I Don’t Like Cash Envelopes: Why My Family Doesn’t use Them

don't like cash envelopes

Why My Family Doesn’t Use Cash Envelopes for Most Spending

While most people who are getting out of debt and adjusting to a budget opt to use cash envelopes my family did not. In fact, I do not like cash envelopes for everyday spending. I think they are great if you have impulse shopping issues and understand the psychology of it.

If you used the cash envelope system to help your family get on track financially props to you! That is awesome. I am not here to knock that. Getting out of debt and in a better financial situation is a win no matter the method (as long as it’s legal of course).

Cash is kind of nasty…

But I’ve worked at a bank. I know what nastiness is on money. According to this TIME article pathogens have been found on 94% of paper money, and the flu virus can live on paper money for up to 17 days. Ew.

Aside from the ick factor there is also the security factor; if someone spends an average of $25 a week on gas, $100 on groceries, $25 on miscellaneous/personal spending money, allows themself that $5 latte one a week, and average $25 on miscellaneous items for the kids, etc… they could easily be carrying almost $200 (or more, depending on their budget) on them at all times.

If you take out cash for the entire month at the beginning of the month (which I see on social media a lot of people do) you probably have several hundred dollars on your person just walking around town. This makes me nervous. If my purse were to be stolen or I left it somewhere today I could easily call and freeze or cancel my debit cards instantly. If I lost cash…

Then there’s always the confusion caused when I find cash in my wallet. Did someone give one of the kids money and I forgot to deposit it? What was this for? Who is this from? What am I forgetting?

I do make a few exceptions

We have at times kept a cash envelope at home for special little sinking funds. This is a great way to set money aside for things like spending money on clothing, birthdays, small personal loans… money that doesn’t need to be redeposited for online spending or bill payment.

Accountability Alternatives if You Don’t Like Cash Envelopes

Just because you choose not to use cash does not mean you get a pass on tracking your expenses. I still keep receipts even if I do not need to use them to split it into different budget categories in the Every Dollar transaction. I scan those receipts into my cashback apps to optimize my savings. Only after I have transactions logged in Every Dollar, scanned onto Fetch Rewards, and any receipts with qualifying items on Ibotta redeemed do I put the receipts in the recycling.

Most banks even have a budget component to their online banking; you can build a budget and categorize expenses as they happen right on the bank website. How’s that for handy? As a bonus, since we just use our debit cards most of the time I don’t have to worry about making sure my husband has cash if he stops at the store for me on the way home. I just record the transaction and move on.

To Use the Cash Envelope System or Not?

In the end, we all need to do what works best for our family to help us meet our financial goals. If cash envelopes work best for you then that is great. Personal finance is personal after all. Just because I don’t like cash envelopes doesn’t mean you won’t love them.

The main reason I felt compelled to write this article was just to let people out there know it’s okay if doing what popular radio hosts and financial experts say doesn’t work for you. It’s perfectly acceptable to combine the advice of several experts and your own personal preferences into a system that works for you.

Any steps you take toward getting on a budget, paying off debt, and saving for your future are to be applauded. You don’t have to like cash envelopes to make that happen. Find what works for you and work that plan to reach your goals. And if you do use cash, just carry what you may need that day with you.

5 Tips to Save More Dough on Groceries

save more dough

Save More Dough by Using These Simple Tips

It feels so good to be on a budget and know that your money is now going to work for you! But what if you’re spending more money than you realized on food? Even after slashing the takeout budget you’re spending more than anticipated. I know at one point I just thought, “food is just so expensive,” and that we’d always have a problem with this area of the budget. That doesn’t have to be true! Here are five simple hacks that can save you dough at the grocery store! Pun intended.

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1. Shop Your Cabinets and Make a Meal Plan

Before you even think about what to buy at the grocery store you need a solid meal plan for the week. Make a meal plan for the full length of time between grocery trips. Check your cabinets, fridge, and freezer for older food that needs to be eaten. Plan meals around these items first.

Opt for simple, inexpensive dishes if cooking isn’t your forte yet or you are typically pressed for time when preparing dinner. Examples of inexpensive meals include spaghetti night, taco night, turkey meatloaf, pasta salad, baked chicken and veggies…

Consult the Meal Planning and Recipe pages if you need some frugal ideas that are still pretty healthy. It may even be a good idea to invest in one or two good cookbooks. I am to a point where I have several recipes I use on rotation and love to keep a recipe file book on hand. It helps a lot to have a selection of tried and true recipes at hand to make meal planning and prep easier. This can either be a file box or tin with index cards or be kept in binder/book form.

