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Adeshile Allinson: Find Out How to Use Envelopes to Keep Your Spending In Check During These Tough Times



dreamstime_m_37598495In these tough times of strict buhari-nomics, every kobo counts. Most people are starting to realize the importance of budgeting their expenses and accounting for every kobo they spend.

Some people have built the habit of budgeting but often times find themselves spending more than they have budgeted for. For example, you always buy Lipton Green Tea, but your co-worker gave you one fancy “Raspberry and Apple sliming tea” last month. While doing your grocery shopping for the week you saw the tea in the supermarket and bought it, even though you already have your tea supply for the month. Oh, and the tea costs three times the price of the regular green tea you normally purchase. There’s still money in your bank account, so no wahala.

I’ve fallen victim of this, so many times. Sometimes, it’s my groceries;  other times it’s driving somewhere I shouldn’t be driving to… knowing that I will need to spend more money than I budgeted to fill my tank for the next week. Because times are hard now, I started researching how to ensure that I do not spend more than my budget and I came across the cash budget system. I have been practicing this for a while now and it has definitely helped reduce the amount of times I overshoot my budget.

To take better control of your spending and ensure that you don’t overshoot your budget, below is how to do the envelope budget system:

Write down your budget
Identify all your fixed and variable expense categories and allocate a specific amount to cover each of the various expenses for the month (e.g. Internet: 10,000 Naira, petrol: 20,000 Naira, emergency funds: 50,000 Naira, etc.) and have a figure for your total monthly expenses.

Buy a pack of envelopes and label them for each expense category
Write down all your monthly expense categories boldly on the front of each envelope (e.g. envelope 1: petrol, envelope 2: groceries, envelope 3: gym membership, etc.)

Visit the ATM or bank to remove your total monthly expense

When you get paid, remove the total amount of your expense for the month and put in each envelope the amount you budgeted.

If you budgeted 40,000 Naira for groceries (10,000 Naira weekly) for the month, you’ll put 40,000 Naira in the envelope. On grocery day, you will remove only 10,000 Naira you will need to shop for that week. This way when you get to the grocery store, you will not fall victim of buying expensive tea you do not need to buy. If your groceries turn out to be 10,500 Naira, you have to remove something from your shopping bag.

Also, during the week, the grocery envelope will be left in your house… since you do not need to shop for groceries during the week.

Never use money from one envelope to pay expenses in another expense category
Do not use money from one envelope to pay for something else. If you see that you’re running out of petrol money, maybe hitch a ride with your colleague to work for the rest of the week. Don’t go into your groceries envelope to take money for petrol. If you find that you’re always running out of money in one particular envelope before the month is over, then you’re probably under budgeting and you need to increase your allocation to that expense category. You may be overspending, and you need to curb your spending. For example, if you budget 10,000 Naira for credit for the month, but you find that you always need to buy more credit in the middle of the month, then you’re probably under budgeting for credit. You need to reduce how much time you spend on the phone.

Reward yourself
If you have money left in an envelope at the end of the month, reward yourself and treat yourself to something nice! However, if you find that you always have extra money in a specific envelope at the end of the month, then maybe you’re over budgeting for that expense category and you need to reduce how much you allocate to that expense category.

Yes, there are some expenses that you may not be able to pay for with cash but for those that can be handled with cash you should try it. You are less likely to overspend with cash, because the process of handing over cash is more personal than swiping a card; you actually see the money leaving your hands.

It is important to note that the envelope budgeting system is meant to build discipline and better tracking of your expenses, not magically make your expenses disappear. If you’re not disciplined, whether you use the typical budgeting apps or envelope budgeting system, you will continue to struggle with overspending and managing your money.

Photo Credit: Atholpady |

Adeshile Allinson is the founder of Innovation 22; a personal finance and lifestyle platform which focuses on presenting information on business, career, finance, and lifestyle to young professionals. She can be reached at [email protected] for partnerships and content creation.


  1. @edDREAMZ

    September 27, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    For men that want to save money in this recession but love women, i will advice you stop keeping galfriends and start chasing hoes. They get it, you pay for just an hour and thats that, no emotion whatsoever. You become more focus bcos no galfriend is disturbing you and most importantly you save money to spend on yourself ALONE and family….. well am a pastor so i dont really do any though but i need to say the truth…

    • Big Tee

      September 27, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      You said “girlfriends”……why will an ambitious man with important work on his plate keep many girlfriends? is he not distracted enough with one? …. steady girlfriend is the best way to save money…..after see-me-finish on both sides, both of you will manage whatever is available, you might just be building your future with her……not to sound like a jerk, but can one build a future with THOTINA? .

