There are two pockets in Scott Grierson’s wallet. The front is for money he can spend.
The back is for money he just earned from work. As soon as he finishes work, this cash goes into an envelope, in a drawer, in his home office.
“It has a name, it has a purpose,” says Scott, a self-employed math tutor. “If your money doesn’t have a purpose, it’s easy to spend it on a whim.”
That’s why Scott and his wife Luby gave all their money a purpose via a personalized version of Dave Ramsey’s envelope system. In four years, the Griersons accomplished the following:
- Paid $5,800 of school tuition and expenses without resorting to student loans
- Built a $15,000 emergency fund
- Saved $6,000 in cash
- Invested in four mutual funds to save for a future home down payment
Here’s how they used the envelope system to their benefit so you can follow in their footsteps.
How the Griersons got started
After Luby listened to a podcast describing the envelope method, she told her husband about it. Having never budgeted, Scott knew his days of running up a tab at the bar were numbered.
Following the envelope method’s formula, they estimated their weekly spending on groceries, bills, and nonessentials like new clothes. They lumped those latter categories into one envelope called entertainment. Then, they earmarked $100 for groceries and $350 for entertainment.
“The system is supposed to make you mindful of your spending money,” Scott says. “I think we had too much money to be mindful of it. It was, ‘We still have $100, I should buy this!’”
Little by little, they readjusted the amounts to ensure they weren’t giving themselves too little or too much to spend each week. When money is left over at the end of a week, it goes into savings instead of fattening the envelope. The envelope is then refilled with new income.
The small weekly savings help fund big goals. The couple saved $5,000 this way in 2016 before hitting the pause button on a savings goal for 2017. They welcomed their daughter into the world earlier this year.
4 ways they edited the envelope system to work for them
Having a child and a fluctuating income has forced Scott and Luby to edit the envelope system for their use.
The Griersons broke a Ramsey rule by creating one entertainment envelope instead of dedicating envelopes to all the smaller nonessentials, like clothing, technology, and dining out.
“We thought it was overwhelming the way [it was] designed, so we simplified to make it work for us,” Scott says.
Here are four more ways they make the method work best for them.
1. Shifting money between envelopes
The envelope method stresses the importance of keeping each envelope separate from the others. You’re not being disciplined in your spending, for example, if you need to borrow from your restaurants’ envelope to pay for more clothes. It’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul, the thinking goes.
At least once a month, however, Scott says he and his wife run out of grocery money while the entertainment envelope bursts at the seams. But they don’t feel bad about borrowing from entertainment to buy more food.
“But we never use grocery money to buy shoes,” Scott says.
Becoming parents has also naturally adjusted their spending. They used to spend $40 to $50 at the bar after playing volleyball with their friends. Not anymore.
“A beer becomes a onesie,” Scott says. “You just can’t do as much [as parents], so it’s easier to not spend money.”
2. Holding weekly, monthly meetings
The envelope method advises its users to call emergency meetings when spending over budget. The Griersons decided they’d hold 10-minute weekly meetings to discuss everyday spending. They always talk before shelling out $100 or more, for example. Or, they’ll talk about skipping a dinner during a week that they buy $70 worth of baby formula.
The couple’s longer monthly conversations focus on longer-term savings goals. They have an annual goal of saving $2,000 for their Christmas and New Year’s plans.
“We treat every upcoming expense as debt,” Scott says. “We’re always paying off everything before we spend it. That way, we live within our means.”
There’s also a plan for the unexpected. One of their current goals, for example, is to replenish a five-month emergency fund that was depleted, in part, by an unforeseen trip to visit family.
Communication is key. Scott says the system only works because he and his wife both believe in it.
“I don’t think we’ve had a money argument in four years of doing this,” he says. “It brings a sense of calm and peace to you because you no longer have to worry.”
3. Filling envelopes with inconsistent income
The envelope method was built for salaried professionals like Luby, a physical therapist assistant. She earns the same amount of money with each paycheck.
Scott, on the other hand, runs a small, mostly cash business, tutoring children in their homes and delivering math education on his YouTube channel. During the summer months, he might only earn $200 to $500 in a given week. In the fall, he could bring in anywhere between $800 and $1,200.
“My money is so scattered that if [we] didn’t have a plan, we’d be screwed,” Scott says.
Fearful of taking on debt, planning allows Scott to spread his volatile earnings over a year. He uses his cash to fund the envelopes — hence the two pockets in his wallet — and contribute to big savings goals. Luby, meanwhile, takes care of the apartment rent and monthly bills with her consistent paycheck.
As a private contractor, Scott also uses the envelope method to create a separate savings goal: having the money on hand to pay his taxes in April.
4. Adding credit cards to the mix
The envelope system leaves no room for credit cards. Scott, who earns much of his tutoring income in cash, agrees.
“Let’s say your clothes budget is up to $300,” he says. “You can go to Amazon and buy $300 of clothes in one click. There was no resistance to spending the money. But if I go to Old Navy and physically pull $300 out of my pocket, it’ll make me think twice about what I’m buying.”
So why does the Grierson household have four credit cards? To build the credit needed to buy a home.
Two years ago, Scott couldn’t even qualify for a credit card. Luby made him an authorized user on her cards. After making timely payments on the couple’s cable, electric, and gas bills, credit card offers started arriving in the mail.
In 18 months, Scott increased his credit score from 640 to 758, besting Luby’s. And two months ago, the couple was preapproved for a home mortgage.
Not letting a budget get in the way of a good time
Scott knows what you’re thinking. No, he and his wife aren’t hermits. Since using the envelope system, they have vacationed to Europe twice. They also spent a month in Florida, where they married. In addition to paying for about half of their $25,000 wedding, they’ve also footed the bill for having their first child.
And, no, you don’t have to be a math teacher like Scott to make this work. The whole thing was actually Luby’s idea in the beginning.
“I certainly enjoy looking at the numbers, and that makes the system appealing to me,” says Scott. “But whether you’re a math teacher or not, you have to be able to handle your finances, right?”
Tweaking the envelope system for your money
Consider creating a budget or using an alternative strategy or tool to monitor your finances. You can begin by building a $1,000 emergency fund, as the Griersons did four years ago.
From there, figure out how much you spend on groceries and everything else. Scott recommends tracking your spending for two weeks and then dividing by two to find your weekly average in each category. Then, zero in on where you can make cuts.
“For us, it’s going out Friday night, not going out Tuesday night, Friday night, and Saturday night,” Scott says. “That’s because if you’re doing this system, you probably have some kind of financial goal, whether it’s getting out of debt or buying a house or whatever it is.
“If that goal is important to you,” he added, “you’ve got to be willing to make a sacrifice.”
Don’t worry about the smaller details of the system. If you never use cash, for example, use the debit card in your wallet and a spreadsheet on your computer. Edit the envelope system to your benefit and you can accomplish your own financial goals, too.
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.30% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
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2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
APR stands for “Annual Percentage Rate.” Rates listed include a 0.25% EFT discount, for automatic payments made from a checking or savings account. Interest rates as of 11/8/2018. Rates subject to change.
Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term, 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term, 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term, 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term would be from $180.89 to $193.75. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term would be from $139.65 to $146.76. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term would be from $104.56 to $111.98. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term would be from $78.77 to $86.78. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term would be from $67.05 to $75.68.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.
All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.28% effective October 10, 2018.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.47% – 6.30%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.51% – 8.09%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.02% – 6.44%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.69% – 7.21%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.79% – 8.39%6||Undergrad & Graduate|