If you shop once a week you need a plan for 7 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. I actually prefer to sit down with the wall calendar and plan out dinners for the majority if not the entire month in one sitting. It saves time and a lot of hassle. It also prevents the endless “what’s for dinner?” question from anyone who can read! Leftovers can take care of at least one night a week with careful planning and portion control. See, budgeting can good for your waistline as well!

2. Make a List

Now that you’ve shopped your cabinets and come up with a meal plan it is time to make your list! Go through each meal on your weekly meal plan and write out all ingredients needed not currently in your cabinet. Need more than just a few items for that ambitious meal you’ve never made before? Is a particularly expensive cut of meat called for but no special occasion to celebrate? You might want to save that dish for later.

Be sure to include any snack items or the ingredients needed for snacks you plan to make yourself in the list. This is one area I need to improve on. I probably spend enough money on snack items a month that if I buckled down I could afford that food dehydrator I’ve been eying after just a few months.

You can even save yourself some time by buying double what you need for one meal and prepping two batches at once. Take that turkey meatloaf for example; from time to time when I bake this tried and true recipe at our house I mix up a double batch and freeze one for later. It takes the guesswork out of things on a more hectic day the following week. Just thaw the day before and put in the oven when you need to set the timer and forget it while you tackle something else on your to-do list.

One last thing on that list – it will take some practice, but organize your list in order of how you plan to move around the store. For example, I shop at Aldi, so I start my list with produce, then snacks, fresh meats, deli, dressings, canned goods, cereal, pasta, spices, and tortillas, dairy, eggs, then frozen foods. It saves a lot of time knowing I can get in, get what’s on my list, and get out without doubling back multiple times to the same aisle.

3. Save More Dough by Cooking from Scratch

Save your dough by rolling your own! I make my own bread and love it. The kids are a harder sell on fresh homemade bread; in fact, they both prefer store-bought. Hence the different school lunches I pack my daughter. See my article on 25 Frugal and Dairy-Free School Lunch Ideas or my Instagram story highlight on School Lunches to see what I feed her instead.

I do however bake bread for my husband’s lunches at work and occasionally enjoy an open-faced breakfast sandwich on one myself. The bread I bake every week can be found in my recipes!

I also save a few bucks here and there making all my sauces from scratch. The pizza sauce I make is really easy and can be found in my recipes as well.

4. Shop the Perimeter of the Store

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. That’s because it works! Stay out of the seasonal and prepackaged food aisles! Avoid the convenience food section, the candy aisle, insert your weakness here aisle. I myself can be a sucker for the seasonal aisle at Aldi because heaven forbid that item I don’t even need isn’t there next time!

It will save you more dough and more time if you just stick to the list and don’t even go down the aisles that have nothing on your list. I repeat – just stay away from an aisle if its contents are not on your list. And put your blinders on when you’re in line at the register! Those items are there for a reason. So much psychology goes into the placement of items at stores. Be aware of this and pay attention so you don’t fall for their efforts to put more in your cart right before you check out.

5. Time Your Grocery Trips Right

If your favorite grocery store has a deal day (when they set out the weekly deals) go then. If your grocery store has a double coupon day for sure do your shopping then if you have any coupons for items you already plan to buy. Please don’t use a coupon for an item you wouldn’t buy otherwise; that’s not saving any money.

If you’re not worried about timing the sales then save money by timing your trip on a day you are out anyway; for example, my son’s therapy clinic (just graduated physical and is now in speech) is right behind our closest Aldi. Right now he has speech on Wednesdays and Fridays so we go grocery shopping on Wednesdays. Some weeks we’ll stretch it out and go on Friday if we have eaten with family more than planned or just want to wait till payday.

We plan our trips to avoid unplanned purchases and save gas. It really does add up; I’ve been more mindful of what time and how often I go grocery shopping this last month and I go two to three days longer per tank of gas between fill-ups!

Bonus Tip – Scan Those Receipts to Save More Dough With Cash Back Apps!

Who doesn’t love free money? That’s what apps such as Ibotta and Fetch Rewards give you! Browse the Ibotta app for cashback on items you already plan to buy and then redeem those points. There are any brand deals on certain items (say chocolate milk for instance) and any item deals that offer 10-50 cents back on literally anything. Just scan the receipt and cash out once you have earned enough rewards. Need a referral code to get started? Click here to get started with Ibotta and enter referral code itxrhcs. For Fetch Rewards download the app through Google Play or the Apple App Store and use referral code 8H9Y1.

For the full list of referral codes and links to cashback and survey apps that I use as well as hosting information check out my Recommendations page.

What are your tried and true ways to save more dough at the grocery store? Let me know! And be sure to follow a Life on a Dime on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to see more of mine!

How to Fund Auto Maintenance – Our New Sinking Fund

fund auto maintenance

If You Own Vehicles You Need to be Able to Fund Auto Maintenance

We own vehicles. Three in fact. We each have our daily driver plus a spare vehicle we can haul a trailer with and use if a daily driver is down for repair. They are not new cars, in fact, the newest is a 2013 model. They are however good cars, and since we’d like to keep it that way we decided it was high time we set up a fund for auto maintenance.

If you are like us and live in a more rural area, commute to work, or just don’t like public transportation you probably own an automobile. If you live in a more densely populated area with mass public transportation you can probably get by quite comfortably without one. That’s awesome too.

Kudos to you if you paid cash or are on your debt-free journey to pay the thing off early! We financed every vehicle we’ve bought in our adult life and paid them off two to three years early. We hope one day to put ourselves in the position to pay in cash for reliable vehicles.

Cost of Driving Older Vehicles

AAA estimates the average newer vehicle will cost an owner $1,186 a year to repair and maintain. That’s almost $100 a month. Expect to pay a bit more than that if your vehicle is older; vehicles can need additional services once they reach a certain mileage to keep them in good runing order.

At just over 100,000 miles on the odometer, my vehicle is due for a transmission fluid change. This expense spurred us to set up a separate account to fund auto maintenance. We budget a certain amount every month for potential auto needs, but we do not separate the money out. We typically reappropriated unused funds to another budget category at the end of the month. Not anymore! We have a sinking fund in place now.

If you’re not sure what a sinking fund is or what other categories it may be good to have one for check out my previous article, A Quick Intro to Sinking Funds or just search the Sinking Funds category for all related posts on my site. They can be a very useful budgeting tool. They can help you avoid putting expenses on the credit card or draining your emergency fund (please tell me you have one of those) for routine expenses like auto maintenance.

Take good care of your vehicles and the cost to maintain them should be pretty predictable. It just makes sense

When You don’t Budget for the Unexpected…

Remember our old friend Murphy? He came to visit and decide to extend his initial stay last month. We were already paying off medical bills and were now faced with more. And we were just starting to get serious about that all-important emergency fund when Murphy came knocking.

We didn’t have any particular amount set aside for car-related expenses rather than budgeting for oil changes when needed. Occasionally my husband will inform me of an upcoming routine expense outside of oil changes and we will work those into the budget as well.

But we didn’t have money set aside for unexpected or future auto expenses; when my husband took our daughter swimming and got hit by a deer we were very lucky that not only was everybody okay (except the deer) his car was left driveable.

The headlight is damaged but still works. The small tear in the bumper is not that noticeable… yet. We didn’t have a solid plan in place for car care and therefore both items are just going to have to wait until we have the funds available.

Now that we have an account in place I will be making monthly deposits to the account whether we need work done that month or not until we get it up to a healthy balance. This may be a while as we need the abovementioned transmission servicing, headlight, and will eventually need to address the bumper.

I will be the first to admit this adulting thing is hard! The best way to do it is to learn as you go. So lesson learned, auto maintenance fund started, and we will adjust the budget going forward so we are contributing to this new sinking fund and do not have to resort to credit card use or neglecting our vehicles.

Do You Need an Auto Maintenance Fund?

Do you use a sinking fund to fund auto maintenance expenses? How do you know if you need one? Luckily there aren’t too many questions to ask yourself to determine the answer:

  1. Do you own a vehicle? If the answer is no, then you probably don’t need one. If you want to buy a car you would be wise to start a sinking fund to save up for the purchase. Maybe
  2. Is it under warranty? If so do you fully understand what said warranty does and does not cover? Can you afford the repairs not covered? If the answer to this question is no then an auto maintenance fund may be a good idea.

Get Started

Let me know if you have any questions about auto maintenance sinking funds. Getting started is simple; chose to put ours in the same bank we have our Christmas savings account. We chose a free checking account and didn’t order checks through the bank. The minimum to open the account was just $100. The peace of mind we gained knowing we have a better plan for our money going forward is priceless!

For added accountability, we chose not to link the debit card to our Christmas account or allow transfers between the two accounts. These are two separate sinking funds and they need to stay that way! It took less than an hour to get set up and we walked out with our debit cards in hand.

That’s it for now; I think I’m going to pull up EveryDollar and update the budget! We have a plan now, so time to work it!

Sinking Funds

avoid that sinking feeling

Avoid the Sinking Feeling that Comes with not Planning Ahead

Set Money Aside for Larger Expenses in Advance

Sinking funds are an excellent way to cover infrequent, larger expenses and avoid that sinking feeling you get when you reach for the credit card to cover an expense you knew was coming but just didn’t plan for. They aren’t as complicated as they may sound either! We used them to cash flow home renovation projects and major purchases long before we knew what they were called.

