4 Steps to Mastering the Cash Envelope System

4 Steps to Mastering the Cash Envelope System

My husband, D and I have used the cash envelope system from Dave Ramsey’s methods for about six years now. We can finally say that we have mastered the art of cash budgeting! While we still put somethings on our credit card (fully paid off every month), we successfully use cash for our everyday expenses.

I have previously posted on how we significantly slashed our budget after we first got married. The envelope system has played a HUGE part in that. As we are now preparing for baby number one, we have refreshed our focus and have become diligently tracking our expenses. Whenever D and I are approached with questions on budgeting, we always suggest the cash envelope system.

I will outline and explain why the envelope system works for our life and how we specifically use it. I know that everyone’s budgets are vastly different, but this should give you a good picture of what your budget could look like on this system.

4 Steps to Mastering the Cash Envelope System

  1. Realize that your paycheck is a real and tangible thing.
    So many of us keep our paychecks locked in our accounts and haven’t touched cash in ages. Magic-swipey cards (aka credit or debits cards) have their place and we do use a credit card on a regular basis, but we pay the card off every single month with no exception. Whenever you swipe your card, what do you see? $8.75 at Starbucks, $15.50 at Target, $85 at the grocery store – it’s all really just numbers you see on your smartphone screen when you log into your bank’s app. It is so easy to swipe away until your paycheck is dried up and gone.
    It makes you realize how much money you are spending when you have to fork over the dough yourself! To me, that is the most powerful way to impact your budget. I hate handing my cash over to the grocery store clerk or the cashier at Target even though I know groceries and personal care items are a necessity. Pulling cash out to pay for everyday things like groceries, pharmacy needs, eating out, clothes shopping, and entertainment helped to decrease our spending because we could see the cash leaving our pockets and were more aware of the actual costs of our activities.
  2. Keep the cash out of your wallet and keep it organized.
    While this may sound contradictory to having a cash envelope system, it helps keep you organized. We have a small accordion file that fits in my purse that I found at Wal-Mart for $1. I have each spot labeled with what each section of cash is for. This helps us not to confuse our grocery money with our eating out money or our shopping money with our pharmacy money. Knowing exactly how much you have left is key! Short of keeping all of your receipts, this is how we track how we are doing over the month. If you keep all that cash cram-jammed in your wallet, you’ll never know what money is allocated towards any certain category.
    Some envelope users also keep a ledger for each category of cash that they have. While it is a great idea, it just doesn’t work for us personally. I keep all the receipts I get from week to week inside the accordion folder under the tab dedicated to receipt keeping. This also helps me to remember to redeem any rebates on my smart phone (I have a whole separate post on this as well).
  3. Assess your current budget.
    If you do not look at your budget and spending habits on a biweekly or monthly basis, start now! If D and I can feel ourselves spending more than normal we will do weekly check-ups. Why look at your budget more than once a month? It is to make sure you don’t look at your bank account or credit card statement on the 30th and say “Oh s*!t.”. Using a combination of mostly cash and a little credit card like we do, it is easy to run your budget to zero in a hurry if you don’t check on it.
    We get paid on the 1st and the 15th. Those are the dates that we do our check-ups. It is also a time to pull out more cash for the second half of the month since it is not realistic for us to have bills coming out of our accounts and have a whole month’s worth of cash pulled out as well.
    Here is a screenshot of our current budget (some totals removed for privacy). D is a stickler for numbers so everything is calculated to the penny. This can be something that we elaborate on in the future. We mark what we are paying in cash and what will come out of accounts or be put onto our credit card for points. What you don’t see is what our savings totals and additions are. We calculate those into our budget as well.
  4. Don’t be afraid to make changes.
    Budgeting in today’s world when things can change so quickly can be a challenge. Understanding to be flexible with how you spend your money will help. If something breaks and needs to be replaced (car, appliance, phone, etc) we have an emergency fund for that. If we think we can fit it into our budget, we adjust other categories as needed.
    You’ll see from the image above that we have an “Oops, I spent money” because we understand that we are going to go over by a few dollars here and there. It is also there as a buffer for an unforeseen expense. Every month, we add or take away categories because we understand that our needs will not be the same as the month before (oil changes, clothes, wedding gifts, etc).
    Having the ability to adapt your budget to what is happening in your life will save you time, money, and heartache. Paying cash for most expenses will help you feel that control.


Happy budgeting!

4 Steps to Mastering the Cash Envelope System


5 Tremendous Ways to Save on Your Professional Wardrobe

You can easily spend hundreds of dollars on clothing for your work wardrobe every month. It seems like a money pit sometimes. You buy a pair of pants that you love and look great!… but you can only wear three tops with it. So you buy more tops to wear with the pants and then you need a blazer… and shoes… and accessories. I get it.