  2. adniL

    September 27, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    First time Commenter. I’ve also been looking for ways to downsize lol, so this is really helpful. However, it’s not so safe to leave money lying around the house, anything can happen. Can you suggest an alternative?

    • Lulu

      September 27, 2016 at 10:33 pm

      Hey! I had the same fears about leaving money lying around the house like that as well. I would say for smaller expenses like internet, hair etc, you can have those in cash. What I did for the bigger expenses like groceries, dstv, fuel was to utilize my bank accounts that had just beem dormant. Let’s face it, each Nigerian probably has like 3 accounts lol. Anyways, every month I would move money for different expenses around to different accounts and track from there. Hope this helps!

  3. Chinma Eke

    September 27, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    This is so me, budget and stick to the budget to the last bit!

  4. largerthanlifealice

    September 27, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    after i save so much money and i die who i eep? i would eat suya,jevnic,ghana high,iya risi …see any movie i want ,buy that weave ,save small just in-case,travel if i like ,go to quilox if i can ….life is short …(being sarcastic)

  5. shield

    September 27, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Oh this is so my style! Started it since 2011 when I got my first job post nysc. My budget is so detailled you’d see Milo 650, Butter 450. Anytime my colleagues see it, they always laugh.
    I don’t even use envelope sef (money wasting). I use used printing paper that should be shredded at work. Abi ayam epping them to re-cycle the paper.

  6. mz_danielz

    September 28, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Mumsy’s allowance:
    Covenant seed and offerings.
    Cleaning Lady
    Weekly spending
    (These are removed immediately I am paid ).
    Then I start moving to savings/ investment schemes;
    Money market fund
    FBN Capital
    Land Installment payments
    Then to spending accounts;
    Zenith; Chiker’s acct ( that’s where the human hair and perfumes come from oh, the chikers pay the money and then I spend it to look good. In-fact, if I get a heavy credit alert, I move it to my FCMB account.).
    FCMB; Emergency fund/foreign transactions.
    Diamond Bank; Salary account. I just leave the money there and then one day I wake up and see there’s money in it and buy mumsy a huge gift.

    I’ve been doing this for a while now and I’ve saved well and buy a good investment every year/2 years.

    Money saving tips;
    -Pack your own lunch and water; either wake up early to prepare it or find someone who sells affordable food. If I don’t prepare my lunch, I spend N250 0n food from a woman in my area. For water, take two big bottles of water to work so you don’t ever buy water or if your office has a dispenser, fine.

    – Buy snackables and munchies in bulk; You can find someone who sells plantain chips/biscuit/chin-chin and buy 500 or 1000 monthly in bulk for those times you need to munch something during work. You can also buy provisions to take breakfast in the morning. Don’t buy the big packs oh, buy the sachets, 1 or 2 each morning and people cannot beg you.

    – Take advantage of sales and comparative buying; God bless Instagram, I buy hair only during their major price slashes. And I follow them so I know when it’s slashed. Also that lovely dress/sneaker? check out a lot of hustlers on Instagram, you’ll find lower prices.

    – Become a stylist; Look at the dresses in your wardrobe and style them up differently. I have started shopping only quarterly and I have also fallen in love with braids.

    – Be nice to those chikers; Those guys who give you money monthly or any time you ask just because they hope to date you? be nice to them and keep them nicely. That’s a good stream of income oh. I told 2 of my chikers I didn’t see a future for us and I am feeling the loss of the monthly income from their end. Also, that annoying guy that’s been disturbing you?, he can take care of your shopping needs. Do it nicely and don’t make him feel used. Now is a time to independently spend these guy’s monies. For the guys, …………..

    May the recession end soon.

    • Mz Socially Awkward....

      September 28, 2016 at 11:08 pm

      So… It’s clear to see my own financial planning is lacking the generous influence of chikers. Apparently, there are huge savings to be made from having one or two such resources hovering within reach…

  7. mz_danielz

    September 28, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    To add to that,

    Have an account/plan for those allowances like housing, leave, bonus, 13th month etc. They are not to just go clubbing. Use them for a course, investment etc. I’m doing a course paid for with a major allowance.

    Also start saving towards birthdays and Christmas early so that they don’t stress you.

  8. Sai sai

    September 28, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    My house was burgled recently and the money I kept for the month’s expenses was stolen..keeping money at home is a no no for me..I would rather just make a budget list as per what I earn monthly plus money to be saved, and just withdrawing pay with pos whenever I need to strike off a budget from my list

  9. tola

    September 29, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    I am now a faithful saver. So i told the carpenter to make a little box with no padlock. I put any denomination through the hole . so even if its 10 naira to 1K. Times re hard and one needs to be prudent .

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