Have you ever heard of using the envelope system to budget? Envelope budgeting is an old technique that is coming back in fashion faster than big glasses and flannel shirts.

What is it? Budgeting with envelopes is simple. Certain categories you’ll designate to pay only with cash. You put that cash in an envelope each month and when the money is gone–its gone, no more spending for that category.

Why use Envelopes for Budgeting?

  • You’ll spend less money if you use cash. People who use credit or debit cards have higher spending rates? Why? It is due to a slight feeling of pain when you use cash. It’s true, try plunking down $100 cash for your next grocery bill.
  • Savings. We have an envelope for a future trip to San Francisco. When it fills up, we go!
  • If you constantly overspend in certain categories, this will help you curtail that spending.
  • If you get paid in cash or tips this system will give that cash somewhere to go, besides buying pizza. It will focus your money and you’ll think that you’ve got a raise.

Envelope System Video by 

Budget with Envelopes

1. Determine what categories you’ll spend “cash only” for. Common categories are groceries, eating out, blow money, entertainment, clothing, and gas. TIP: Don’t try to start too many envelopes at once, but incorporate a few each month as you get the hang of it.

2. When you budget add up the total you’ll need each month to fill all your envelopes. This may take a few months before you’re a pro and some months will require more cash than others.

3. Make envelopes for each category and fill them up with cash- Write a check to yourself or withdraw it from the bank. Some categories may be large like groceries and you’ll need to fill them twice a month or as you are paid.

4. Keep a ledger of on each envelope of when money is deposited and spent. This will help you track your cash and know how much you’ll need each month.

5. When the envelope is empty, STOP SPENDING! You made a budget, now stick to it. Don’t borrow from other envelopes or add more cash. You’ll have to say no until next when you get more cash in that envelope.

6. If you have extra cash, then it stays put and rolls over to the next month.

Some people also like the idea of ‘virtual envelopes‘, but I find that having cold hard cash in your hands is the best way to curtail my spending.

Using this system doesn’t work for everyone. If you stay with it through the learning curve, you’ll start saving money by spending less. My wife and I started out with about 8-10 envelopes ourselves, but at the moment we only use 4.

Action: Try using the envelope system and let me know how it goes in the comments. 

(Photo by BillRhodesPhoto)

[This is part of my How to Budget Like a Pro blog series]

Radar detection

Can you detect free stuff? Credit Ѕolo.

I’m a sucker for free stuff and have learned to spot a good freebie. Remember “Radar” (Corporal Radar O’Reilly) from M.A.S.H. that could hear the helicopters before they arrived? I’d love to have this skill for anything free.

I’d call it my freedar.

The art of free isn’t difficult to develop, yet like any skill takes time to hone to freedar status. I’ll share some places to help you on your journey of free stuff.

Where to Find Free Stuff Online

Let’s go hunting for free loot! Free is all around the interwebs just waiting to be found.

Giveaways – There are thousands of sites that offer giveaways and raffles. Your odds of winning vary on the contest, but if you do win–heck it’s free!

Do a quick search for #contest, #free, #giveaway on Twitter or do a Google search for the past week. Here is a list to get you started:

Craigs list- Craigslist is like the wild wild west, you never know what you’re getting in to, but you really can get free unwanted items if you’re willing to go pick them up.

Free Cycle – We had friend get mounds of free kids stuff from Free Cycle. It’s not only for taking, but giving away too!

Free Stuff Offline too!

Life does happen offline. I know it’s hard to imagine. Here’s a few ideas for free stuff in the land of flesh and blood.

Yard Sales- A lot of garage sales will have a free box, will give their stuff away at the end of the day, or even just set it on the sidewalk at night–ripe for the picking.

Dumpster Diving- Who knows what you’ll find? And it’s all free (Legality is up to your city). There are even dumpster diving meetup groups to show you the ropes.

More Help to Find Free Stuff

All You Have to do is Ask on Daily Money Shot

How to Win Cash and Prizes and Free Stuff from Bible Money Matters

Free Swag- a Squidoo Page

6 Ways to Win Free Stuff from Blog Giveaways by Wise Bread

Do you love free stuff? Where do you get your swag? Come on share your secrets below. 

crying kid

I WANT IT! Can you control your inner child?                   Credit Vermin Inc

I was walking down the isle and there it was. Bright. Shiny. Got to have it now. The inner struggle began:

A “It’s not in the budget”

B “That’s O.K. I just won’t eat for a week.”

A “We don’t need X, it’s just a luxury.”

B “You’ve worked so hard though, you deserve to have something nice.”

The inner dialogue continues until either the child wins and you march to the front with the purchase in hand or the adult takes control and leaves the store without making an epic budgeting mistake.

Have you been there too?

Needs vs. Wants

This might seem like an elementary discussion to have, but in order to win financially you have to differentiate and prioritize needs and wants.

Let’s be honest, needs aren’t very sexy or fun, but they have to be taken care of. Utilities, rent/mortgages, groceries, gas, etc are part of life and must come first.

The four walls: If you’re in a financial crisis, these might be all you can afford to pay. Housing, food, transportation, and utility payments must be protected before other debts or wants are purchased.

Wants are the impulse buys at the checkout stand and the flowers given ‘just because’. Wants have a place in your budget, but they won’t keep you on track to achieving your financial goals if you give in to them too often.

Tame Your Wants

Your wants are like an elephant driven by a tiny rider. They can be controlled for a while, but when the elephant is ready to go somewhere–the rider only holds on for dear life.

Give the elephant a peanut.

Trick and tame your wants by having a set amount each month for “blow money” or “mad money.” In your budget plan for wants and impulse buys. .

By giving in to the elephant in small amounts, you’ll keep him on track doing the heavy lifting. Even $5 a month in your envelope system is enough to keep the wanting elephant from running rampant.

