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Q&A Tuesday: Sharing money when you have a cash envelope system?

We’ve been thinking of moving to a cash-only envelope system to better manage our spending, but I’m looking for ideas on how to “share” the cash with my spouse. Although I do the bulk of the shopping in our household, my husband often will often make a stop or two (e.g. to snag a great deal, pick up milk, etc.) on his way home from work.

I am curious how other people might handle this scenario when using cash. Do you have two sets of envelopes? Pass the cash back and forth? Any other strategies? -Becky

I cannot recommend a cash budgeting system highly enough. In fact, I wrote a whole chapter on it in my upcoming book! I truly believe it has been one of the keys to financial success for us.

But your question on how to share cash when you’re on a strict cash envelope system is excellent. We’ve also found that there are certain categories we’ll both spend in and this can pose a few issues. We’ve tried a few different things:

1. Pass the Envelopes Back and Forth

I typically do most of the grocery shopping, however, Jesse will sometimes make a quick run to Aldi for me. If I know in the morning that he’s likely going to be making a quick stop at the grocery store on his way home from work, I’ll send the grocery money envelope with him that day.

2. Rob Peter to Pay Paul

When in a bind, if we don’t have the envelope and one of us needs to buy groceries, we can borrow from another envelope and re-pay it from the grocery envelope that evening. It’s not the option I’d recommend, but it does happen around here sometimes.

3. Set Up His and Hers Envelopes

We’ve found it helpful to each have our own designated envelopes for certain budget categories. For instance, we each have our own clothing envelope and we each have our own blow envelopes. We added separate blow envelopes to our cash budgeting system last year and it’s been a great addition — it’s our fun money to spend however we like or to save for something extra that’s not in our current savings goals list.

If your husband routinely stops for groceries, it might be wise to set up a grocery envelope for him with a small portion of the grocery money so that you don’t have to mess with passing the envelopes back and forth, robbing Peter to pay Paul, or falling back on a debit or credit card because you don’t have an alternative.

If you have a cash budgeting system, I’d love to hear what you do for categories that are shared in your budget. Any great suggestions or ideas?

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97 Comments

  • Monica says:

    Too bad for him….he’ll have to use his blow money! I’m just kidding. I do the same. If I know that I need milk (like always) I’ll send the money in the morning. If we happen to miss doing that and he uses his debit card, then when we do the spreadsheet that week for the budget I will take that amount of cash and set it aside. We get the grocery money out twice a month. So when it is time to get money out again, I will get the normal amount less whatever has already been spent in the spreadsheet. That is not the best way, I’m sure. We are a one car family so when I need him to pick up something, I need him to get it to save a trip. Good luck! Cash has been so much harder to spend!

  • Jessica says:

    Here is what works for us — My husband keeps $20 in his wallet that is “extra.” It’s sort of like a debit card in the way he uses it. If he needs to stop for gas or groceries, he uses the $20, then reconciles with the envelopes when he gets home. If he needs to make a larger purchase and for whatever reason isn’t home, he’ll use his debit card (assuming of course we have the cash at home to spend) and then we’ll deposit the cash into our checking account later. This works well for us since I do the bulk of the shopping. This allows my husband to adapt to something that comes up pretty easily. Good luck!

  • Jessica says:

    We keep $20 from my grocery money in my husbands car in an envelope for the “honey dear…” moments {I get a lump sum for the entire month at the beginning of each month.}
    I take the leftovers back near the end of the month to finish off the months shopping with.

  • birtrightrose says:

    We had a hang up with this as well. Now my husband gets $20 or $50 to keep in his pocket. If he uses the money on groceries or gas he gets that amount out of the grocery or gas envelope when he gets home. We define it as ‘blow money’ (we call it ‘slush fund’ b/c it sounds better) if we can’t allocate the amount to a specific envelope. Most of the money is spent on gas fill ups though.

  • Amy says:

    Good question!! This problem–the “sharing” of the cash, is the very reason why we gave up on the cash-envelope system years ago. It is much easier for us both to use our debit, especially since I check our bank account online EVERY day and adjust our budget accordingly.

    • Meredith says:

      We don’t cash budget either. The main reason is that my husband is not on board with it. He’s an accountant and we are in our excel spreadsheet budget and bank account multiple times daily. If you truly discipline yourself, no matter the payment option, you can save!

    • jessica says:

      We use a combination. We’ve got various bank accounts that I allocate money into on pay day. What got us going on that was gas. Hauling three little kids into a gas station to prepay, pumping and then going back in for my change was seriously getting old. And gas stations around us don’t do a different price for cash anyway. We get gas once or twice a pay period, so keeping track of it in our separate account is nothing.

