How The Envelope Budgeting System Can Stop You From Overspending | by Mofrad Muntasir | September, 2022

Did you know, that shoppers can spend up to 100% more when using their credit cards to pay instead of cash?

Photo by micheile dot com on Unsplash

In a study published by Drazen Prelec and Duncan Simester of MIT, they found out that shoppers were willing to pay up to 100% more when they were paying with a card.

Overspending is easier as there is no immediate penalty for using a credit card.

Imagine that you went to a restaurant with your family with $100 in cash. You’d be careful with what you order so that you don’t run out of cash. If you can’t pay, you potentially face humiliation, harassment, and even punishment.

With a credit card, there’s no risk of any of those. That safety net allows you to spend more than you originally budgeted for.

And that safety net affects your monthly budgeting as well. When you go to the grocery store, you end up purchasing stuff you don’t need or in more quantity than required.

Digital payment methods create uncontrollable holes in your personal finance bucket.

A cash-based system can fix that hole.

That is where the envelope budgeting system comes in.

The envelope budgeting system is the process of storing cash in a physical envelope for a very specific purpose. For example, you can keep $500 for your grocery payments for a month. You’d spend for groceries from only that envelope.

The system works in four steps.

  • Choose the categories that can be covered with cash payment. For example, grocery, fuel, etc.
  • Decide, based on your monthly budget, how much you plan to spend on each of those categories.
  • Keep that exact amount in the envelope
  • Only spend from that envelope from that category

If you run out of money, that means you can’t spend any more on that category. That fear of running out forces you to stay within budget.

It even makes you better at money management.

You become more accountable

As you need to take cash out of an envelope, spending money becomes a conscious process.

You can see that the stack is getting thinner. That itself is enough to trigger an alarm and force you to mind your spending.

You stop overspending

There’s no way to overspend if you stick to only the content of the envelope.

When you are out of money, you have to stop. That takes the choice of overspending off the table.

You track money better

It’s often difficult to keep track of money — but not in this method.

An envelope is usually made of paper.

You can just write down how much you are taking out and when. In that case, you are balancing the envelope with every transaction.

It’s very hard to lose track of money after that.

Just because a new behavior is advertised, you don’t have to adapt to that.

In recent times, banks have even launched credit cards using which you can just tap on a device and then money gets deducted.

Spending money has never been easier. But is earning money easy?

Your outflow cannot be faster than your inflow. It’s your duty to make spending at least as difficult as earning.

And you can do that with the envelope budgeting system.

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