In the past we’ve tried several ways to stay on budget, including a cash envelope system. The idea being you allocate a certain number of $ for things that aren’t on an automatic payment, like groceries, entertainment or clothing. And when the money is gone, that’s it for the week. The theory is you are much less likely to spend cold, hard cash than zap a card through a machine.
While I know it works for many people, the cash envelopes were a dud for us. I’m in charge of grocery shopping and 9 times out of 10 I would leave the blasted envelope at home and then have to reconcile it when I got back. Or we’d forget to fill the darn things. We’re New Zealanders, we hardly ever carry cash these days, having been some of the earliest users of EFTPOS in the world. It just wasn’t going to work for D and I.
D, being a techie, reckoned he could invent an app that could create an envelope-like budget for us and keep it updated in real time. Meaning that when ever either of us spent money we could code it to a particular budget line, and see how much money is in a particular ‘pot’. We would instantly know if were were about to go over our allotted budget, All on our smart phones. I have no doubt he could have whipped up an app in double-quick time, but being sensible, he soon discovered that such an app already existed. Thanks interweb!
The app we use is Goodbudget. D sat down and created envelopes for all our categories of expenditure, and we worked out how much money we need to ‘fill’ the envelopes with each week.
People, let me tell you that if you are struggling to stay on budget, or if one of you is regularly overspending and you’re not sure why, this app works. I would ALWAYS overspend on groceries and simply didn’t realise that a couple of extra trips to the supermarket to pick up things I’d forgotten or run out of would blow our budget for that week. These days I make-do or change the recipe if we have spent our grocery budget for the week. The ease and immediacy of pulling out my phone and being able to see how much money I have (or don’t have) stops me from being all spendy-spendy and turns me into a mindful spender at the swipe of my phone.
We can easily tell if there is money available to shuffle around. If we have overspent in one category, but another one is in surplus we can reallocate some of that surplus money. If you find that you are regularly overspending in one category you know that either it’s time to increase that budget line, or take a good hard look at your expenditure for weak spots so you can cut back.
Goodbudget helps you to instantly see what you are spending our money on. Sometimes we think we know, but a quick glance at an envelope might shock you to discover that you spent $5672 on gifts last year or $494 on takeaway coffee. It takes a few weeks to get in the habit of coding every.little.thing into Goodbudget (it’s a very easy process), but now it is second-nature to me to pull out my phone after making a purchase. The habit of coding everything (including utilities and other regular bills) also helps you realise that you’ve forgotten to add a line for it in your budget, which may account for times when you’ve had less money than you’ve thought.
The app does cost money ($45 a year) but I think it’s worth the expense when I look at the money I’m saving because the app is helping me to change my behaviour.
For me, the only downside to Goodbudget is I can’t use it on a ‘dumb phone’. I’d like to get rid of my smartphone (I hate them, they are so addictive and such time-wasters), but I’m keeping mine so I can use Goodbudget :-).
I am in no way affiliated with Goodbudget, I am merely a very happy customer. All opinions expressed are my own.