      • jamala thomas says:

        We are still trying to learn the ropes of the cash system. For now he has a Pay pal debit card that I have money transferred to every pay period for his blow money.

    • Cn says:

      After doing Dave Ramsey we used cash for 2 years. Now we use mvelopes. It basically is envelope budgeting for debit cards. It’s amazing. I love it almost as much as I love Dave Ramsey. Almost.

  • Cara Canada says:

    We use an online envelope system called mvelopes.com. It totally solves the sharing issues, plus it work for us although we believe in the cash system, we don’t like having so much cash on hand (loosing an envelope, purse is stolen, etc.). This allows you to electronically assign transactions to an envelope. If you have an iPhone there is an app where you can view your envelope real time and see you still have $x in groceries or dining, etc. You make up your own envelopes so you are not ties down to “generic” envelopes, you can make it as detail or broad as you wish. We have been using it for 2 months & love it. If anyone checks it out and likes it, let me know, i’d love to send you a referal link!

  • Amanda says:

    We use a few of the same methods that Crystal named—trying to take the envelope ahead of time or robbing Peter to pay Paul. The “robbing” method gets a little messy at times and if I forget to repay the necessary envelope right away then it probably doesn’t happen. For the first several months my husband wasn’t as committed to the envelope system and we had a lot of trouble with the “falling back on the debit card” strategy which was a real pain. But, slowly and surely he’s doing better so that doesn’t happen much at all anymore! I’m intrigued by the idea of the husband keeping some gas and grocery money in the car for quick stops, so maybe we’ll give that a try. Thanks for the idea!

  • Catherine says:

    My husband and I each get a set amount of money each pay period deposited to our personal checking accounts that we have separate debit cards for. That money is for gas, haircuts, clothes, lunch, coffee, whatever. If one of us needs to grab something that an envelope would cover, we either do it and don’t worry about getting paid back if it’s small and we have the slush in our account or we take it from the envelope when we get home.

  • A.Love says:

    Instead of individual envelopes, we use an accordian coupon holder and named each file according to it’s cash allotment (Groceries, Clothes, Gifts, Hair…) While I carry the coupon holder with most of the cash, we each get our own cash allowance & gas money. If my husband is out without grocery cash for example, he borrows money from his allowance or gas cash on hand and I reimburse him with the grocery cash.

    • MamaKiert says:

      We use the accordian holder too. We also keep separate envelopes in each car’s glove box with gas cash. It’s nice to know others are doing the same thing! 🙂

      • MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

        Doesn’t the possibility of a break in frighten you? As a matter of fact, our biggest fear about having the cash is getting robbed or a fire…the money is not protected in those scenarios…anyone have thoughts on this?

        • Leah says:

          I’m not trying to be flip, but do those things happen often? I mean, if you have a fire you have a MUCH bigger problem, and even though WE know there’s a lot of cash in our purse nobody ELSE has any reason to think so. We can’t live in fear. Take reasonable precuatious, hope for the best, and live your life. And I say this as someone who lives smack-dab in the middle of Washington, DC. 🙂

  • I handle most of the cash each month, but my husband gets his own fun money, haircut money and gas money each month. If I need him to pick up some milk on the way home, he pays for it with his fun money and I pay him back out of grocery money when he gets home. It’s actually not that big of a deal!

  • Janice says:

    Thank you for this question. This was the very problem that we had a hard time getting the envelope system going!! We’ll have to try it again with these suggestions!! Thank you Thank you!!

  • Kathy Binder says:

    We use Home Budget ap on the iPhone since we don’t use cash. I can look up the budget whenever I need to see how much I have left for groceries or kid’s clothes. We’ve always done banking and budgets on the computer so this is really easy for us. But when we do end up with cash, my husband deducts that amount from a category in the budget. Then the cash just waits to be used for that category (groceries, gas) and on paper we both can see how much is left in the selected category. Then I know I can’t spend the cash I have in my wallet because I know it is already part of the budget.

    • Lynn says:

      That’s a great idea! I didn’t even think of looking for an APP for the Home Budget – should have known better since there is an app for everything!!

  • Ana says:

    Hubby rarely goes to the store, but he uses his personal budget money for it, then pays himself out of the grocery envelope (which hangs on the fridge). If he was to do more shopping, I’d have him take $20 of the budget and keep it in his wallet.

  • marcia says:

    These are great ideas. The envelope system is better for me now because I have cute envelopes! I didn’t like having something separate from my wallet, so I made colorful envelopes out of scrapbook paper. The envelopes fit right into my wallet and they are cute 🙂

    • Toney says:

      how did you make them?

