The “Envelope System” in a Cashless Society

By on August 3, 2018

My family has been trying to work with a budget for the past several months, but the “envelope” system is just not practical with our primarily cashless lifestyle. How can I track our cashless expenditures for gas, groceries, personal items, etc. and still know how much is left in each category as the month goes on?
Lisa

Lisa’s right. Some of the old budget tools like the envelope system don’t work so well today. Fewer of our purchases are made with cash. So merely controlling cash isn’t an effective budget tool.

Before we look specifically at Lisa’s question, let’s spend a moment to talk about how budgets can be used. A budget is a wonderful way of collecting information about your finances and presenting it in a way that’s useful to you. A can tell you at a glance where your money is going. When compared to previous months, it can tell you what’s changing in your spending patterns. That’s important. Just knowing that your electric bill is higher could help you identify an air conditioner that needs servicing before it breaks down completely. It’s also a good way to find potential savings. If you need to reduce spending by $250 a month, don’t look in a category where you only spend $300.

Lisa is attempting to use her budget for its second purpose. A budget can provide discipline and .

There are variations, but in the basic envelope system, Lisa would cash her paycheck. She would have a number of envelopes for the different categories of spending, such as rent, food, transportation and so on. Cash from her paycheck would be divided into the various envelopes based on how much she felt she needed in that category.

For instance, if she got paid weekly and expected to spend $40 per week on groceries, $40 would go into the “grocery” envelope. When she went to the store, she’d take the “grocery” envelope with her and pay for her purchases with the money in the envelope. If she got to the checkout and had more than $40 worth of groceries in her cart, she could return some groceries or take some cash from another envelope. Of course, that meant that she’d have less to spend in the envelope she stole from until the next payday.

READ  Is There Actually Value in Working for Free?

The envelope system worked well when we used cash for all of our purchases. You immediately knew if you could afford a purchase. Moving money from one envelope to another was a warning sign that you could be getting into trouble.

Unfortunately, very few of us use much cash anymore. We’re much more likely to pull out a credit/debit card or write a check. So how can we still use this ?

One easy way to duplicate the envelope system is to use rechargeable debit cards. When you get paid, instead of putting cash into an envelope, add it to a debit card. Have a debit card for every category that used to be an envelope.

If you don’t like debit cards, another way to modify the envelope system is to add an additional envelope for your checking account. When you charge something, move cash to the “checking account” envelope. If you charge $20 worth of groceries, move $20 from the “grocery” to “checking account” envelope. Then when the credit card bill comes, you’ll have the money available to pay the bill.

Or Lisa could use a “pretend envelope” system. She would set it up just as if she were going to use an envelope system. But she wouldn’t actually put cash into the envelopes. Instead, on the front of the envelope, she’ll list how much money is assigned to it. As she writes checks or makes charges, she’d subtract that money from the balance listed on the front of the envelope. When the running balance on the front of the envelope got to zero, she’d have to quit spending in that category or “move” money from another envelope.

Another way would be to use one or more sheets to keep a running balance for each category. She could have one sheet represent each envelope. Or she could have one sheet per month that contained the balances for all of the envelopes. The sheets, or perhaps a small spiral notebook, could be kept in her pocket or purse.

READ  Looking for a Web Host for Your Small Business?

The danger in any virtual envelope plan is that you’ll forget to make the entry and your balance will appear bigger than it is. One way to avoid that is to put any receipt into your pocket or purse. When you get home you can deduct the expense from the proper envelope and place the receipt inside.

Lisa is wise to recognize the limitations of any tool that she uses. But, she’s also smart to look for a system to help her keep her finances in line.

This article by Gary Foreman first appeared on and was distributed by the .

The post appeared first on .

Last step, fill out the information below or call us for Priority Assistance.

What problems are you having with your report?

Your first name is required. Your first name is required to be at least 2 characters. Your first name cannot be longer than 50 characters.
Your last name is required. Your last name is required to be at least 2 characters. Your last name cannot be longer than 50 characters.
Your email is required.
Your phone is required. Your 10 digit phone number is required.
Your state is required.
Your age is required. Your age must be greater than 18. Your age must be less than 100.

By clicking on the "Contact Me" button above, you consent, acknowledge, and agree to the following: Our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and to receive electronic communications. We take your privacy seriously. That you are providing express "written" consent for Debt.com or appropriate service provider(s) to call you (including through automated means; e.g. autodialing, text and pre-recorded messaging) via telephone, mobile device (including SMS and MMS - charges may apply), even if your telephone number is currently listed on any internal, corporate, state or federal Do-Not-Call list. Consent is not required as a condition to utilize Debt.com services and you are under no obligation to purchase anything.

By clicking on the “Contact me” button above, you consent, acknowledge, and agree to the following: (1)That you are providing express “written” consent for Lexington Law Firm, Debt.com or appropriate service provider(s) to call you (including through automated means; e.g. autodialing, text and pre-recorded messaging) via telephone, mobile device (including SMS and MMS – charges may apply), or dialed manually, at my residential or cellular number, even if your telephone number is currently listed on any internal, corporate, state or federal Do-Not-Call list; and (2)Lexington Law’s and and Debt.com’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Consent is not required as a condition to utilize Lexington Law or Debt.com services and you are under no obligation to purchase anything.

About Research Department

Here is where you will find important stories located from around the web which can impact you and your financial life.
%d bloggers like this: