed (as well as worked really, really hard) to have a very comfortable income, and as such, we no longer take 5% each. Several years ago we decided that we both had sufficient money in our personal money each month (and we’re both savers, so our balances were healthy) and decided it was more prudent to put more money on our mortgage (now paid off) and investments. We’ve haven’t thought about going back up since and its great.

    • says

      Jennifer that is so awesome and inspiring! Imagine if more couples started out their marriages with those type of spending habits. My husband and I have implemented this fun money cash system 6 years after marriage, so we have a lot of old habits we struggle with and are working on changing. It has been a joyful journey. I like how you use a percentage to determine the money. I should look and see how are fun money percentage works out to. There was a tough time a few months ago when I lost my part-time job. We had to cut our fun money down until I got another part-time job. It’s kind of nice to have a budget for that very reason. It makes it easy to change some numbers around and see where you can make cuts to make it all work out.

      And congrats on paying your mortgage off! So very cool.

  25. August says

    I have OCD. Not the kind that people say they have when they’re tidy, but the actual disorder. I don’t clap 15 x’s a minute, but I have a really hard time with things like money. For example, I have extreme fears of catastrophes (floods, fires, 2012) happening at any time, so I’m always worried that we wont be prepared (even if we were the most prepared people in the world). I have to know about the money all the time or I start getting worse. My husband can spend $2.99 on a can of dip, I see it on the statement, and I’m in fits before he even gets home because I’m wondering what happened to that $2.99

    It’s extremely stressful for myself, but also for my husband. He just doesn’t show it. I wish so much that I could do things like this, but at this point, I’m just not there yet. My husband is a spender, I’m, obviously, a saver. If we set aside money every month just to “spend”, I would instantly go into a craze.

    I’m working on my problems though, because I know it’s a nightmare for my husband to never splurge on things. We go to movies occasionally (once every few months), and we eat out (if someone else is paying), but other than that, the splurge money is what I spend in couponing (stockpiling).

    I’m not proud of it, I’m amazed my husband hasn’t divorced me honestly, but when I do get better, I want to do something like this. Except, I’d want it to just be his, he does without so often….

    • Sarah Jean says

      I know nothing about OCD but I wonder if he just had a certain amount each week in cash so you wouldn’t see it on any statement. Would it be “out of sight, out of mind” for you? You sound like you’re beating yourself up about this and maybe that would be a way to ease the tension. (though it sounds like your man loves you regardless)

    • says

      Thanks for sharing your story. Half the battle is you being aware of what the problem is. And just the fact that you are considering the fun money cash system as a solution in the future is awesome! We all have our struggles and it takes time to change habits and world views that have been a part of us for so long. Try not to be so hard on yourself and look at all the great things you do for your family by saving money with coupons and making less mean more in your life.

  26. valleygirl says

    We do “blow money”. Everything else is budgeted in. We have an entertainment fund which is for eating out and going places but that is only funded to $100 a month for a family of 5. Aside from that we have the blow money which includes any random not budgeted item. My husband and I get $40 a month for this. It’s not much but frees us up.

    • says

      I love hearing how families make what ever they budget for fun, whether it be $10 a month or $200 a month, work for their family. I think the smaller your fun money budget is, the more conscious spending happens. And each fun event and splurge is more meaningful.

  27. Cheri A says

    I have loved reading this post and all of the comments of how the cash system works in each family. I am a saver, dh is a spender, and we really need to do something differently. I really want to use this cash system, but he really does not. We do not use credit cards anymore, only the debit cards attached to the checking account, but we do overspend. We have been trying to get out of credit card debt for years. I read Dave Ramsey’s book, and I’m trying to convince him to try this method for a few months.

    • says

      Hi Cheri. Thanks for sharing. Do you guys have a budget you work with already? I have a close friend who is in the same boat. It happens a lot. Someone is the saver and someone is the spender. Is there something in your life that your DH thinks you get more of and he gets less of? Maybe striking a balance there first would ease him up to be more open to balancing out the spending.

      The cash system is hard to implement. Remember, I knew about it three years before we actually started it. I would suggest that you get started on it first (doing the prep work) before presenting it to your husband. What I did on my own time was I printed out the last 3 months of our bank statements. I made categories and basically figured out where all our money was going from gas to rent to eating out, etc. The numbers were very consistent over the three months. Once you know your spending habits you can designate numbers within your already natural spending habits. Then go from there.

      So maybe you already roughly spend about $100 on eating out every month, you would just say instead of using your card, we will distribute $100 per month in cash. Once you have cash in hand you already start to spend more consciously. You will reevaluate if you want an appetizer or dessert way before you make your order.