Like for real, I get. it.

I work in a 52 story office building downtown and my floor is filled with important executives and professionals. I have to look 100% put together every day. 20% is my hair, 70% is my clothing, 10% is my accessories. It can be incredibly stressful in the morning to think about what to wear and how to do my hair and make up and what shoes I’m going to wear.

Since working in an office environment, I have learned a few things, what’s important and what isn’t. Here are a few tips to help you look professional for less!


Buy secondhand. This won’t be for everyone because some have germ phobias. BUT the savings are tremendous!!! We’re talking HUNDREDS of dollars can be saved this way. I’m not talking Good Will or Salvation Army shopping. I’m thinking of upscale second hand stores (it’s a thing, I promise).

In Tulsa we have Echo Shops. The carry high-end designer fashion for women and men. Last time my husband and I went we spent about $60. We bought a cardigan, a blazer, brand new jeans, and a pair of chinos. I Googled the brand of jeans and they retailed for close to $75. While the jeans and chinos aren’t professional, I have worn the blazer and cardigan 4 to 5 times each month since I bought them. Score!

There is also a website that gives you great deals and helps schools all across America. Schoola donates a portion of the profits from the clothes it sells to schools. The catch? All of the clothes are donated by people like you! You can request a free bag to ship the clothes, send it off with the school of your choice’s name, and the school gets a check once your clothes sell. Currently, they are offering $10 in Schoola Cash to new customers. Click this link to sign up! You can get a lot with that! They had a sale over President’s Day and I bought 6 (SIX!!!) blazers, 2 dresses, 1 top, and 1 skirt for $30. What a steal! They carry clothes for everyone so the whole family can benefit.

Buy the best and make it last. I know I can’t afford to replace my blazers or shoes every few months after I wear them out so I buy the best I can and them keep them at work. This won’t work in everyone’s favor but it has worked well for me so far. I keep 3 pairs of nice shoes and my best blazer at work. I have had the same pair of Gianna Bini shoes for 7 years and I bought them secondhand! The reason I’ve had them for so long? I keep them nice. I don’t wear them outside unless I’m walking to a different building during work hours and I certainly don’t scuff my shoes along! I put them on when I get to work and take them off when I leave. I wear an inexpensive pair of flats walking to the building and to my car. I’d rather have those dirty than my nice shoes.

Sign up for email lists. Create an email address just for website mailers. I have one that I use for Soma, Ann Taylor, JCrew, Anthropologie, JC Penny’s, Macy’s, etc. I check that email once a week to see if they’ve mailed me some coupons or if they are having an amazing sale. They even know I love a good sale!

Don’t worry about the latest trend. This is, of course, if you don’t work in a trend induced environment. I learned not to care about leggings or lacey tops or how wide the flare on my slacks were. I bought things that looked good on me and stuck with it. I buy a trendy accessory every now and again but never a full trend inspired outfit. You won’t get a promotion based on what trend you best wore this season.

Shop your own closet. I spent several hours a few weekends ago trying on all my clothes. It sounds silly and it kind of was, but it helped me create new outfits. I was in a serious wardrobe rut. I tried on all my dresses with each of my cardigans and blazers and determined what worked and what looked wrong or sloppy. I gave a way a lot of clothes that I thought to myself “Why did I even buy this??”. It helped me realize what the pieces were that I need to invest in and what my wardrobe was missing.

Hopefully you get inspired by this tips to rock your work wardrobe!



Sweet Potato and Edamame Buddha Bowl

Whether you’re vegan or not, this meal is flavorful and satisfying. A buddha bowl is a big bowl of plant-goodness and that sounds like a good meal to me! This is not only an amazingly  tasty dinner but it makes the most terrific lunch the next day – even if Chef Mike (your microwave) is used to reheat it.

This recipe calls for Bulgar, which is a type of nutty grain that you cook just like you would quinoa. In this picture that I took for the post, I used jasmine rice. Both ways are equally as delicious. If you don’t want any sort of grain, you can sub out some fresh kale to stir in (about 1 1/2 cups should do it.

Buddha bowls can also be made for fairly cheap. It was a toss up for what was more expensive: the sweet potatoes or the edamame. Luckily, my Sprouts carries frozen edamame in their store brand that was $3 cheaper than the fresh stuff (and just as good!). Since it’s so cheap and easy to make, it has become one of our favorites in our meal plan. It was originally in my $25 grocery week meal plan. And it fit in perfectly!



