Cash Budgeting: Do I really need to track every dollar?

March 7, 2013

If you’re operating from a cash budget in key spending categories, chances are you go to the bank each pay period and withdraw a certain number of 20’s, 10’s, 5’s, and 1’s. Then you distribute the bills to envelopes or your wallet sections based on your pre-determined budget amounts. From then until the next pay period, you spend accordingly but don’t necessarily track where each bill or coin goes.


Image courtesy of

This method works fine for many people. They don’t see a need to worry themselves over the destination of each cent as long as it’s been taken from the correct envelope. But there are occasions when specific tracking is advantageous.

For instance, let’s say I’m finding that my grocery budget is running out several days before payday. By tracking my specific cash expenditures, it might be easier to discover where that category is hemorrhaging. I may examine it at the end of the month and find that I’ve been shopping more frequently at grocery stores where prices are higher or that I’ve been making a lot of “emergency” trips to the closest store because I’m not planning meals ahead of time. Seeing those trends can help me adjust my habits and stretch the grocery budget.

Or imagine that your entertainment envelope is getting depleted really quickly and you’re not exactly sure why, but you suspect it may have to do with the Starbucks drive-through window on your way to work. In this case, you may just want to track a subcategory. Rather than recording every cent spent on entertainment, just keep a list of what you spend on coffee. If at the end of the month you find that $30 of your $50 entertainment budget was spent on Caramel Macchiatos, then you have your culprit.

Tracking each dollar can also be really helpful when you’re revamping your budget, because it gives you a realistic view of exactly where you’re spending and what adjustments you can make.

wallet with spending log2

In the photo above is a printable spending log that fits perfectly inside the sections of my cash envelope system wallets but could also be kept inside a paper envelope. You can find it in my Etsy shop.



To learn more about budgeting, visit Melissa’s blog

41 comments on “Cash Budgeting: Do I really need to track every dollar?

  1. Julie Jones says:

    Thank you. Love your logs. Downloaded them to use in my envelopes!

  2. Meredith says:

    This printable is great! I just started the cash system for the first time and was struggling writing everything down on the outside of my envelope. I was struggling with how to keep track of my money. Thank you!

  3. Robyn Barnes says:

    Debt free living is something that I want so badly in my life. I’m going to try the cash envelope system!

  4. Yvonne says:

    Thank you for the Cash Spending Logs, I have just started using the envelope system. This will help me and our family establish a budget, and to stop wasting money and time.

  5. Taylor says:

    Thanks! I am going to download my copy now.
    I have one of Melissa’s wallets-I love it! Helps me say on track with budgeting. Plus, it is super cute 🙂

  6. Amy says:

    Please don’t laugh! While I enjoyed this article and will be printing and using your worksheet (thank you!) what truly caught my eye was the zipper pouch in the image with your cash log. Is that yours and if so, where did you get it?! My biggest clutter issue is my purse and the random receipts that I toss in it. It becomes a huge mess at the end of the week and I could see this helping me tremendously!! 🙂

  7. Shelly says:

    Love, love, love these!! And thank you for being so generous to allow us to DL them for free this week 🙂

  8. Leigh says:

    Thank you! I desperately need these as I keep feeling like I either have no idea how much I am truly spending each trip to the grocery store, or someone is pilfering $20 bills from my wallet….and I can’t honestly say I believe it’s the latter of the two! 😉

  9. Melissa S. says:

    Awesome,trhank you!

  10. Lisa says:

    Looks likes the pouches can be found on the author’s blog:

  11. Andria Kvitek says:

    Thank you!
    Question for anyone who does this: I’m a stay at home mom. My husband works and gets a base pay but the most is on commission. It changes dramatically month to month. HOW do I do a budget with that?

  12. Linda says:

    Love the wallet and the free download forms. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Michelle says:

    Thank you so much! I use the wallet from A Time 4 Everything, and I felt too disorganized without knowing where the $ went and how much. I tried index cards, but they covered the labels. These are much nicer, and fit perfectly!!

  14. Denall says:

    Thank you!! Perfect timing – I was just trying to create my own!! lol!!
    Yours are perfect!

  15. Melissa Brooke says:

    Thanks so much! We are just starting with cash budgeting and this will help us so much.

  16. Christine says:

    Thanks!!!!!!!!!!! love it, I´m sure it will help me a lot.

  17. Christy says:

    When I tried to print, my computer said the pdf file would harm my pc. Has anyone else received this message?

    • Christy, did it say it would harm your PC or that it could? It’s probably a standard warning from your antivirus software so that you don’t accidentally download something that you’re not sure can be trusted. But if you’re concerned, send me your email address (to melissa at atimeforeverything dot net) and I will send you the file directly. 🙂

  18. I think that analysis is SO important but you definitely can’t do it without details. Love the spending log. Very practical.

  19. Donna says:

    Thanks! This will really help.

  20. Sara Holford says:

    I just ordered my Cash Wallet and card holder and can’t wait to get it!! Thanks so much!

Get the latest downloads from A Bowl Full of Lemons printables shop.
Hello. Add your message here.