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Part of simplifying life involves reducing the amount of complicatedness with your finances. It’s amazing how much we overcomplicate our money situations and overdramatize. Money is a tool. It’s not something to be loathed or considered a burden, yet so many of us do. The cash envelope system is effortless and functional – it gets you back to basics and removes the stress and guilt you sometimes face with money.
After years of spending wildly with credit cards, the system has been the best way for me to make positive change with my finances. It’s allowed me to remove the clutter and recreate the basic money habits you need – in a nutshell, not spending more than you make.
I’ve been using the cash envelope system budget for six months now. When I’ve tried this before, I struggled to get past the 3 month mark. I’d often slip back into old habits of using my debit and credit cards only to deepen the hole of debt I was in. This time, I’ve committed to staying dedicated to this through thick and thin. Regardless of any setbacks I have, I’ve pledged to stay motivated and keep my eye on the prize.
Today’s post is dedicated to sharing results of the next 90 days using the cash envelope system. I’ll share the highs, lows and tricks I’ve used to stay motivated for May, June and July.
If you missed the first two posts in the series, check them out here:
Want your own handy cash envelopes? You can find my FREE template here and the how to post for getting started.
Want your own snazzy pouch to house your envelopes? You can find that here, or similar here, or here. Tip: Needs to be 8in X 5in to fit CDN money sized envelopes.
The 6 Month Check In
Who says you can’t teach a shopaholic new tricks? Okay, not funny. In all honesty, being labelled a shopaholic is not funny. Ever. Why? Well, simply because it’s an addiction. It’s a form of self-medicating a deeper problem that you need to face. After years of struggling, accumulating debt and more crap than any one person needs, I finally faced the fact that I was unhappy in my career, marriage, life and I was depressed and not showing myself enough self-love.
So I faced the music. I dove deep and faced my issues head on. As I developed a better understanding of the issues I was facing, a mindset shift began to occur. Part of that shift resulted in a desire to live a simple life with less and I found happiness in being grateful for what I already had.
Sad but true fact – this is the longest I’ve ever done a cash budget.
Alight, let’s get down to it shall we?
For these 3 months, I faced different emotions and several new challenges. Even though I’m a very smart gal, you’ll find some silly behaviour here. I’m opening myself up to you and highlighting it for one reason: to help you. Sure, it makes me look rather unsmart, but we’re all human, not perfect and don’t always make the wisest decisions. There, I said it. I’m NOT smart some of the time.
“You’re the dumbest smart person I know.” (Took that outta iRobot)
What challenges did I face?
Decision Making/Poor Planning. May I extol the virtues of planning? I’m an INFJ so lists and planning are inevitable. Sadly, on occasion, planning escapes me which then impacts my decision-making abilities. It can easily throw my life into chaos. I cannot emphasize how important planning is. When one does not plan well, one does not make decisions well.
Although I started the first 90 days with stellar planning and decision-making, these consecutive 90 days were a bit wishy-washy. Some of the bad decisions I made? Here goes:
- Sacrificing grocery money to buy unhealthy foods because I was stressed and felt I deserved the avoidance. This is unhealthy.
- Buying too much at Costco/Starbucks. This is laziness and poor planning. All because I didn’t want to have to go to 3 stores instead of one. I’ve since cured this waste inducing behaviour.
- Forgetting that budgets change. I ran into this mostly with putting gas in the car. Most months I can get away with $80 gas, but there are occasions where that can expand to $100. At the beginning of each month, you need to figure out where you’ll be going and what you’ll be doing based on what you can afford.
Thou shalt not borrow from another envelope! Ooops. Yes, I did this and it’s a no-no. This has to be the cardinal rule of the cash envelope system – do not borrow from other envelopes! You need to stick with the money you’ve budgeted for the month. If it needs to be adjusted, do so in the following month. If it means getting creative with rice and beans because you spent your grocery money on something else, then do it. Even if you have money in another envelope, no borrowing!
Sacrifice. Growing up in an upper middle class household didn’t involve much sacrifice at all. In fact, it was the opposite. It was very privileged. I openly admit that I led quite the charmed life. The resulting issue is that sacrifice has been hard to face. As a 41-year-old adult, going from serious corporate money to minimum wage takes some getting used to. I learned a lot about sacrifice in these last 3 months. My income dropped further at the end of May, leaving me with 20 hours a week at minimum wage (approx $1K a month). Sacrificing things you’re used to can be hard to face, but you have to learn to make do with whatever income you have.
