How to Stick to the Envelope System {Without Cash}

How to Stick to the Envelope System Without Cash

I’ve written a few times over the years about Dave Ramsey’s envelope system he suggests for budgeting.  There is nothing more painful than handing over a wad of 20’s for your groceries.  A frappuccino doesn’t seem so important when you have to hand over a $5 bill instead of swiping a a bar code on an app.  It’s pretty amazing how you suddenly want to stay home so you don’t have to use that gas you emptied your envelope for. Cold hard cash will help you stick to a budget, no doubt. 

I find there is nothing more burdensome than spending money you don’t have and nothing more freeing than sticking to your budget.

However, we are terrible with cash.  We found it difficult to manage between two people.  We often forgot our envelopes when we went somewhere and didn’t know how much to spend.  Dealing with change at the end of the week was a pain.  When we misplaced $100 cash, that was our breaking point.

We started managing the entire budget through a spreadsheet and monitoring spending in (post).  I love, but really, it’s so easy to go right over your budget.

So, for months and months we’d figure out our budget and then watch those red lines in start showing up and then do absolutely nothing about it.  I always said was really good at helping me see our budget go in the red.  Red lines everywhere!

However, I think we’ve found a secret that keeps us on budget using the envelope system without cash.

I’ve mentioned since the beginning of the year that we’ve gotten back on track financially.  We’ve managed to stick to our budget using the envelope system and not get a single dollar out of the ATM.  Want to hear our secret?

Play money.

How to Stick to the Envelope System Without Cash


I’ve been shocked with how well this works.  We’ve stayed on budget, it requires zero cash and we haven’t used our credit cards. 

So here’s how it works.

1 – I create a zero-based budget using a spreadsheet.  I do it a month at a time and then refine every two weeks since that’s how often we both get paid.  I know where every dollar is supposed to go before we even get paid (thank you, Dave Ramsey).  

2 – Then, instead of getting cash, we printed this free educational printable money and cut it out so it looked like real cash.  The kids thought this was the best thing ever.  We use envelopes for our variable expenses like groceries, clothing, restaurants and blow money. 

3 – We use our debit card for those purchases and every day I check our account for purchases and take the money out of the envelope as we spend it. 

4 – For bills that are automated, I just check off on my spreadsheet that they’ve been paid as expected.

How does this help?

Even though it’s play money and seems like a lot of double work, there is something about seeing and feeling even the fake money that registers in my brain how much I can spend.  It’s a built-in accountability system that the online tool just doesn’t provide.  Scott doesn’t check anything online at all so having the box of envelopes in person in front of both of us keeps it at the forefront of both our minds.

And—if a bill gets lost, it doesn’t matter!

Also, we’ve been able to get our kids involved in budgeting.  We don’t share the entire budget with them, but we get them to help fill each envelope every two weeks.  They even know to ask if we have money in our budget to do something. 

For example, we started a special entertainment bucket so we could have family events each month and it’s actually made it more special limiting it to one event per month.  It’s taken the guilt from us for spending the money, we all have a good time trying to stay on budget and for some reason it’s much easier for the kids to process that there’s no money left in the envelope than us saying, “No, you can’t have that.”

We’ve only been doing this for about 2 months, but I’ve been so excited how well it’s working.

Perhaps if the envelope system hasn’t worked for you in the past, some fun play money just might be the trick!



I’ve uploaded our personalized budget template (based off Dave Ramsey’s) for anyone that would like to see it .

I print the second tab every two weeks and keep it on my desk. I use that in conjunction with Mint and the envelopes to stay on track.

The ones that are marked in yellow are the ones we have envelopes for and the ones in blue are the ones that get transferred out to a savings account for later use.


This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday.

WFMW: Where Do I Store My Measuring Cups?


Today’s tip is one of those things where it feels absolutely absurd to share but it’s such a small thing that has made such a big difference that I can’t not tell you.

OK.  Are you ready?

Store your measuring cups in a cupboard and not a drawer.

Here’s the deal.

For years—YEARS–I stored my measuring cups in a drawer.  The drawer we have now is one of those double tall drawers that we throw all of our kitchen gadgets into.  Every single time I needed a measuring cup—sometimes 2-3 times a recipe—I had to dig through the drawer to find the right cup.  Sure, I tried to stack them neatly but when we’d go to dig for other gadgets, they’d come undone and all get lost again.  No wonder I didn’t like cooking!

