Cash Envelope System [What It Is, How It Works, How It Can Help You]


Creating a sensible personal budget can be a challenging task. Many people find that various areas of their lives will require a separate budget. This can make it difficult to have enough money for each area. Thankfully, there are simple ways to overcome such challenges.

The envelope system is a common and popular way of separating your budget into several parts, ensuring that you’ve got all your expenses covered. But how does it work? Let’s find out.

What Is the Cash Envelope System?

The most popular envelope money-saving system was invented by a man named Dave Ramsey. Inspired by the methods used by his grandmother, Ramsey set out to create a budgeting system that can work for people who struggle with managing their finances.

By splitting your budget into groups, you can stow your cash away and keep it filed based on what it will be used for. For example, if you have an envelope filled with cash for your rent and bills, you can save yourself financial worry by always having enough to cover your important expenses.

This method goes beyond simply having enough money, though. Alongside this, budget envelopes can also help you to save money, as you will be able to keep a much better record of the money you are spending and saving.

How to Use Money-Saving Envelopes

Using cash envelopes can be a great way to manage and improve your finances. You need to make sure that you’re using them properly to get the best results, however. There are five easy steps that you can follow to make sure that you’re getting the best out of this system:

1. Figure out the cash envelope categories

The first step is to work out the categories you will be using for each of your envelopes. Remember to consider:

Your Financial Goals

Your financial goals need to be a primary factor when you’re deciding on your budget. Whether you’re trying to save for a house, avoid missing bill payments, or simply give yourself the chance to relax when it comes to money, you need to determine your own goals before choosing the budget categories you will be using.

Your Financial Commitments

Alongside your financial goals, you also need to consider the financial commitments that you have. Paying rent or a mortgage, covering your bills, and having enough money to buy your food can be a challenge if you don’t plan well. Using an envelope system wallet for cash budgeting can be a great way to overcome issues like this.

Your Income & Its Structure

There wouldn’t be much point in working on your budget if you aren’t taking your income and the size of your salary into account, but you also need to think about when you get paid. The envelope categories you choose should reflect this.

You have to plan your system to make sure that the envelopes you use apply to you. Common budget envelope categories include:

  • groceries
  • bills and rent/mortgage payments
  • health and medicine
  • haircuts and other beauty treatments
  • emergency funds
  • miscellaneous other expenses

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have an envelope for savings, too.

2. Decide on a budget for each

Once you have an idea of the cash envelope system categories you would like to use, you can start to figure out a budget for each of your cash envelopes. You can tie this in with your financial goals, lowering the non-essential spending while raising the amount you save.

Some of your envelopes will be easy to figure out. You always need the same amount for your mortgage and rent, and most people are able to predict the cost of their bills each month. For other areas, like your groceries, you will need to plan ahead and try to estimate how much you will need to spend. This can be a bit tricky.

It’s worth keeping in mind that your budget doesn’t have to work out perfectly on the first attempt. You can make changes down the line, and it will always be worth taking a flexible approach to ensure that you can get the best results.

3. Create and fill the envelopes

Many people choose to use digital budgeting tools, but this can be a mistake. One of the key advantages of a cash envelope system is that it forces you to manage money you can actually touch and see, and this can make it much easier to avoid overspending.

You can use any type of envelope for this strategy, but it can be easier if you choose envelopes that are distinct from one another. Some people choose budget envelopes of different colors to help them with this.

4. Only spend what you set aside for each category

Next up, it’s time to look at the most challenging element of your new budget. Concentrate on only spending what you have set aside. This will get easier with time, but you need to make sure that you adhere strictly to the plan.

Setting rules can be a good way to achieve this. For example, you can take money from non-essential envelopes to top up those that are non-negotiable items, but make sure that you never do it the other way around.

5. If needed, adjust the budget next month

As mentioned above, you don’t have to stick to the same cash envelopes for budgeting forever. In fact, it can actually be beneficial to adjust your budget for the first few months. You will have a good idea of how much your monthly purchases add up to and determine how much you will need for next month.

Rather than putting any excess money you have into your random or personal spending budget, you should put it into your savings.

Advantages of the Cash Envelope System

There are loads of great reasons to use a tool like this to set aside money. Here are some of the advantages:

Track spendings

Tracking their spendings is something that many people struggle with. You need to make sure that you aren’t overspending each month, and your new money envelope system can help you with this. It is much easier to track the money you spend when you have it separated into different piles.

Avoid overspending

Being able to track your spending properly makes it much easier to avoid overspending. Learning how to save money on your utility bills is a great example of this, as you can lower your bills with very little effort when you know exactly how much they are costing you.

Feel confident in your finances

No matter what you do for a living, it’s crucial that you don’t feel stressed about money, and using a cash envelope system can be one of the best ways to achieve this goal.

Achieve your financial goals

Using a smart budgeting strategy can give you the chance to achieve financial goals that you never thought were possible. You will have the chance to learn the difference between saving and investment, with your new savings giving you the chance to explore new and better ways to use your money to your advantage.

Money Envelope System Best Practices

Setting rules for yourself is a big part of this system, as well as thinking about the issues you may face before you start.

Using envelopes to manage your money is a good way to start with this. While it can be more convenient to keep your money digital, you may miss out on the benefits that come with planning your budget with cash.

It also makes sense to have plans in case you run out of money in your envelopes, i.e. using money from the non-essential envelopes. This will ensure that you always have an emergency budget available to you.

Finally, it’s time to think about how you will address other aspects of your finances. If you borrow money, benefiting from some of the top personal loans, make sure you set aside the relevant sum to repay such loans on time.


Achieving financial discipline can be extremely difficult. Using a cash envelope system for beginners can help you to create and stick to a budget that makes sense for you.

A cash envelope strategy is one of the best ways to improve your finances and plan your spending; you just need to be prepared to do some work. Thankfully, it all gets easier once you start. And the result will be worth it!


How does the cash envelope system work?

Money-saving envelopes provide a way to categorize and organize your spending without too much effort. Separating your money like this helps prevent overspending, making it much easier to manage your finances.

What are the pros and cons of the envelope system?

Being able to track spending comes with very few cons, while the advantages of the cash envelope system include knowing how much money you have for each area of your spending.

What is the 50/20/30 budget rule?

Originally popularized by Senator Elizabeth Warren, the 50/20/30 budget rule is a method to split your earnings in a way that makes it much easier to save. 50% of your income should go on essentials (like rent and bills), 30% can be spent on you, and 20% can go into savings. Following this rule will make it much easier to build a strong foundation for your finances.


I learned a lot about finance after working for a digital marketing company specializing in investing and trading stocks, forex, etc. After that, I got exposed to other verticals such as wealth management and personal finance, which further improved my understanding of the financial world.

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