      • Marcia says:

        I make the envelope just a little bigger than a dollar bill. I just fold over scrapbook paper over a dollar (the fold is the “hamburger” way, not the “hot dog” way) and cut. Then, I fold the two sides and glue or tape them. The envelope does not have a top flap…for easy access to the money. I like that different colored envelopes are different categories of money.

  • Amy says:

    We have been using cash only for just over a year. We keep the cash in a locked box. One thing that we have tweeked quite a bit in our system is the denominations that I get from the bank. For example, I used to take out 5-$100’s for the food envelope (We have a large family and we include all of our pesonal and household supplies in the food category) Now I take out 5-20’s, 4-50’s, and 2-$100’s. I do one “bigger” Aldi trip each month (the $100) and then I try to see how long I can make a $20 last 🙂 I have learned that my sweet husband likes to carrry big bills in his wallet. So he starts the month with $100 from the food envelope and $100 blow money. I am usually the one who takes money out of the envelopes, but if he does, he leaves me a post it to tell me what it was for. I rarely ask him to pick up food anymore…I used to all the time when we used our debit cards… Before we used cash I would be frustrated when he chose to go to McDonalds for lunch (I would never choose to spend money that way!) Now I just don’t worry about it…

    • Toney says:

      it is cheaper to go to Aldi than try to coupon and go to food lion, ingles or bilo…

      i’m new to the couponing things….please help

      • Melissa says:

        Yes and no- my philosopy for couponing is “Is it cheaper than Aldi’s?” If it is, I stock up! I created a Aldi’s coupon book (just a small notebook with all of Aldi’s prices on stuf I buy regularly). I look at the ads and match ups each week, then compare with Aldi’s price. After a while, I know what deals are cheaper than Aldi’s- Cereal on sale with a coupon is cheaper than $1.69/box at Aldi’s, as are yogurt tubes and seasonal sales (like condiments right now).

      • Amy says:

        I used to shop almost exclusively at Aldi, but now I use the stock-up method that Crystal teaches. It really depends on your local stores coupon policies. We now have an Aldi here in our town (yea!) and the closest store that doubles coupons is 20 minutes away. When I go there it usually to get multiple items free…Aldi can’t beat free 🙂 I use Aldi’s prices as my base-line…If I can get it cheaper than Aldi with coupons I stock up…Hope that helps!

  • Toney says:

    Please help! we tried mvelopes through crown.org, but it wouldn’t connect with our bank…loved the program but just didn’t work for us. we have all our bills set up through automatic payment, which works for us…how do you even start a spreadsheet or envelope system….i need to start from the basics…please help!

    we use our debit cards mainly, because we get a percentage back in cash through our bank…so trying to figure out if the envelopes system is best and how to even start…????

    • Monica says:

      Hi, Toney. We don’t do everything in cash because it just isn’t practical for our bills such as electricity, mortgage,water, insurance,etc. Those bills get automatically deducted from our account. So to start your spreadsheet you can use something like excel or use can use pen and paper. Either will work as long as you put an amount in the category and deduct from it. Cash envelopes can be done by putting an amount in for groceries (I include household b/c it was too hard to separate for me), gifts, Christmas savings, haircuts, kid’s extra (these are the set things such as lessons of any kind, allowance that they can earn, gas money for my oldest, etc), any category that you want to save towards, household maintenance, etc. When the money is gone, it’s gone. However, in areas such as Christmas you just add the next month’s amount to what is in the envelope and then you don’t have to worry about how to pay for it all once the holidays are here. Cash has been so much harder to spend! It has really caused me to be creative at times when the gift envelope was getting “thin” and there were five birthdays in the month. Good luck!

      • Toney says:

        do you divide it by month? a different spreadsheet for each month? does anyone have an example?

        • Monica says:

          Yes, it is divided by the month in excel. This month is called 7A (July actual). I am not a spreadsheet lover but my husband is…so. The headings are the name of the category and the amount. We copy over the data from our online bank account statement and then assign each purchase into a category, deducting it from the total amount at the top of the column. When we moved over to cash envelopes for most of our categories, there was not much more to do on the computer. If it is in the envelope, you have it. I love it!

        • Monica says:

          We do divide it into months. With the cash envelopes for the things that I mentioned earlier, there is not much work to do there.

        • Catherine says:

          Look at pearbudget.com. We have had great success with them and it really helped us get our budget in order. It’s very easy to use.

    • Dawn says:

      Have you heard of YNAB (You Need a Budget)? It’s a program very similar to mvelopes except it’s not online. It’s local to your home computer…which I like because my bank account information is not attached to my budget and there is no monthly fee with YNAB. YNAB allows you to split transactions into different categories and you can have multiple accounts set up with your budget. It’s the best budgeting program I’ve ever used (I used to use Excel spreadsheets). It also allows you to track your spending by category and tells you how much you are over or under for the month.

  • Rachel says:

    My in-laws continue to use their debit cards but have jars for each category at home filled with Monopoly money and move the Monopoly money accordingly as soon as they get home. You have to be diligent about this one but it works for them.

  • Erin says:

    I too use Mvelopes.com, and love it. I found that my shopping habits have become sloppy though, since it is so easy to rob from other budgets, so I set up a cash envelope system for some budget catagories, just so I could physically handle the money, and make it more concrete in my brain. One of the cash envelopes that I have is for deposits. When I make an online purchase, I move the cash from its budget envelope, to the deposit one.
    If my husband uses his debit card instead of cash, when I use Mvelopes, it will show up as a negative in that budget catagory. I then move that cash from its cash envelope to the deposit envelope. When the money is deposited in the bank, I can then reconcile Mvelopes.

  • Lisette says:

    We have been married and living on an envelope system for 8 years, and it has worked very well for us. In order to avoid carrying around a lot of cash, I have two sets of envelopes, a set at home and a set I keep in my purse. (I now have the Dave Ramsey envelope wallet for my purse, and I LOVE it!) My husband only carries his stash of personal spending money. If he runs an errand for me, he either takes money in advance and returns the change to the envelope where it is due, or he pays with his personal spending money and reimburses himself from the envelopes at home. I hope that helps!

    • BethB says:

      I worry about carrying a lot of cash around too. Or even keeping it around the house. Our grocery money comes in several months at a time so I opened a separate bank account for it. I talk more about this in my comment below.

  • Candice says:

    I find that each month we will inevitably make at least one or two small purchases with our card. Each month I leave 10% of our food budget in our checking account to cover the occassional card purchase and pull the other 90% out in cash. I try to operate off of the 90% in cash and typically have some extra left in the checking account each month. 🙂

  • BethB says:

    My husband doesn’t go to the store very often (we’re a one car family but he takes the bus to work so I do most of our shopping) so I just pay him out of the grocery cash when he does buy something.

    What I am terrible about is adding extra cash to the grocery envelope when I’m running low. Our grocery and spending money as well as babysitter expenses come from my income as a private cello teacher and some of my playing jobs. Most of what my students pay me lives in a separate bank account but a few pay me weekly. That money I plan not to plan, if that makes sense. Some weeks I keep it as spending cash and others I stick it into the grocery fund or other incidentals like haircuts. Not as organized as it could be but since it’s cash we’re dealing in finite amounts rather than using the credit or debit cards. If that makes sense.

    I’m curious how people manage their bank accounts within the envelope system. I would prefer to have separate accounts for each fund (Emergency fund, regular savings, property taxes) but my husband hates that idea. I finally convinced him an account only for my teaching money would help me but he still thinks it’s a stupid idea. 🙂 At the end of the summer our plan is to open a money market at his work credit union to house our emergency fund but that’s more a strategy of not keeping all our eggs in one basket. If that makes sense.

    • Candice says:

      I strongly recommend mvelopes or mint as a way to manage your money. We have used mvelopes for years. You don’t need separate accounts, yet can “separate” your funds any way you wish.

    • Amy says:

      I love http://www.ingdirect.com for organized, separate savings accounts. You can have and nickname as many savings accounts as you want, and you can view them all on one page. You can easily move money between your ing accounts and to/from your regular bank’s checking account.
      My accounts are named: Emergency Fund, Home Improvement, Car Maintenance, College Savings (one for each child), Travel, and New Car. I have money automatically withdrawn from my checking account each month, or you can make deposits and withdrawals anytime you like.

      • Meredith says:

        We use ING for that, too!! I LOVE it… my husband laughs at how giddy I get when I open a new one. We have emergency fund, Ireland (my husband’s whole family is there, so it’s good to have $$ in case he needs to go or is just planning a visit), house remodel ( I thought it sounded more positive than improvement;), and miscellaneous. There are bills, like our HOA fees, that are quarterly, so we put it in the miscellaneous fund, marked HOA fees.
        All the accounts are connected and easily transferred to our checking. At the moment, our Christmas fund is in cash in an envelope, but I may add a new ING account. I definitely want to start one for a new car, new to us, anyway:)

  • Candice says:

    We inevitably make one or two small purchases using our card each month. In anticipation of this, I leave 10% of our food budget in our checking account to cover these card purchases and pull the other 90% out in cash. We try to operate within the 90% cash portion and typically have a little money left in our checking account each month. If card purchases exceed the amount we set back, then we pull cash out of the envelope to account for this.

    Also, we heart mvelopes from crown.org!