On a whim a few months ago when I got so frustrated, I got them all out, stacked them and set them in the cupboard next to the stove.  Some small part of me flinched at not having the measuring cups with the rest of the kitchen gadgets but let me tell you, it has COMPLETELY CHANGED my cooking life!

They’re already stacked in order so I don’t have a lot of guess work where the 1/4 cup one is.  I don’t have to bend down to look in a drawer. In fact, I rarely go in that drawer anymore. I don’t have to wrestle anything else to get it out of the cupboard. It’s the best thing ever!

So see?  The smallest change ever but it’s truly revolutionized my cooking experience.

Works for me!

Repurpose a T-shirt for a Dog Pull Toy

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but dog toys are expensive.  And the really aggravating thing is within minutes, the entire thing is usually destroyed.  I may as well just throw $5 bills in the backyard and tell them to have at it.

After making my own T-shirt scarf and then reading Reuse, Refresh, Repurpose I was inspired to use several of the kids’ T-shirts they had outgrown to help solve this problem.



I started with a small T-shirt of Lexi’s.


I began by cutting 1” strips from the base of the T-shirt up to the arm hole level.



Here I am doing just that. 

Just seconds after taking this picture, my cousin who was in the pool playing in our canoe cut is foot trying to get in the canoe and we had to do some major first aid. 

It was so bad even a few band-aids wouldn’t cover it.  I had to use paper towels to cover the bleeding and then use medical tape from the girls’ play doctor kit to tape it down. 

I’ve now marked gathering a first aid kit high on priority list.

When you’re done with the first aid emergency, return to the cutting until you’ve cut strips all the way around the T-shirt.


Then, gather 3 strands at a time and braid the strips. 

When you get to the bottom of the braid, tie two strips together and then tie to other strips together to keep the braid in.

The finished product looks like this.


And then, you just hand it to the dogs and they figure out what’s next.





Tucker wins!

The whole project, first aid interruption withholding, should only take you about 5 minutes.

Works for me!

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday.

Works for Me Wednesday: The eBook That Works For Me!

Comments are closed and winner is #2 comment, Dani!

Are you ready for the latest useful, organized, interactive eBook to hit the blogosphere?  Kristen Welch who weekly hosts Works for me Wednesday teamed up with blogger Jennifer De Groot to publish That Works For Me!  The new eBook compiles over 800 categorized tips helping you do life better.





And it appears my iPhone escapades have finally paid off.  I’ve put more than one cell phone down a toilet, cracked more screens than I can count and my latest, lost functionality of my lock button.  That Works for Me! includes my post What to Do When Your iPhone Lock or Home Button Quits Working.




I’ve been able to browse the eBook and this has everything: blogging tips, laundry tips, cooking tips, marriage tips and it goes on and on into 24 different categories.

Not only will you have 800 tips at a very low rate of 1 cent per tip, part of your money will be donated to Mercy House.  Mercy House gets pregnant women off the streets in Kenya, Africa and helps them in “nutrition, housing, prenatal care, Bible study, counseling, and job skills for sustainable living.”  I love it!

Now the very best part is I have a giveaway!  Just leave a comment here telling me in what area you could use a tip?  I’ll close it out Wednesday morning. Also, if you submit a tip during the month of April, you just might win a free house cleaning!  Think up your best tip and be sure to submit it!

In the meantime, feel free to check out my past Works for me Wednesday posts or go ahead and buy the bookTODAY ONLY the eBook is only $5!!

That works for me!

WFMW: Apple Chips



OK,  this is one of those Works for Me Wednesdays where you find something new and you want to share it but you’re pretty sure everyone already does this and you’re about 33 years too late on the whole deal.  But I’m just going with it.

Growing up and even until recently, we always ate an apple either the old-fashioned way or used Pampered Chef’s apple slicer to produce 8 (?) even slices.  Well, recently we went somewhere and all I had was a knife and Lexi had no front teeth so I ended up slicing off thin pieces of apples for her.  She LOVED it.  In fact, we all do. We call them apple chips. 

Something about them being thin and easy to eat a whole slice at one time.  Or the texture seems better.  Maybe they remind us of potato chips. I can’t exactly figure it out but getting the kids to eat an apple is now a cinch!  Just plop a bowl in front of them and they disappear as fast as a bag of potato chips.  Give it a try.  It works for me!


This post is linked with We Are That Family