Step 1: Know Where You Stand Financially
To get started with cash stuffing and take control of your finances, it's crucial to have a clear understanding of your current financial situation. Here's how you can do it:
- Track Your Income: Make a list of all the sources of income you have, including your salary, freelance work, or any other income streams.
- List Your Expenses: Write down all your monthly expenses. Be thorough and include everything from rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, groceries, transportation costs, loan repayments, subscriptions, and any other regular expenses you have.
- Calculate Your Debts: Make a list of all your outstanding debts, including credit card balances, student loans, personal loans, or any other debts you need to repay.
- Analyze Your Spending Habits: Review your expenses from your statements over the past 3 months and identify patterns or areas where you may be overspending. Look for opportunities to cut back on unnecessary expenses and prioritize your financial goals. I know for me I had a couple of subscriptions that I never used that somehow went under the radar.
Step 2: Set Clear Financial Goals
Define your short-term and long-term financial goals. Whether it's paying off debt, building an emergency fund, saving for a downpayment or saving for a dream vacation, having goals will give you direction and motivation.
Step 3: Build Your Budget
Create a budget that outlines your income and all your monthly expenses. Make sure to include essential items like housing, utilities, groceries, transportation, and debt payments. Allocate funds for savings and discretionary spending as well. I make my budget each payday. For example, if I have two paycheques coming in that month, then I split the amounts I owe for bills by two and cash stuff that amount twice that month to cover the upcoming bill. I actually leave my bill money in my bank account but I’ll leave this explanation for another day.
Paycheque Budget Sheet
Monthly Budget Google Sheet
Step 4: Identify Your Spending Categories
Now it's time to determine which spending categories you want to manage using the cash envelope system. Think about common areas like groceries, dining out, entertainment, transportation, clothing, and personal care. Tailor these categories to your lifestyle and financial priorities. Everyone will have something different here, for example my dog Hank has an envelope.
Step 5: Decide How Much to Allocate
Decide how much money you want to allocate to each spending category. Be realistic and consider your income and financial goals. Avoid overestimating or underestimating your expenses. Aim to strike a balance that allows for both responsible spending and saving. I’d suggest taking an average for each category based on what you spent the past three months - you should be able to come up with this from reviewing your bank statements.
Step 6: Get Creative with Envelopes
Starting the cash stuffing method doesn't require anything fancy. When I first tried it, I used plain white envelopes, and it worked just fine. But if you're like me and enjoy a bit of visual flair, you can get creative with your envelopes. I now use my budgeting binders and have a few binders one for my daily expenses, another for my sinking funds and the last one is used for my savings challenges.
Step 7: Fill Those Envelopes with Cash
Visit your bank or an ATM to withdraw the total amount of cash you budgeted for each spending category. I like to use my cash breakdown sheet to determine how many of each bill I’ll require to cash stuff.
Cash Breakdown Sheet
Step 8: Assign Cash to the Envelopes
Distribute the cash into the envelopes according to your budgeted amounts. For example, if you allocated $200 for groceries, place $200 in the "Groceries" envelope. Repeat this process for each category.
Step 9: Spend and Track
Whenever you make a purchase in a particular category, simply use the corresponding envelope. Take the required amount of cash from the envelope and use it for your expenses. Be mindful not to borrow from other envelopes, as this can disrupt your budget.
Step 10: Keep Tabs on Your Spending
Stay on top of your finances by tracking your cash transactions. Use a simple notebook, a spreadsheet, or budgeting app to record your expenses and ensure you're staying within your budgeted amounts. Here’s a link to my spreadsheet - this is a google sheet so it can be accessed from your phone while on the go.
Step 11: Adapt and Fine-Tune
As time goes by, you may find that certain categories require more or less money. Don't be afraid to adjust your budgeted amounts accordingly. This flexibility allows you to adapt to changing needs and optimize your spending.
Step 12: Celebrate Your Successes
Periodically evaluate your progress and celebrate your financial victories. Whether it's paying off a debt or reaching a savings milestone, acknowledging your achievements will keep you motivated and engaged.
Remember, I've been in your shoes starting out and it seemed overwhelming but if I can do it, so can you! Over the past 10 months, I've gained control of my money, paid off thousands of dollars in consumer debt (still a bit more to go but well on track!), and felt a sense of empowerment like never before. Now it's your turn to experience the same. So dive in, assess your financial situation, set clear goals, build your budget, get creative with your envelopes, and watch as your financial journey unfolds. Stay committed, adapt along the way, and don't forget to celebrate your accomplishments. You've got this! Here's to a brighter financial future! 😊