  • Amanda says:

    Instead of actual envelopes, my husband and I use accordion style organizers. We have two of them: a big one with every cash category and a smaller one with only the most frequently used cash categories (food, gas, household items, etc.). We keep the big “envelope” at home at all times with at least some cash in each category and I carry the smaller envelope in my purse with what we anticipate we will need for that week. If my husband needs to run out and I’m not around, he simply takes the cash from the appropriate category in the big envelope. This system works great for us because we both always have access to the right cash AND we don’t feel like we’re carrying around too much money when we’re out.

  • MaryEllen says:

    We just started this month on our cash budget, and we are LOVING it! There are so many advantages, and one of those advantages is that it can draw a couple closer together by forcing you to communicate even more. Every night we talk about what the other is doing the next day, what they might need to pay for, etc., so they can be prepared with the cash they need. It’s been a good discipline builder too. It forces us to think ahead, which in turn helps us spend less.

    • Meegan says:

      We aren’t quite as disciplined as taling every single night about money, but our main management system is planning ahead and communication.

      For example, when my tank dips below a quarter full, I take out $40 from the gas fund and stick it in my wallet. You can then shop around the next few days to try and find the best gas deal.

      Another thought is to differentiate between envelopes constantly used and rarely used. Groceries, gas, entertainment, and restaurant envelopes are constant uses for us so we put them in individual envelopes that are quick to grab. We use the Dave Ramsey brown binded ennvelopes for things like clothing, pets, and car repairs that may take a few months to use. This baby lives in a drawer in my house and, because of its status there, has helped me cut back on impulse buys.

  • Kristina says:

    We started using the envelope system 4 years ago when we were in our mid-20s. We are very strict with the system and leave the envelopes at home, requiring us to know how much we will spend before we walk out the door. It is very difficult, and I often find myself having to put items back on the shelf that I want to buy. However, we are currently investing in both of our children’s college funds, both of our retirement accounts, and by next summer we will have our house paid off. The envelope system is totally worth it!!! I want to scream that from the rooftop to all of America!

    • Tiffany says:

      Congratulations Kristina. Your discipline (and sacrifice) is paying off! Imagine if all Americans had half your discipline. Thanks for the encouragment!

  • Dawn says:

    Although I love the cash envelope system, I’ve tried the “rob peter to pay paul” and it was a nightmare. I never have the right change. I end up shorting an envelope when I do this. Also, it’s VERY difficult to go to Walmart and pay in one transaction if you have groceries + household items. It’s a pain to break it up into two transactions so I end up just paying out of a single envelope. My cash system ends up being a mess and I end up spending more when I do this.

    What I’ve found that works for my family is using cash only for grocery items. I track all our other purchases in “virtual envelopes” using a program called You Need a Budget. This program allows me to split transactions into different categories. I’ve become extremely disciplined about tracking every dollar. This also helps to see where all our money is going each month. By using cash, you don’t really know exactly where it goes (although you know the category).

  • Amanda says:

    In an effort to keep from juggling envelopes and keep a tab on our grocery budget we buy a gift card for my husband to keep in his wallet. Our church and the kids’ school sells this as a fundraiser. This way, if I have just run out of milk etc. I can ask him to stop on his way home and grab some. If he ends up never using it that month – rare – we can either carry it to the next month or use it on gas.

  • Emilie says:

    we redid our budget last night and I want to add more envelopes to my current system. We have been way overspending and need to get on track. But, how do we go about sarting over fresh? I can’t remember how I did it before.

    For example, how can I buy things when there is only a ten in an envelope but it is something that costs 100, without having to wait the 10 months for it to build up to that point?

    • Ann says:

      Part of living within a budget is exactly that, staying within a budget and not adding more to envelopes when they run out, but that’s not always easy when you’re first starting the envelope system. We recently started and for us it depends on the situation. Our vacation envelope gets a certain amount added to it each month. When vacation time comes, we will not spend any more than what’s in the envelope–even if it means not doing everything we had wanted. On the other hand, when an emergency doctor visit came up we didn’t have the full amount in our dr. envelope (we had only started the envelope system 2 months before). We have the $1000 emergency fund Dave Ramsey recommends, so we could have taken the money from there, but the dr. visit happened the week we were planning the budget for the new month, so we just allocated more to the dr. for the month and put less in other categories.

  • MamaKiert says:

    Just a thought for those who use accordian holders or carry all envelopes together–put your contact info on your envelopes!

    Several years ago I lost my accordian “money book” on a shopping trip. I have no idea how it happened. I suspect I had a fussy kid (or 3?) while checking out and just set the money book back in my cart, rather than putting it in my purse. I probably just overlooked it when I was unloading the cart. I checked back with the store several times but it had not been turned in. I can’t remember how much cash was there– a lot. All of our Christmas gift money (we save monthly for Christmas)…everything. I felt sick for weeks.

