These free printable cash envelopes can help you track your spending and stick to your budget so you can save more money!
Spending less money so we can save more sounds good in theory, right? But how do we actually put it into practice?
There are many different strategies we could use to start saving money, but one of the most simple and straightforward ways is with the cash envelope system for budgeting.
What is the cash envelope system?
Made popular by Dave Ramsey, the cash envelope system (also known as “cash stuffing”) involves setting a budget amount for each category of variable spending, putting that amount of cash into an envelope, and only using the money in the envelope to pay for items in that category. When the cash in the envelope runs out, there is no more spending in that category for the remainder of the month (or pay period).
The cash envelope system is helpful because it allows us to physically see how much money we have available to spend in any particular category. (Cash envelopes are generally used for variable expenses. Learn more about tracking recurring expenses here.)
If you’d like to try the cash envelope system for budgeting in your home, here are the steps you can follow to do so.
1. Create a budget.
Our free printable Budget Binder can help with this! We can look at past bank statements to figure out how much we’re spending in each category per month. Based on our past spending, we can set a goal amount for future spending by category.
What are common cash envelope categories?
Though our budget will also include amounts for recurring spending (like mortgage/rent, car payment, student loans, etc.), cash envelopes will only be used for variable spending.
Some common cash envelope categories are…
- Eating out
- Household supplies
- Personal care
- Hobbies/fun money
2. Prepare and fill the cash envelopes.
Once we’ve created a budget and know how much we’re allotting for each category, it’s time to put together our cash envelopes… And we just so happen to have a pretty printable for that!
Cash Envelope Supplies
Print the Cash Envelope Template
Our printable cash envelopes come in two parts: (1) an envelope template, and (2) a form for tracking spending right on the front of the envelope.
We think it’s kind of fun to print the envelope template on the back of a piece of pretty scrapbook paper to create beautiful cash envelopes that will get us excited about using them!
Once the cash envelope template has been printed, use scissors to cut along the solid lines around the outside…
And fold the template on the dotted lines to create the envelope shape.
Secure the envelope with some tape or glue dots to ensure that they stay together.
Finally, cut out the spending tracker cards and use tape or glue dots to attach them to the front of the envelope for easy tracking.
After the cash envelopes are complete, write the category and budgeted amount (starting balance) on the front of each one, and fill each envelope with the appropriate amount of cash.
(If you prefer to keep track of your spending on binder pages, snag our free printable check register here.)
3. Stick to the budgeted amounts in the cash envelopes!
Now it’s time to put our budget into action! Each time we make a purchase in a particular category– groceries, for example– we’ll be sure to pay with the cash that we’ve allotted in our cash envelope.
Once the purchase is complete, we can document it on the card on the front of the envelope so we always have an accurate total of how much we have left to spend.
Remember: The amount of cash in each envelope is the only money we have to spend in that category for that designated period of time, so it’s important to track accurately and plan our spending appropriately.
What if I run out of money in my cash envelope before the end of the month?
If the cash in a particular category is depleted before the month ends, we should try our hardest not to spend any more money in that category until our cash envelopes are refilled.
If our grocery envelope runs out, we can get creative by challenging ourselves to make meals using only items we have in the pantry or freezer. Or if the clothing envelope is empty, we can hold off on new clothing purchases until the following month.
It will be tempting to borrow money from other envelopes, but resist this as much as possible! The cash envelope system is so beneficial because it helps control our spending, so simply adding more funds from somewhere else when we run out defeats the entire purpose.
What if I have extra money in my envelopes at the end of the month?
Yippee! If we don’t spend all of the money allotted in a certain category for the month, this is a great opportunity to put some extra cash toward a debt we’re trying to pay off or a savings goal we’re trying to reach.
4. Tweak your cash envelope system as necessary.
If we realize that the amount we’ve budgeted in a certain category is unrealistic (either too much or too little), we can certainly tweak the amount for the following month.
While it’s important to be diligent and careful about our spending when we’re trying to pay down debt or build up our savings, we also need to be realistic about what’s actually attainable from a spending standpoint so our budget can be as accurate as possible.
The Cash Envelope System: Final Thoughts
We hope these cash envelopes will be helpful for you as you work to meet your financial goals! (And dare we say… even make budgeting a little bit fun?!)
We are so proud of you for being intentional about your spending so you can make smart financial decisions and set yourself up for success in the future. You’ve got this!
Free Printable Cash Envelopes: Frequently Asked Questions
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