In essence, a sinking fund is a separate bank account or cash envelope you contribute to for a specific, typically larger expense. Say you plan to “sink” money into vehicle maintenance, a new(er) car fund, or save for a down payment on a house. You may pay your insurance premiums quarterly or annually for a discount. You expect these expenses and set aside money on a regular basis. These are all sinking funds. You may have one or more going and simply refer to it by its purpose; the car fund, new house fund, maintenance fund…

More recently we employed the sinking fund method to cash flow our property tax bill. We set aside a specific amount each month for three months and then paid the bill in full. This avoided an uncomfortable budget deficit one month or the need to raid our primary savings.

Or, you may find it beneficial to set up sinking funds for other recurring expenses that add up but don’t necessarily happen every month. Examples include a birthday fund, Christmas gift fund, clothing, etc. Avoid that sinking feeling and the urge to go into debt when the kids hit that inevitable growth spurt or tear through the knees of all their good pants.

You know it’s going to happen, so why not plan for it?

If you have any questions or just want to join the conversation drop them in the comments to this post or send me an email. I would love to talk more.

Birthday Party Budget Breakdown

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How’d we do?

I previously posted how we planned to host the kids’ birthday party on a $150 budget including food and kids’ gifts. You can click here to read that if you missed it. Here is the budget breakdown:

budget breakdown

We spent $69 for martial arts lessons for our daughter and she is loving the classes! Our little white belt just earned her first stripe this week for learning her first basic form!

We also spent a total of $54.93 on the previously mentioned sit on tractor and T-ball set from Amazon.

I also spent $12.92 at Target on a felt tool set for my son and favor bags (which I forgot to fill, so they’re ready for next year!). That made a total of $136.85 of the $150 budget.

But what about the food?

budget breakdown
Pickup portion of food

Where is the food in the budget breakdown you ask? We didn’t have to use the budget for the party food! My husband helped a coworker after work one day and was given $40 in return. I used that unexpected money and paid for burger patties, turkey dogs, buns, cake mix, frosting, a fruit bowl, condiments, lettuce, and tomatoes with cash!

So for the budget breakdown purposes, we were able to use $13.15 elsewhere in our monthly budget. Like the newbie I am at this blogging thing I forgot to take pictures of the spread before everyone dug in!

Shop JoJo Siwa bows

Not too shabby! Would you call that under or over? Technically I think it could go either way since we did spend money, but it wasn’t all from the budget. Let me know what you think!

Shop girls leggings

Have you hosted any parties lately? How did you do on your budget? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear how you entertain your loved ones on a dime!

budget breakdown
Play Ball!

Six Months til Christmas

Will you be ready?

We are exactly six months away from Christmas; is your Christmas budget ready? Know how you’re going to pay for all those holiday expenses? If so, great! Haven’t got a clue? You still have time to get it together!

Our family has a sinking fund for Christmas. Every pay period $15 automatically gets deducted from my husband’s check and deposited into our Christmas savings account. It is on auto-pilot.

In the fall interest will be paid and a check is given to us to do our shopping. If I happen to find the perfect gift for someone on our list before that I can withdraw up to a certain amount without having to pull from another budget category. This allows some flexibility while still earning a little interest.

If that isn’t for you…

Not interested in setting up an extra account? Simply create a cash sinking fund and pull out a designated amount every paycheck or every month.

With a little bit of planning now you can still manage a little something special for everyone on your list without resorting to credit cards.

Set aside cash so you can be sure you have the funds in place to get your holiday cheer on when the time comes without reaching for the plastic.

Get a Side Hustle

Don’t have room in the monthly budget for gift giving? Get yourself a side hustle to set some aside for gifting and get a bit ahead of your expenses. Your bank account will thank you long after Christmas if you get your financial life in order now.

Downsize Your Gift List or Opt Out of Gifts Altogether

There is nothing wrong with this option either. The true spirit of Christmas is about a baby in a cradle who died on a cross for our sins. The gift giving commercial aspect isn’t a requirement for goodwill to man. Now is the time to let those you typically exchange gifts with that you are doing things differently this year. They may be relieved to save some money too.

If your extended family that gets together is simply too big to afford gifts for everyone participate in a name exchange and only worry about buying for one person. Let the kids exchange names too so they don’t go home empty handed or end up with an even more crowded toy box.

Have a potluck Christmas dinner and go caroling, check out the town lights, or attend a special service together instead of your annual gift exchange.

Is your Christmas budget ready? Let me know in the comments or head over to Instagram and join in on the conversation there! I’d love to hear your plans and how you plan to celebrate Christmas with your loved ones on a dime.