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How to Use a Printable Cash Envelope System for Budgeting

Do you ever wonder where your money goes from week to week?

You don’t buy anything “extra”, don’t spend impulsively and yet somehow, you never have any money left at the end of the week.

Am I right?

Welcome to the American Dream!

We work and work and yet, somehow we never have any money to spend on things we enjoy…things that we want or even things that make us feel good.

Much of the fault lies with our failing education system. The lack of teachings on “real life” subjects is financially killing us.

I don’t know about you, but the financial education I recall having in high school, was about a week of learning how to reconcile your checkbook in 9th grade.

I never really learned to create a realistic budget for my household.

There were no lessons on investing, saving or even spending my money.

Reconciling a checkbook…that was the extent of our “life skills” in school!

Fast forward to real life a few years later and how do you pay your bills?

How do you decide which bill is a priority when you don’t have enough money to pay them all?

What good is knowing how to reconcile a checkbook if there isn’t any money in there?

The answer?

Use a cash envelope system to tell your money where it’s going.

Don’t let it tell you!

Using a cash envelope system is actually really simple. The most difficult part of the system is making sure to keep yourself accountable from day to day.

This is the part I struggle with the most! I prepare my envelopes and fill them with cash, but somewhere along the way I kind of forget that the money in the household envelope isn’t supposed to be spent on miscellaneous stuff, like markers or pretty handmade paper.

But hey, it’s a process right? It’s all about progress, not necessarily perfection!

How to Use a Printable Cash Envelope System

Create Your Budget Categories

Make a list of your fixed expenses, as in…

  • Mortgage/Rent
  • Utilities
  • Loans
  • Credit Cards
  • Insurance

These items should be paid directly from your bank account and should not be included in your envelope budget categories.

Use your budget envelopes for the rest of your expenses like food, gas, etc.

Here’s some ideas for your cash envelope categories:

  • Groceries
  • Household Goods
  • Gas
  • Home Maintenance
  • Car Maintenance
  • Child Care
  • Hair Care
  • Entertainment
  • Gifting
  • Fun Money

Choose Your Envelopes

Make or purchase a cash envelope system that you like.

Choose a pretty design with a layout style that you think has enough space for your needs.

Put Your Envelopes Together

Here’s a free printable cash envelope system you can download, if you like!

Supplies You’ll Need:

However, if you purchased your envelopes elsewhere or you need to put together your own design…here’s a few tips –

  1. Crease well. Make sure your folds are flat and smooth, otherwise your glue won’t cover well and you’ll end up with little tears in your envelopes.
  2. Use white glue or hot glue along the sides of the envelope to ensure sturdiness.
  3. Use re-positionable glue along the top fold so you can reopen your envelope again and again.

Using Your Cash Envelope System

Here comes the fun part! When you receive your paycheck, you need to do a few quick calculations to separate your money.

Pay Your Bills

Here’s an example:

Susie makes $500 per week or $2,000 per month. She owns an old car and lives very frugally in a well maintained apartment with few extra expenses.

She has the following fixed expenses per month:

Rent – $600
Electric – $100.00
Heat – $100.00
Insurances – $300.00
TOTAL – $1100.00/month divided by 4 weeks = $275/week

Susie leaves $275 a week in her checking account to pay her fixed expenses.

That leaves her with $225 per week to pay her remaining expenses.

Fill Your Envelopes

Here’s how she separates her weekly money into budget envelope categories:

Groceries- $75.00
Household Goods – $25.00
Gas – $50.00
Home Maintenance – $20.00
Car Maintenance – $20.00
Entertainment – $20.00
Fun Money – $15.00
TOTAL – $225.00

After separating her fixed budget categories and her envelope categories, Susie comes up with a total of $500 needed to pay her weekly expenses…equal to her weekly income.

Notice that Susie doesn’t have any money leftover after the calculations?

The reason for that is…Susie told her money where is was going to go!

There was no need for leftover money because she included categories for entertainment (movies, lunch out, etc.) and fun money (a new pair of shoes, earrings or new markers).

That’s what makes the cash envelope system so perfect for budgeting!

You are not losing out on anything because you are telling your money what you plan to do with it.

There is no need to feel stressed about having “no money” because you are leaving room for impulse shopping (fun money) and amusement.

So, what are you waiting for? That’s all there is to it!
I hope this little tutorial helps you get started with your own cash envelope system so you can stop stressing over your money today!
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Have a Spectacular Day!


Leba Vakalalavanua

Thursday 16th of May 2019

I love it...Effective and easy to understand


Tuesday 12th of March 2019

I liked your short explanation of how this works. It'sactually a zero budget which I was having trouble with. Also, you wouldn't always spend in each of these categories every week (car maintenance, for example) and can add to it until you do need an oil change.

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