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Envelope System Tips & Tricks To Eliminate Debt

Are you wondering how to pay off debt? The envelope system can be a great budgeting method to knock out debt. Furthermore, it’s able to change up your spending habits in a big and lasting way. Let’s take a look at how this budgeting system works to get the most out of your debt relief efforts.

If you're eliminating debt, try the envelope system.

If you’re eliminating debt, try the envelope system.

How to Start Using the Envelope System

The envelope system is great if you need a spending wake-up call, really need to focus on your financial goals or are too tempted in the store when using credit. It offers such a straightforward application and, hopefully, good outcome for those who follow it. As a result of having cash in hand, you can literally see and feel your money staying or leaving. This reconnects you emotionally and physically with the idea of spending and saving.

Keep in mind that you do not have to use this for every budget category. Consequently, a hybrid system is probably your best bet since many bills are automated or need to be sent through a digital payment system.

Easy Steps for the Envelope System

  • Create budget categories and limits. To figure out this amount, you need to have a budget. This will tell you what you typically spend and what you can actually afford. If you are working to eliminate debt, this is the time to prioritize and make room for it. Create your budget using ACCC’s Budgeting Worksheet.
  • Make or collect your envelopes. Get an envelope for each of your spending categories and label them appropriately. There are many templates online if you want something fun or simply go for the standard white envelope you probably have around the house already.
  • Withdraw the money. The envelope method is based on using cash for purchases. This way, you are seeing a clear picture of what you spend. When the cash is gone, it’s gone. Take out just what you need for the month and fill your envelopes.
  • Spend and track. Start spending your cash from the envelopes. Try to stick to the amounts designated for each envelope. If you really need something, it has to come from another envelope- not thin air. Sacrifices will have to be made! Think long and hard about your purchases.
  • Don’t forget to save. Any leftover money should be added to your savings or eliminating your debts. Rather than spending the extra, it can be used strategically. Every dollar counts.

Finally, I’ve personally used the envelope system for my family’s grocery budget. It has been very successful keeping us on track with our spending and forcing us to meal plan (in a good way). While it takes a little getting used it, the envelope system can make a big difference for your finances and debt elimination.

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today. 


Michelle is a regular contributor to Talking Cents. She has taken several financial courses on debt management and is ready to circulate what she has learned from them as well as lessons from her own life- family to DIY projects to student loan debt.

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