    Of course, there is no guarantee that someone who finds a ton of cash is going to be honest enough to turn it in, but they might return it to you if your info is available.

    • Crystal says:

      This is one reason I don’t recommend carrying all your cash with you, but just bringing the envelope you need. I’m so sorry you lost your money book! 🙁

  • Julie J says:

    It’s best to plan ahead. Then I send the cash from the grocery envelope with my husband. If he doesn’t have the cash with him, he uses the debit card. Then on my next banking day I deposit that exact amount from my grcoery envelope into the bank. It works for us.

  • Nicole says:

    We have been using the envelope system since we got married a year ago, and we LOVE it! You have to really put some thought into your spending if you have a limited supply of cash on hand. We have found that the way we maintain our organizational sanity with the envelopes is to keep track of the expenditures right on the envelope itself. That way I know that if my husband has to pick up some milk for me on the way home, he can write the amount he spends from his “Blow” money on the envelope, then later (because we all know you can’t always get around to it the minute he gets home), he will tell me how much he spent out of his blow money, and I’ll reimburse from my grocery envelope (and write it down on the grocery envelope as well). We’re not always perfect at writing it down, but it sure does keep things less stressful when we do. 🙂

  • Jessica says:

    We take $20 of our grocery budget and my husband keeps it in the BACK of his wallet. Usually it’s groceries he spends it on, but if he ever needs it for something else little, it’s there. Then he brings the receipt and change home, and I repay him from the appropriate envelopes from home.

  • Jenn says:

    Not sure if anyone has mentioned this solution yet. We keep $100 in a petty cash envelope that we replenish each month. Most of our spending is or can be planned ahead enough to grab money from petty cash if the actual cash envelope is not available. And then petty cash gets reimbursed by the other envelope. And we only use envelopes for groceries, family entertainment, personal spending, and small purchases (petty cash).

  • Becky says:

    I’ve seen a few mention of mvelopes, but the problem with that system (in my mind anyway) is that it requires you to pay for it.

    We use EEBA (easy envelope budgeting application) at http://www.eebacanhelp.com. The basic plan is free, and there is a subscription fee for more envelopes/features. My husband and I both have android phones and enter our spending as we go about our day. This way you can spend with a debit card or with cash and still know the amount left in my grocery envelope.

    For example, my husband works at Target and gets the discount. After work, he often picks up a deal from that week for me. Let’s say Pepsi is on sale. He buys Pepsi, then updates the amount he spent, taking it from our grocery budget in EEBA. I see automatically that he has spent X amount, meaning I now have whatever is left for my weekly run to Aldi.

    It’s free, clean, simple and the little EEBA guy is cute. They don’t store your bank logins or any other personal information, and their support is stellar. Here’s the link to how it works:
    https://www.eebacanhelp.com/envelope-budgeting.php

    • Cn says:

      I was put off by the cost at first, but I think it’s worth the money. We budget $9 a month for it and go on.

  • Anonymous says:

    For those of you who have the high interest debit accounts where you make interest on the balance if you use your debit a certain number of times a month, do you find you stay within your budget or do you still overspend?

    I use to put everything on my credit card and pay it off at the end of the month b/c I was getting money towards my principal at a rate of 1% of what I was charging. I always paid the amount, but I realized I was overspending.

    I switched to a debit account and now I take the interest I earn and put it towards my mortgage, but I wonder if I went strictly to a cash based system for my groceries, gas, and other variable expenses if I would be more disciplined.

    One this is for sure…I want this house paid off. 🙂

    • Ann says:

      Dave Ramsey says he’s never met a millionaire who attributes their wealth to the rewards earned on their credit cards. D.R.’s book gives statistics that show people using cash spend significantly less than those using a card. We were always pretty disciplined with money when we used a debit card, but I can attest to the fact that it’s harder to spend cash and we’ve spent less since switching to a cash system. You think more about the necessity of each purchase…both when you see the cash coming out and you see what’s left in the envelope that has to last the rest of the month.

  • Amy says:

    I want to go on record as saying there is NO SHAME in not doing the cash-only system. It is a great tool that works for some people, but in our family, it only caused a lot of grief. My sweet husband, who has ADHD, was constantly forgetting to use cash and putting everything on his debit card, so I was constantly running up the bank to pay back our bank account. It is with a sigh of relief that we are back to debit cards! I can now track our spending every day online and make the needed adjustments to our paper and pencil (yes, I am old-fashioned that way) budget. Don’t fret if you can’t employ every money-saving technique “by the book.” Figure out what works for you and your family, and do it with excellence!

