I’m very good at creating a budget in a spreadsheet program. I love to create simple little formulas and watch the money all go where it should. Where I always fail is in the actual implementation of that budget.
I think I wrote about our slow climb out of debt over the past two years. Since we were able to put aside enough money to pay off a whole bundle of debt, while still paying our normal bills, it seemed obvious that the next step would be to use that debt-paying money to build a savings account. But we needed a plan, because the first month we tried it, that savings money disappeared pretty quickly into our monthly spending.
I decided to try the envelope system of budgeting. I actually disagree with people like Dave Ramsey who say that spending cash is more difficult or feels any more real than spending from a debit card. Cash is way easier to spend, in my opinion, especially once it gets broken down into change. But after my money managing struggles over the past few years, I get a sick feeling whenever I have to log into the bank account to find out how much is there. Keeping an old-fashioned check register that logs two people’s spending from one account was too complicated of a solution for me. So I’m trying envelopes for their simplicity. And to gain peace regarding my spending habits.
I’m tucking the receipts into each envelope. But unless it runs out, there’s really no need to be that concerned about what was spent. As long as I have money in the envelope for the time period it’s intended for, I’m good.
I’ve also set up auto-transfers to several savings accounts in my bank account, since most of the money that we spend does still happen electronically for a variety of bills. This helps money for savings go in the right spot from the start, and also helps me save money over time for things like violin lessons that are due less frequently. I’m only using envelopes for things like groceries, oil changes, prescriptions, etc.
Back to the title of this post – the creative part. When I decided to use envelopes, I knew right away that I didn’t want a purse full of white office envelopes. So I started researching what other people were using. Of course, several places sell budget envelopes. But they honestly weren’t very good-looking.
Then I saw a lady selling a template for making them on a Silhouette. And I remembered that I had some credits to buy things straight from the Silhouette store, so I went there to look for envelope templates.
I bought this one for the main money envelopes. Then I realized I needed something to keep all the little money envelopes in, so I bought this one. I had to enlarge it just a bit in the Silhouette software so that the smaller ones would all fit inside. Even if I hadn’t already had the credits on a free giftcard I got when I bought the machine, it wouldn’t have cost much. It seems like all the templates on the site are just 99 cents or less.
The labels aren’t anything too fancy. I just used the pen tool for my Silhouette to write them out, used the blade setting to cut them, and then glued them onto the envelopes.
I reinforced all the edges with washi tape. If I stick with the system long term, I’ll probably cut out more paper and laminate it before making the envelopes. These will definitely wear out over time. But scrapbook paper isn’t very pricey, so replacing them is as easy as running another sheet through the Silhouette.
I can’t say yet how well the system is working for me. I’ve already borrowed a bit from the grocery envelope for small things that were due elsewhere. I’m going to try to be better about that next time. One thing to note is that I don’t carry the whole bundle of envelopes around with me. I only take the one I need. I’ve never had my purse stolen, but that would definitely be tragic with cash inside. I also don’t take out money more than 2 weeks in advance for the envelopes, so I don’t have much cash lying around the house either (so don’t rob me!).