Envelope Method

In 2013, I spent two and a half weeks solo backpacking around Ireland. I had always wanted to go and decided to quit making excuses and just make it happen. My life strategy is often this: think things through, buy the tickets, and then tell everyone when I’m on my way to the airport. It saves me from having to hear any negativity or worry from others. I can second guess my decisions enough on my own.

When I decided to plan my trip, I had just started to delve into learning about financial wellness. My parents had taught me to not put anything on a credit card that I couldn’t afford to pay off every month and how to budget grocery shopping. However, a series of unfortunate events had wiped out my emergency fund and I had a few thousand dollars on my credit card that carried over monthly. In comparison to others, it’s not a lot. But to me, it felt like a mountain of debt.

So, when I started to plan my trip I knew one thing: I wanted to pay off my debt beforehand and be able to pay cash for my trip. At twenty, I had visited my brother and put the trip on a credit card. I was still paying it off a year later, and had nothing fun to look forward to, except being debt-free.

I’d read the books and scoured the blogs and websites. Podcasts weren’t a big deal then, or else I’m sure I would have been listening to those nonstop.

One simple approach stuck out to me: the envelope method. It was simple: create a budget and have an envelope for each: groceries, gas, entertainment and travel. My housing, utility, and insurance bills were automated, but I considered those electronic envelopes. I also decided to do the 52-week challenge, in which I would save $1 the first week, $2 the second… $52 the last week of the year.

At the time, I was paid bi-weekly and my salary was directly deposited. Every other Friday, I would walk to the bank on my lunch hour and withdraw the exact amount I needed to carry me through the next two weeks. If a utility bill was ever less than anticipated, I would add the difference to the following week’s withdrawal and put it in the travel envelope.

This habit alone made me a much more mindful spender. I would often pass on a coffee on the way to work, happier to see that $5 go straight into the travel envelope. Now, that’s not to say I’m weighing in on the latte factor debate. I’m just saying that I was willing to forgo a fancy coffee, knowing it would go toward buying an experience in Ireland.

My trip ended up being amazing. I got to travel around the country, visit castles, ate in local pubs, and not once did I worry about the price.

The Temple Bar in Dublin, Ireland

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