    • Sonya J. says:

      I agree! No shame at all! Cash only doesn’t work for us either as my husband works out of state. He takes cash with him but also uses the debit card. It isn’t practical to only use cash only because his expenses are different each week. I just keep track of things online. I can’t imagine doing things the “old” way before debit/credit cards and online banking! My dear hubby would struggle trying to keep every receipt for me to factor into the budget!

    • Stacy says:

      We use credit cards and not cash as well. I’ve pushed to switch to cash a few times but my husband swears he has an easier time spending cash and that it goes faster. We write the budget amounts for different categories on a paper every month and tape it to the door (the categories we budget are each of our blow money, our date fund and grocery money). When we spend in a category we write down the amount and subtract it from our total.

  • Ash says:

    Two things that really make the envelope system work better for us:

    1) Make a plan. A meal plan that is. If we don’t have grocery money on us it wasn’t part of our plan and isn’t worth spending money on.

    2) A reward/boxes envelope. Any extra money from our weekly/monthly envelopes goes into our savings envelope. We printed out boxes on labels and stuck them to the envelope. For every $$20 that goes in, we color in a box. Likewise, any time we take money out we erase a box (and you would not believe how painful that is).
    This is where I got the idea: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/bvc-10-psychological-money-games.html

    • Crystal says:

      What do you do with the savings envelopes? Use them for something special you are saving for or just put them into your savings account?

      Thanks so much for sharing; your comment was fabulous!

  • Katie says:

    Our system is very simple. Each payday, I get $20, my husband gets $20, an our grocery fund gets $40. The $20 we each receive goes to cover our wants. I save my for months on end. My husband tends to spend his pretty quickly. But, he knows that when we have friends getting married, or a baby gift to buy, we split the purchase 50/50. Also, any money we earn on the side (me tutoring or housesitting, him fixing vehicles) goes straight into our personal funds. It allows us to keep a strict budget but also gives us flexibility to enjoy a dinner out every now and then.

  • Barbi says:

    Here is what I do. All of my bills go on my credit card. (electric, phone, cell, dish, car ins, etc…etc) This works in 2 ways, I know I have to pay them, so I put them on a credit card that pays me back, plus I do not have to worry about multiple due dates, late fees or missing mail, along with stamps for each and envelopes. (1o stamps x 12 months = $52.00 a year) This money is all budgeted ahead of time, since it generally stays the same each month. Groceries, gasoline and all our other expenditures also go on the credit card. Again, cash back for doing what I normally do. How do I keep it under control. We use the envelope system, but use play money instead. We have the grocery envelope, gas envelope, fun money for each envelope…and the list goes on. When money is spent, the play money is removed and placed in the master spent envelope. Each month, month we refill the envelopes with our budgeted amounts and start all over again. We do keep a small amount of money in our wallets for the stores that don’t take credit cards. For us, if we don’t have the cash in our wallets, we tend to not spend. For me this has simplified my life. One bill to pay at the end of the month for all my bills, no late fees, no running to the post office for stamps, and a nice chunk of change accumulated in my cash back credit card to use at the end of the year. Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.

  • Meredith says:

    The cash only system has done wonders for us! I highly recommend it!! Just realize it may take a few months to get it working for you guys. We use cash for almost everything…. we have learned, though, to keep $50 miscellaneous money in our account because it always seems something comes up that hasn’t been budgeted. It used to be $100 miscellaneous, but we’re getting better with budgeting, so we were able to lower it. We each take blow money, too, which my husband will use if he makes an unplanned stop at the store. He’ll then take the money out of the grocery envelope. We have envelopes for gifts, post office, haircuts, golf (yes, golf;), groceries, home depot (or just a general household fund)… we have found it so much less stressful to use cash!!! We’re now out of debt and saving up our emergency fund to 4 months of expenses… after that, we’ll start our retirement again. Good for you for making the decision to go cash only!

  • Allison says:

    We buy gift cards from our daycare – using SCRIP – that way the daycare gets a percentage and we can only spend what is on the gift card – also the leftover money for the month goes toward the next month but is extra – my husband gets one of the gift cards (usually 25 dollars)
    We do this for eating out as well – we pick our restaurants ahead of time and plan our days.

  • KimH says:

    My honey & I both work full time outside the home & have our own incomes. When we got together, we agreed to each provide in different areas but we are both contributing. Our money is totally and completely separate.

    But what I do do is I put a budgeted amount in one checking account to cover groceries, gas, and other weekly incidentals.. Once its gone, its gone. There is no more till the next pay period..
    Every pay period, I also have a specific amount put into savings, a bill pay account, and another incidental checking account located at the building I work in for those times when I need cash quick.