Sweet Potato and Edamame Buddha Bowl

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

This bowl of amazing goodness is not only delicious, but it's good for you! This nutrient packed meal sticks to your ribs and makes excellent leftovers.


– 3 medium sized sweet potatoes, diced
– 1 cup frozen, shelled edamame
– 2 tbs melted coconut oil
– 1/2 tsp seasoning salt
– 1 15oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
– 1 tbs peanut butter or other nut butter (creamy)
– 1 tbs miso paste
– 1 1/2 tbs agave nectar
– 2 cups cooked grain
– 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
– cooking spray (I use canola oil spray)


1. Preheat oven to 375F
2. On a large baking sheet, spread diced sweet potatoes evenly and spray with cooking spray and sprinkle seasoning salt. Toss to coat. Add red pepper flakes if using. Bake for 20 minutes rotating half way through.
3. After the sweet potato has cooked for 20 minutes, add black beans to the baking sheet and place in oven for another 10 minutes.
4. While the black beans are cooking with the potatoes, cook the edamame according to the package directions (generally in the microwave)
5. After the edamame is cooked, place coconut oil, miso paste, agave, and peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 15 second intervals until the peanut butter is melting (about 45 seconds) stirring after every interval. Microwave not your thing? You can place the ingredients in a sauce pan and heat until the PB melts.
6. After the potatoes are cooked for the full 30 minutes, combine all elements, along with the cooked grain into a large bowl and stir until everything is coated in the sauce.
3. Serve immediately.




How to Win at Meal Planning

How to Win at Meal Planning


If meal planning were an Olympic sport, I think I just might win a gold. Maybe then I would have something in common with Simone 🙂

Meal planning and list making is something that I have grown into. Maybe it’s genetic? My mom is a list making, organized freak who either has something on a list or it’s labeled. If it’s not labeled or listed, it just doesn’t exist (or at least that’s what I’m convinced of). Making lists is how I get through my work day and how I stay on top of things at home. I literally have to write down that I need to vacuum in order to do it. It also feels great to cross things off lists!

Meal planning completes my list and money saving obsessed self. Planning out each of your meals for the day is a huge time saver and will save you money throughout the week! Our one (maybe two) trips to the store each week are nothing compared to what we used to do. Meal planning and checking our lists twice has helped us save hundreds over the course of the four years we have been married. Sure, there are lots of other ways you can slice saving money on groceries, but meal planning is my number one.

How to Win at Meal Planning


First things first…

Go through your pantry. Inventory what you have, what you need, and what has spoiled. Throw out the bad stuff and do not contemplate “it doesn’t smell THAT bad, does it?”. Because your significant other will shrug and you’ll put it back up there. Don’t do that. This is a time when you should look at what you use the most of and write down what needs filling (like all purpose flour, sugar, olive oil, salt, pepper, etc). This way when a recipe calls for a cup of sugar you don’t have to run to the store again (or your neighbor’s house).

Make a list of the meals your family loves. We have all of our favorite recipes printed and organized into our recipe binder for easy access. If we try something we don’t like, we don’t even place it in there! You may have a go-to cook book that has everything you cook in it: write down your absolute favorites.

List ingredients. On that list of your most favorite recipes, list what the recipe calls for that aren’t your normal pantry staples. An example would be “Sweet potato and kale hash > kale, sweet potatoes, navy beans”. This recipe also calls for salt, pepper, oil, spices and many other things that we have constantly stocked in our pantry. This will help you to quickly identify what you need to add to your grocery list.

Check your schedule. Since my husband works varied hours, I find it super helpful if I know what days he will be home earlier and what days he works late. If you have classes, clubs, and sports that your family goes to, it is helpful to have those written down before you start to plan your dinners.

Check the ads. Checking the sales ads will also save you money – that dish that is normally expensive to make because it calls for asparagus and sirloin steak is no longer a problem because it’s on sale at your store! Score for an indulgent meal! This also allows you to stock up on pantry staples for a lower cost and make your overall cost per meal lower as well.

Plan for snacks, breakfasts, and lunches too! When we first starting seriously meal planning, this is one thing I forgot. We had nothing for snacks and only one option for breakfast. This is important to keep everyone happy and not hangry. Most of our meals now make enough for desirable leftovers for lunch.

Stick to it. It sounds hard at first but it is so rewarding when you don’t have to struggle to find something for dinner or stress about what to pack for lunch the next day. It’s already there for you! Even with a limited budget like we have done in the past, it’s possible and it can be healthy, whole foods.


Good Luck!