family budgeting

Make Bill Paying Easier With A Modern Envelope System

This website may earn commissions from purchases made through links in this post.

This modern envelope system is a twist on an old-fashioned technique for saving for the bills and other everyday expenses.

A modern envelope system
Modern Envelope System (no jars or envelopes!). Image by Monkey Business @ stock.adobe.com

The envelope budgeting system has been around for a long time.

Our grandmother’s grandmother used it to take care of the household finances. It’s a time-honoured system because IT WORKS.

However…

Modern banking and finance mean that the old cash stashed in envelopes system is in need of an overhaul.

I’ve outlined the modern day envelope budgeting system that I use below. First, however, I’ll an overview of the traditional envelopes system.

The Traditional Envelope System

Before we get to the modern envelope system, here’s how the old-fashioned envelope system worked.

Every payday, allocate your pay to different expense categories. Work out how much you will need for the groceries, how much for the petrol, how much for the bills etc.

Divide your cash and fill your envelopes. Withdraw the amount of cash you need and put it into separate envelopes, one for each expense category.

It’s not necessary to have an envelope for everything you spend your money, on just the main categories. For example, you may have an allowance envelope for things like coffee and magazines. You might also have a groceries envelope and a petrol envelope and an electricity envelope.

Spend until it’s gone and spend no more. If you spend all the money you have allocated in the first few days, it means you have to make do until your next payday.

Put any leftovers into savings. If you have any money left over in any of your envelopes, put this aside into your savings account.

An important aspect of this system is that you are spending CASH. The reality of handing over cold hard cash hurts, so you are more conscious of your spending and less likely to overspend.

There are drawbacks to this system. One obvious one is that we don’t pay cash for many expenses anymore. The other is having a large amount of cash around the house isn’t very safe.

This system worked fifteen years ago, but it doesn’t work now. It’s time for an update.

The Modern Envelope System

This system is similar in principle, but with a modern twist.

  1. You will still need to budget your money and spend within your allocated budget. Use your budget to calculate how much you need to put aside each payday for upcoming expenses.
  2. Pay yourself first. Allocate money for investments/ savings first, then any debts then fixed expenses such as insurance or utilities, then spend what’s left.
  3. Draw only the cash you need for the week’s allowance money and any other cash expenses like petrol and groceries. Once this is spent, that’s it for the week.
  4. The amounts that you allocate for expenses goes into a high-interest bank account rather than drawing cash and stashing it into envelopes.
  5. Keep track of how much you have saved and allocated for each category, by keeping a record of your savings account balance, broken up into your expense categories. This can be done on paper or in excel. When I first started this, I kept an exercise book with a page per expense, and a total page that equalled what I had in the bank. Now I use a spreadsheet in combination with my budget. I still allocate an amount each fortnight to the electricity account, for example, but it goes into a bank account instead of into an envelope.

(Update: since writing this, there are now banks that allow you to have several savings accounts without fees so that you can divide each expense into a separate savings account.)

Keeping your money in a bank account means you are earning interest and it is still allocated into VIRTUAL ENVELOPES.

Take Your Modern Envelope System One Step Further

Using your credit card to pay for expenses and they paying it off immediately can work out well if you use it wisely.

  • When the bills come, you know that you are able to pay them in full because you have saved your cash and allocated it towards the bills.
  • Rather than using your savings, use your credit card to pay the bills.
  • Pay off your credit card in full every month with the allocated cash in your high-interest savings account to ensure that you accrue no interest on your card.

This method works well if you have NO OUTSTANDING DEBTS already and you PAY YOUR CREDIT CARD BALANCE OFF IN FULL EVERY MONTH.

Using your credit card to pay the bills means that you are earning interest for longer on your savings and you can take advantage of any loyalty programmes offered by your credit card merchant. Using a credit card and paying it off on time, every time will also establish or improve your credit history.

The modern envelope system makes paying the bills easier because instead of scrambling to find money to pay the bill when it arrives in the mail, you smooth the bills out by putting a little away for each bill each payday. That way, you already have the cash on hand when the bill does arrive. Take the stress out bill payment and the money out of the mattress with the modern envelope system.

A twist on an old-fashioned system, the modern envelope system makes saving for and paying the bills easier.

JOIN THE NEWSLETTER

Similar Posts

6 Comments

  1. I know this is an old post, but I do want to thank you for posting it.

    I also breaks down my bills into what I need to put away per fortnight into a separate account. Actually, now I think of it, I have been doing that for many years on and off. I am just very slack at using the spreadsheet to work out how much is aside for each bill, it just all sits there together.

    I do get frustrated when people push the envelope system. Like you I do not want that cash around the house and I want to pay everything electronically. Once I just asked if there was a better way to keep track of the cash in my purse (grocery, petrol, pocket money) and the advice I kept on getting was to use envelopes, even for my other bills. Right, I really want carry envelopes instead of my purse and I was not asking for advice on bills.

    It is great to see someone else advocating using a separate account for bills

  2. Thanks for leaving a comment. I’m glad you like the article. I read the envelope system all the time, cash works for some people – just not me. The separate acccount works for me because I get a bit of extra interest, it’s easier not to spend my ‘bills’ money and who pays cash when you can BPAY :).

  3. Why can’t our everyday saving account be equipped with “envelopes” within them.
    So you could send the electricity money to a pocket marked “electricity” and so on.
    Better than keeping 5 grand in the sock drawer….whoops.

    Are there any accounts out there that fit the bill?

  4. Hi Kim, thanks for commenting.

    I don’t keep cash in the house, I use one savings account and ‘divide’ it up into savings categories in an excel spreadsheet. I remember that recently one of the banks advertised a system where you could have several savings accounts with no extra fees in order to divide up your money into ‘envelopes’ but I can’t remember which bank I’m afraid. If there are no fees (check with your bank), you could probably do this with any online bank account and just open as many as you like to divide your money into.

  5. My husband does the weekly shopping and always overspends. Now I’m thinking of giving him the budgeted amount in cash, so that he doesn’t overspend.

    What do readers think of this idea?

    1. Hi Gita, it’s great he does the shopping! It can be easy to overspend. I like to use the online shopping option and “click and collect” so we don’t pay the delivery fee. That way I can see exactly how much I am spending before I part with money! If I go over budget I can delete items off my list. Another option is writing a shopping list and sticking to the list. Buying stuff that is not on the list is a good way to go over budget.
      It can be a good idea to ask your husband for his ideas for sticking to the budget and how he feels about the budgeted amount for groceries. It can be frustrating sometimes when you’re trying to budget and the other person is not sticking to a budget, but imagine if the situation is the other way around and hubby suddenly gave you a strict cash allowance for the groceries and how that would feel. Communication is not always easy, but usually the best policy. 🙂

Comments are closed.