    This system works MUCH better for me than any other I’ve used & tried in my 32 years adult life… The thing is, you just have to find what works for you. I would have never imagined this would have worked for us, but it has..beautifully.

    • Jen T says:

      Thanks for your comment! Keeping our money separate has worked for us too. Him and I are on a different page when it comes to spending money, so he’d make us broke in a flash if we had joint accounts. =P I feel like we need to conform sometimes and do the joint account thing, but at the moment it just wouldn’t work for us. He’s coming around, slowly but surely. I think he’s kinda tired of being broke all the time and seeing me with money, so at some point it has to “click”.

  • MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

    We use cash as follows:
    Car – I divide the payment by the number of weeks in the month and put that amount in the envelope until the payment is due to come from my checking
    Household – take all the bills and do the same as above
    Clothing
    Medical – For out of pocket expenses that are not covered by insurance or FSA (not a very large budget category!)
    Activities – we save a little of each paycheck for the girls activities, ballet or Playball through daycare

    For Groceries we simply never know who is going to do the shopping so we use our debit card but we stick to the budget…honestly MOST weeks just HAVING a budget makes us very concious. Usually there is about 15-20 leftover at the end of the week THAT goes in an envelope so if we have a week where we have a big deal to stock up on or need wipes or diapers.

    Gas – both of us have long commutes every day…me 90mi/day him 60mi/day. With price of gas always fluctuating we do not have the ability to say “Oh the gas envelope is empty, can’t go to work today! (I WISH!)

    So we have a hybrid system, but since we have put a budget in place we get a rush out of beating it each week! Our savings is building!

  • MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

    I notice people being concerned about loose change when using the envelope system. I take any and all change (and am not ashamed to pick up a penny, sometimes a quarter off the ground!) from anything I spend and it goes into my kids piggy banks. I used to put it straight in there myself, but they are both starting to be interested in money, even though they have no clue what it does! So now I keep it set aside, when my oldest gets 3 stars at dc she gets a dime, or when the youngest gets through the whole day without a potty accident she gets a dime. If they do an extra good job cleaning up or helping with dishes, they get a quarter. The MOMENT I put the money in their hands they are racing up to their rooms to place it in their pigs! My oldest has a really big pig and a small one we made for her. She puts the big money (quarters and nickels) into the the “Mommy” pig and the little money (dimes and pennies) into the “baby” pig! Great for me, so when they are full I can easily roll them and deposit to their savings accounts!

  • Heidi says:

    Our situation is very similar. We just figured out what things my husband typically pays for and he gets that amount in cash each month. For instance he gets a haircut once a month so he gets the cash for that and then he also gets some more cash in case he needs to pick anything up from the store.

  • Melody says:

    I love the envelope system! After a few months of experimenting with different approaches we have settled on some categories being actual cash envelopes (ie groceries, household/toiletries, eating out, etc.) and other categories we use an electornic envelope system that my husband created in excel where we basically keep track of the money in our banking account that we are budgeting it for future spending (ie clothing, gifts, medical expenses, etc) My husband and I each have our own envelopes for “fun money” which can be used on whatever we want that we do not have to account for. If you don’t use all of your “fun money” one month you get to keep it and continue to save it up (ie I could use this to get a manicure, get a massage, etc). We also each keep our own envelope for eating out during the month as we are not great about taking our lunch to work all of the time. I do the bulk of the shopping so I keep the envelope for groceries but each month he keeps $20 in case he has to stop and pick up milk, etc on the way home from work.

  • ashley says:

    we have been dave ramsey people for years, however, we have moved away from the cash envelopes. i always felt scared to carry all that cash with me, we were always passing it back and forth, and i hated having to lock the car and go in to pay for gas. i now have five separate columns in my check book register and we use our debit cards for everything except our blow money. each paycheck, i put the budgeted amount into the grocery, gas, bills, etc. columns and deduct what we spend from the correct column. if we have extra left over at the end of the pay period, we only put in enough to get us up to our budgeted amount and use the rest to pay off debt. we have a target check card(all the benefits, not monthly bill, it’s linked to directly our checking account and debits it from there) and the new 5% off everyday discount with it is another bonus of using our cards. i will say that this would NEVER have worked if we hadn’t done the envelope system and really gotten a handle on our spending FIRST!

  • Leah says:

    If my husband doesn’t have enough blow money to cover it (and then be reimbursed when he gets home), he *GASP* puts it on our credit card. When I check the credit card (every few days), I just take the appropriate amount out of my envelopes for whatever got charged, and we’re all set again. At the end of the month, I just deposit that money to pay off the credit card. I’m a huge Dave Ramsey fan, but I don’t see the need to act as if the credit card is a demon straight from hell. It has it’s place, used carefully!

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