Why I Love The Cash Envelope System

Cash Envelope System

Life is mayhem (especially if you are trying to raise children). Most of the time it is like herding spooked cats. Your responsibilities are scattering in opposite directions (sometimes literally). As adults we have to wear so many hats: 

  • teacher: teaching our children how to be good, kind people
  • accountant: paying our bills, making sure we aren’t spending more than we are making 
  • chef: feeding ourselves and the people we love (preferably something that tastes decent and has some nutritional value) 
  • chauffeur: we have people to see and places to be (whether we want to be there or not)
  • counsellor: we don’t do all this in isolation, it’s important to be a friend and loved one. Listen to their issues and be supportive and kind

For my family it is important to live within our budget without living on a budget

This is why the cash budgeting system is something that works for us. Some call it the “Envelope System”, “Allowance”, whatever you call it… it’s using CASH to buy specific things instead of your debit or credit card. I’ve got TOO much going on everyday to keep track of what is coming in and out of my bank account on a daily basis. I can’t even remember what I did 2 hours ago, never mind how much I just spent on groceries yesterday.

If you are thinking about trying a cash budget there are three reasons why you should give it a go (or maybe another go):

1.Feel like a grown up

There’s something about having cash in my wallet or in my top dresser drawer that makes me feel like a grown up. I remember going to my grandparents and if I had done something good (or just lost a tooth) they gave me some money. If my kids need some lunch money or lose a tooth, I’ve been that hot mess looking for change in the couch (or their own piggy banks *Discloser: I do pay them back) because I have NO cash on me. 

Not only having the cash, but using it to buy things gives a classic feel to the purchase. Touching the money. The smell. There’s something about the sensory aspect of it that adds to the whole experience.


The predictability of the whole experience adds routine and consistency to my week. It's just a part of our weekly expectations. The amount, the day I get the cash and the way I spend it takes the guess work out of my financial decisions. I know that as long as I can make it through the week with what’s in my wallet I will not spend more than I’m making. I have less buyers remorse and can say “yes” AND “no” to things without guilty or doubt.

3.Delegate (someone else’s job)

This point kind of contradicts point #1 but it still works. I get my cash for the week and that’s it. Although I predetermined the amount - it’s kind of like being 10 again and getting an allowance that gives me freedom to spend how I want (or need). 

Some break their cash up in various envelopes: fuel, groceries, transit, etc. But what I do is put it all in my wallet and spend it. If I spend it all on coffee… I can. But I may get sick of eating peanut butter out of a jar for 7 days. But that is my choice. #welcometoadulting

Although it was a “few-days-ago-me” that set the amount I would have for the week it feels liberating that “someone” calculated out my amount, gave it to me, and now my ONLY task is to make it last.

If whatever you are doing with your money doesn’t seem to be working - I’d say give the cash budget a try. Grab this worksheet here to get started. What’s the worst that can happen?