      Another option so you don’t feel resentful, is that you just get equal spending money like your DH. Say, “I noticed you spend roughly $200 a month on eating out. I would like to have $200 too.” Then at least is seems fair. Then what you choose to do with your $200 is up to you. You can save it, spend it, put it towards credit card debt, etc. Just an idea. :-) But don’t forget to take care of yourself and treat yourself too. Sometimes you may try to compensate your fun money spending habits by not spending much at all because of how your DH spends. Let go a little and buy yourself a massage or have a girls nigh out without feeling guilty about it.

      Good luck! I know it isn’t easy.

      • Cheri A says

        Thanks. I will have to collect my thoughts and data and pray before I talk to him. See, the thing is, I used to handle the bills, and we decided a long time ago that he needed to see where his paycheck really went so that he wouldn’t overspend, but I don’t think that’s working anymore. I just really think that the cash system in some of these categories would really help both of us, but he’s been resistant to it when I mentioned it. I may have to lead by example quietly for a few months in the categories that I have control over and mention it as I can.

  28. Chrystelle says

    Great post. We did Dave Ramsey’s FPU after 10 years of marriage and I can’t tell you how much it has blessed us! We too, have blow/fun money category very similar to yours ($100/each 2x per month). We used to try to deprive ourselves to save money, but always ended up going over budget. While these amounts may seem high…we don’t go over budget anymore.

    Never thought of a blow/fun money envelope for the kids…good idea!

    • says

      That’s awesome you were able to implement a plan and it worked! It’s amazing how when you actually put some effort into something that can be a major issue for discord in a marriage, it changes your life drastically. Having systems in place are not always about feeling imprisoned by money but actually more empowered. And it becomes less of discussion (or argument) because the expectations for one another are clear.

      And yes, setting aside money for your kids helps a lot. My husband goes a little crazy on our four year old daughter with buying her random goods from Target (she’s addicted to “lovies”). But most of her fun money goes towards her classes, so if my husband wants to buy her a toy “just because,” it has to come from her leftover fun money or from his own fun money. Needles to say, that buying “just because” habit has decreased tremendously. :-)

  29. Susan says

    We started budgeting for fun money several years ago. It actually saved our marriage! I would pick and pick at my husband over every single penny he spent. He’s an avid hunter and that is NOT an inexpensive hobby, so when he “needed” to buy deer tags I would get upset over the $15 a piece. If he “needed” something over $100 I would literally have a fit! So I started giving him an allowance and told him he could buy what ever he wanted…he didn’t have to tell me what he got…he had the option of saving it from month to month for something really expensive…he was free from my nagging! It’s been wonderful! and the money stress level has eased soooo much. Over the years his allowance has increased when his salary increased. I highly recommend the fun money, allowance, what ever you want to call it plan.

    • says

      Thanks for sharing your story Susan! When you have a system in place it does really eliminate nagging which does save a marriage. Having clear expectations really streamlines how your home runs. We apply this same principle to going out with friends, putting our daughter to sleep and our home chores. That way it’s not this quiet expectation of who is supposed to do what when.

  30. says

    We started doing this last year even before we went fully to a cash envelope system and it has been ah-maz-ing! I tend to micromanage our budget and with the cash “allowance” I don’t have to worry about what my husband is spending his money on. It’s also given me permission to spend a little without feeling guilty. And when the money is gone, it’s gone so you are still controlling your spending.

    • says

      I micromanage the budget too. This plan saves me a lot of headache and nitpicking over iTunes and Starbucks purchases. And ‘when it’s gone it’s gone’ is so true. I just spent the last of my fun money last night on the Hunger Games. I told my husband I think I will skip movies for now on, you can go with your friends. I’d rather spend my fun money on other things and wait to rent movies. :-)

  31. says

    My husband’s father recommended to us to have some “Mad Money” just so we didn’t get bogged down in this stage of our life. We’re working hard to pay down our debt, so he thought a little something to remind us that we have fruit for our labor is good. We’re only doing about $40 a month for both of us (which means $10 per pay period for each). It works out pretty well.

    From reading some other comments, I think we view things differently too, we’ll use our grocery money to go out once a week (usually fast food), we have a clothing fund to replace needed items, and haircuts come out of a different category. But it is so nice for me to be able to buy crafting supplies, gifts for my husband, or just something I see at the store without having to ask my husband’s permission. And I don’t have to get upset when he comes home with something we haven’t discussed. It’s actually made our lives a lot less stressful, and has helped us to enjoy spending money, but in a limited way.

    • says

      I love it– Mad Money! It does eliminate stress. And I think our fun money budget is a little higher because we do not include haircuts, clothes, eating out in our other categories. We just see those purchases as you could live without them, but if you really want it, you’ve got your fun money. So my husband has become a pro at cutting his own hair. And I pluck my eyebrows more often than I want to. :-)