Envelope Register - Google Sheets

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The Problem

I’ve been working towards getting my budgeting to work within an “Envelope System” (where you put money into an “Envelope” and that’s what you have to spend), but it’s been more challenging than I would like. It occurred to me that just because I can’t get my entire budget to work using an “Envelope” system, doesn’t mean I can’t apply the “Envelope” concept to parts of my budget.

The Solution

This template provides a simple way to define a “Virtual Envelope”. It’s flexible in that you define the column to look at, and the name of the envelope, and if the template finds the envelope name assigned to a transaction, it adds it to a register for that envelope. This allows you to make a Category, Group or Tag into an envelope, or better still you can create your own dedicated “Envelope” column. The sheet then counts down what the current balance of your envelope is, checkbook register style. You can enter an “Opening Balance” (or any other manual transactions that aren’t included in your “Transactions” sheet) in the “Manual Envelope Withdrawals/Deposits” section of the template. You can filter transactions in the template, allowing you to focus on a specific time period (eg. just transactions from this year), and you can sort transactions ascending or descending (I like to see recent stuff at the top).

How it Works

The way this differs from using “Categories” on the “Monthly Budget”, “Savings Budget” or “Budget Status” sheets is that it if you use a dedicated “Envelopes” column (or tags), you aren’t restricted to one category, it allows you to collect any transactions you choose to count against the chosen envelope. If the way you categorize transactions doesn’t align with the way you fund your spending/income, this can provide a new way of organizing, viewing and measuring your spending/income.

  • The Envelope sheet currently doesn’t feed into any budgeting system, and doesn’t relate to any of your accounts, it’s just a way to keep track of the amount of a bunch of transactions you’d like to group together.

  • You can use the “Envelope” drop down to switch between multiple envelopes, or duplicate the envelope sheet and create as many envelope sheets as you need. Envelope sheets can be renamed to anything you like.

  • You can use AutoCat to add envelope tags to specified transactions the same way you would with categories.

  • You can use an existing Tags column to hold your envelope tag (it recognizes comma separated tags), or you can create a dedicated ‘Envelope’ column if you prefer.

Installation

Open the link to the “Envelope_Register” template below. On the “Envelope Register” sheet name at the bottom of the screen, click the triangle and choose “Copy To”, then “Existing Spreadsheet” and select your Tiller foundation template. Open your Tiller foundation template, find the new sheet (it’s likely the last sheet) and rename it to whatever you’d like (it’s likely named “Copy of Envelope Register”) by clicking the triangle on the sheet name and choosing “Rename”.

Configuration

  1. Decide which column you’d like to use to hold your “Envelope” designation. Options include (but aren’t limited to):
  • Category - If you want every transaction in a category to become an envelope.
  • Group - If you created a ‘Group’ column and want every transaction in a group to become an envelope.
  • Tag - If you already have a Tag(s) column and you want every transaction with a particular tag to become an envelope.
  • Envelope - If you want a dedicated column for designating envelopes, create a new column wherever you’d like on the Transactions sheet and name it whatever you’d like (eg. “Envelope”).
  1. Enter a few envelope designations for transactions you’d like to be included in that envelope
  2. Enter the name of the column you chose in cell I11 of the Envelope Register sheet.
  3. Using the drop-down menu, select the envelope from cell I3 of the Envelope Register sheet.
  4. Use cells I5 & I7 to filter the transactions by date if you desire or leave them blank if you want all transactions included.
  5. Use cell I9 to change sorting from Descending to Ascending depending on your preference.
  6. If you prefer, enter an “Opening Balance” in columns K-P. This section can also be used for any manual transactions you’d like to include that don’t otherwise show up on your Transactions sheet.

Usage

If you want to limit your spending on something, coffee for example, you can create a “Coffee” envelope and establish an opening balance of $500. Every time you have a transaction from purchasing a coffee, add the tag to your Envelope column and on the Envelope Register sheet you’ll see it deducted from the $500, with a total at the top of how much you have left to spend until your envelope is empty.

If you want to limit how much you spend on games to how much you make mowing lawns, tag all your lawn mowing income transactions with 'Games" in the Envelope column, and when the total on Envelope Register sheet is enough to buy the game you want, buy it and then mark the transaction with the “Games” tag so it’s deducted from the total on the Envelope Register sheet.

The way I’m using it…

I’ve been using this for a couple months, and it’s already making my brain happier. I have an envelope for my personal spending (items that are just for me and shouldn’t be funded by ‘joint funds’) and personal income (income that extends beyond what I’ve agreed to contribute to our ‘joint funds’). I setup a similar envelope for my wife. I’m using a dedicated “Envelope” column to hold the envelope tag. As transactions come in, I manually assign an envelope tag to any “Personal Spending” or “Personal Income” transactions, regardless of the category they are in. I try to keep the number in the ‘green’, so my spending doesn’t exceed my income, just as if I was putting all the income into an envelope that I could use to spend on what I wanted.

In my wife’s envelope, it not only combines spending and income transactions, but also a weekly “Stipend”, which is transferred from our joint account, and in Tiller is categorized as a “Transfer”. Transfers wouldn’t normally show up in reports, but if you add the envelope tag to it, it will show up in your envelope transactions as an “Income” transaction (the “Category Type” doesn’t really make a difference here, it’s just “Summing” everything, so positive transactions will appear to be “Income” and negative transactions will appear to be an “Expense”). I used the “Manual Envelope Withdrawals/Deposits” section to establish the “Opening Balance” of her envelope so it matched the balance of her bank account. This allows me to compare the envelope balance with the actual account balance, helping ensure personal spending isn’t coming from a joint account, and joint spending isn’t coming from her personal account. If a personal or joint transactions comes from the wrong account (not a frequent occurrence), we do a bank transfer between the accounts to keep her account at the correct balance.

Notes

Anything you do on this sheet will have no effect on the rest of your Foundation Template. Envelopes created in this template have nothing to do with actual accounts. When you ‘fund’ an opening balance for an envelope, you aren’t actually transferring funds, you’re simply defining an amount you’d like to start counting down from. If people find this useful (not sure if it’s just useful to me or if others will find it useful as well) I’ll create an Excel version. Please let me know of any problems you run into, or suggestions on how to make it better or build upon it! If you enjoy it, don’t forget to hit the “Vote” button at the top of his page!

Thanks for posting this feature – I am an excel user and would like to give it a try.

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Bravo - envelope tracking for Tiller has been long overdue, I like this implementation, very simple and easy to use. Voted!

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