These peanuts won’t be small forever. As your income increases and debt decreases, you’ll be able to increase the amount of blow money.

Control your inner child and tame your wants–your financial goals will thank you.

How do you control wants? Do you incorporate blow money into your budget?  

This week will be challenging to say the least. My wife and I (ok so mostly my wife) will begin potty training our child. We have been anticipating this day and it is finally upon us. [Budgeting is a Lot Like Potty Training Your Child]

Hopefully potty training boot camp will end up saving us considerably on the cost of diapers and baby wipes. Those things are expensive!

The Cost of Diapers

We opted for disposable diapers over cloth diapers for various reasons: ease of use, community washers, and I just don’t want to touch poop.–I’m willing to add a line item for this in our budget. I know my eco-friendly friends they aren’t the best for the environment–please don’t judge us too much.

How much have these diapers and wipes cost us? I haven’t kept a close track like Budgets Are Sexy with his Child Cost Tracker. I took a quick look over the past 22 months and it averages out to around $55 a month. $55 x 22 = $1,210 we’ve spent on diapering our boy.

Wow! His diapers could have paid rent one month or funded 1/5 of a ROTH IRA. Hopefully diapering is about to become less expensive.

The Cost of Preparing for Potty Training

We have a minimal cost as we prepare for our 3 day potty training  adventure.

  • Potty Book- Free. I just looked online and it costs $24.00, but someone passed it on to us. We’ll need to purchase the book later.
  • Kids toilet- Hand me down = free
  • 2 Five packs of big boy underwear- Cars and Thomas the Train $23.98 (we paid premium for ones he’ll like)
  • Crayons, stickers, prizes $14.11
  • Taxes $3.33
  • Total $41.42 

Projected Savings of Potty Training

According to the University of MIchigan Health Systems, the average age for potting training girls is 29 months and boys is 31 months. They also state that 98% of children are fully potty trained by 36 months.

If our boy is a fast learner and can figure out this potty training by his 23rd month instead of his 31st month we’re looking at more than $440 of savings on diapers (costs have been higher as his sizes have increased).

Good thing since he’s eating costs are rising. He’ll also qualify to attend preschool which may help us increase our income should we choose.

Have you potty trained your child? What did you do with all the extra diaper money you saved? 

Long and Winding Road

Blogging is a long and winding road. Credit Anthony Stanley.

It’s easy to make money blogging right? Bloggers just play on the Internet all day while sipping their grande lattes at Starbucks and watch the money roll in.

It’s not as easy as some make it out to be, Making money with your blog takes an investment of time and energy. Yes, it can be done, but it’s hard–trust me!

I am starting to see a trickle of income from various sources, but only after having written 200+ articles. It takes time, work, friends, patience, and of course an audience–thats you!

Blogging is about helping others and forming a community; the money is visible proof you’re doing a good job.

How Do Professional Bloggers Make Money?

This is a complex question whole websites are dedicated towards. I’ll only touch on a few subjects and share resources that have helped myself and others make money blogging.

Content Really is King

Without words on a page and a compelling message to share it’s highly unlikely you’ll make money blogging. Find a topic, a cause, a community, a niche and start educating and helping others master your subject of expertise.

Resources for Writing and Content:

Affiliate Programs: The Trickle of Gold 

Affiliate programs pay a certain amount if you refer clients or leads to their website or help them sell a product. Almost all companies have an affiliate program of some sort. This can be very lucrative for niche sites with a large interactive audience.

Affiliate programs I use:

  • Amazon Associates- You’ll make commission off sales from books, clothing, to almost any product sold. A must to have in your toolkit.
  • Google Affiliate Network – This is a newer affiliate program, but many major companies like Target have joined. With Google’s muscles they’ll only grow with time.
  • Commission Junction- Start here since it is one of the oldest and largest affiliate programs around.
  • Flex Offers- They represent a a wide array of advertisers not carried by Commission Junction.
  • 48 Days.Net – Affiliate Program for Dan Miller.
  • E-Junkie.com- Affiliate program I participate in for @8bit products like my Premium WordPress Theme (Standard Theme).

Sell Ads, Banner ads, and Evil Pop-ups

These are the billboards of the interwebs. Some blink, others play movies, others pop up before you can even click on the site–evil indeed.

Ads assist the content to keep flowing and the advertisers to sell their products and ideas. Beware of overdoing the ads and distracting the reader from doing their main job(s)–reading and connecting.

The above affiliate programs will also have banner ads to add to the sidebar or to the header or footer of your site.

Platforms to sell ads on your blog: 

Google Adsense- This is the most common system to implement. You’ll be able to ad ads to individual articles and anywhere on your site.

Beacon Ads- Advertising network for church and Christian websites.

BuySellAds Large platform to sell ad space.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as many platforms exists for various niche sites.

Create Products and Coaching Services

If you have a platform and an audience. This is a great opportunity to create a product or a service to meet the needs of your readers. This is where many bloggers make money since they’ve established themselves as experts in their field.

  • E-books
  • Online Courses or Teleconferences.
  • Workshops
  • Personalized Coaching
  • Speaking Events

Text Links and Sponsored Posts: Beware

The practice of being paid for text links isn’t as popular as it used to be since Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, which penalize suspected paid text links. Blog more than 5 minutes and you’ll receive emails wanting to place ads and text links on your site.

This is a controversial subject on which there are many warnings to discontinue this once lucrative practice.

Books to Understand Blogging and Monetize Your Site

More Articles for Making Money Blogging

You can make money blogging, but it will take time. Don’t focus on the money, but helping others and creating a community. Blessings on your blogging journey.

Do you have experience making money online? What resources helped you along the way? 

The above may contain affiliate links in which I am compensated. See my Disclosure Policy for more info.