Saying no. No one ever wants to say no to family or friends. Well, unless you’re an introvert like me. I’ve been pretty good at saying no to things. But saying yes is an old habit that can be slipped on like a silk dress very easily. Persevere my friends and when you feel like you’re slipping or can’t bear to say no to friends again, remember why you’re doing this whole deal. Focus on abundance and not lack is key here. Your friends should understand, if they don’t, they’re not friends. Read: How to Say No (Graciously of course)
What were my successes?
Yay! Let’s get on to the good stuff!
Taking care of what I own. Although my decision-making appeared to be bad in regard to unhealthy food choices and fuel expenditures, I did quite well in steering myself away from the old habit of clothes shopping. Instead of running out to buy new items when something was in disrepair, I took time to assess if it could be repaired without buying new. Happily I was able to have a Lululemon bodysuit repaired for free and a pair of leggings replaced for free. Have I told you how much I love Lulu? Well, I do. I’ll say this – never, ever be afraid to take something back and complain (nicely) if you’re dissatisfied. You’d be surprised at the results.
Dress the same. Every day. In July, part of my Starbucks uniform (shoes and pants), needed to be replaced after 8 months of wear and tear. I could barely afford to replace them, so I called on friends for help. I was able to get discounted runners and found pants on sale. We don’t actually have a uniform at Starbucks per se, but as I did when I was in corporate, I adopted a uniform for my part-time shifts and morphed it around the Starbucks dress code. I wear the same thing for every shift and it doesn’t bother me. Besides, no one notices.
Creativity. You regain your creativity. For a minimalist, this is a super win. The system gives you back your creativity, problem solving skills and removes the mindless, “I’ll just go buy a new one” mindset. You learn to get creative with meals. You find creative ways to make do with the abundance you have. You learn to fix things instead of mindlessly replacing them.
When the money’s gone. Think this should be a challenge? Nope. This is a success point. When you’re used to spending wildly with plastic, comprehending there’s an end point to your money is a win. When you’ve been trained like Rocky Balboa to go to the furthest depths and limits of lines of credit and credit cards, you need to be able to comprehend once again that there is an end to the pool. It is not endless. When the money’s gone, it’s gone. Full stop. End of story. No FOMO, no YOLO, no “but I just need one more Latte to cure this stressful day.” Sorry. Not happening.
Feeling the challenge of letting go of hard-earned cash. Swiping creates a disconnect between you and your money. You’re not “in the moment” with your dollars and cents. There’s no awareness or emotional connection behind your money. Myself, I had become too accustomed to swiping plastic and not paying attention to the dollar value. Tapping, swiping, and touch ID have been obliterated from my finances.
For some of you, maybe digital is convenient and you can control it. But for someone with a money past like mine, digital will have to be a slow evolution.
How to keep motivated and make the cash envelope system work for you
The cash envelope system really is a one size fits all. It can be easily personalized and adjusted to fit anyone and their lifestyle. Here are a few things that have worked for me…
Gratitude. Focusing on what you do have, instead of what you don’t have changes your life. Your focus is drawn away from your less than stellar income and onto real facts. Such as – you have a roof over your head (not a cardboard box), you have a bed to sleep in (not the floor), you have good food to eat (not out of a dumpster), and hopefully the most important – you have your health. When you start realizing all the simple beautiful things you have in life, things don’t appear so dark. Removing the focus on more allows you to live with less. New to gratitude?
Goals/Life Vision. Thinking about the bigger picture and envisioning where we want our life to be can be great motivators to spend wisely. Setting goals that you can get behind (paying off debt, taking a vacation) can motivate you to make do with less and save those extra dollars and cents.
Money mantras. While I’m extolling virtues everywhere in this post, let’s talk mantras and affirmations. Tried them yet? Well, I highly recommend them. It’s like creating a positive blueprint for your mind, a road map of sorts. It rewrites all those negative money messages you likely grew up with.
Here are a few to start with: I am abundant. I am prosperous. I am worthy of financial success.
Start fresh. Fresh starts, new beginnings, what’s not to love? Everyone loves starting something, it’s the finishing part that gets difficult. To stay motivated and act as a small reward, start fresh every month. Forget about the previous month’s mistakes (well, make note of them as you don’t want to repeat) and start with a clean slate. Forgive yourself, start again, learn, change and repeat.
Take note of temptations and track your spending. A budget is nothing if you don’t track where your money goes and make adjustments and improvements. Every week, I log into YNAB and assess my monthly budget. I ask myself: Do I need to tweak anything? Am I on track or have I overspent somewhere? Where are my weaknesses? Are any old habits creeping back in?
Are you on a cash diet? Are you a spender or a saver? Has living a simple life changed the way you look at your money?
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