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I hate it when I have to keep going into my wallet to remove money.

I especially hate it when it’s sort of a domestic emergency that’ll leave an echoing escarpment in my wallet and inconvenience me to search for an ATM wherever I am. Like if my Help calls in the middle of the day to tell me there are not enough onions to make Baba Muna’s beef stew in the evening, or gas has ran out as she was making chapos. Or maybe there’s no drinking water or Calpol for Muna.

Such domestic emergencies are warning sign of my disorganisation in running my home. Disorganisation costs money and takes away my peace of mind.

To keep track of these immediate cash needs and be more organised, I’ve since developed what I call an ‘Envelope System’. (OK, that used to be the old system, now it’s a ‘Glass Jar System’. But we’ll get to that in a bit.)


Here’s how my ‘Envelope System’ works: I usually know how much to anticipate at the end of the month.

As a general rule, I don’t put any money in my hands until I’ve budgeted for it.

My household budget has remained the same for most of this year. I know roughly how much I spend on what and when. I know what I spend for fruits and vegetables weekly, for milk and bread every other day (my daughter, Muna, is three, she drinks at least a litre of milk daily, my Help loves white bread, me and my hubby don’t).

I also know what I need as weekly petty cash for my bus fare and maybe lunch, and other small emergencies that may come up in the house during the week.

I’m also aware of what I tithe, my Help’s salary and what goes to my beauty treatment and wardrobe items.


Any big-emergency cash I need is in my savings account and money market account.

Money for monthly supermarket shopping doesn’t leave my bank account; the shopping also has to be done exhaustively and in good time to avoid ‘please-buy-this’ calls from my Help.

I make sure there’s an extra cylinder of gas in the store. There’s a medicine cabinet with Panadol, Eno, Calpol, Celestamine, Bascopan, Mara Moja, Deep Heat and Elastoplast.

If I go out for a drink or for lunch with my pals, or maybe a movie with my hubby, maybe ride around this town by Uber or to the supermarket for supplemental shopping, I use my Visa card to make the payment. I don’t use cash or M-Pesa unless I absolutely must.


Right, my ‘Envelope System’.

What I do with my ‘Envelope System’ is that at the end of the month, I will withdraw exactly what I need for the cash items in my budget and bring the money home.

I will have my envelopes ready and labelled with the corresponding budget item, and the amount I need for that month. So I’ll have an envelope for ‘Fruits & Vegetables’ and put in, say, Sh10,000.

I’ll have another envelope labelled ‘Tithe’, and I’ll put the budgeted amount in there. Another envelope will read ‘Petty cash’, and the cash will go in there.

Another envelope will read ‘Emergency cash’. This one should only be used when there’s a great emergency in the house (God forbid) and I’m unable to send my Help the cash she needs.

It goes on like this until I’ve covered every item for my household expenditure as per my budget.


I’d keep the envelopes in a shoebox, which I’d hide in some dark corner of one of the lock-and-key wardrobes in my bedroom.

So when we do our weekly fruits and vegetables shopping in the market on Saturday, for example, I only take what I need from the ‘Fruits & Vegetables’ envelope and return the change in there.

For the ‘Tithe’ envelope, I’ll take from it once.

For my ‘Petty cash’ envelope, I’ll take from it as and when I need it. Sometimes it could be Monday, other times it could be Wednesday. I can never tell how it will go with petty cash.

I’ve since ditched the envelope system because envelopes were flimsy. They’d get old and worn out with frequent use, sometimes the coins would make them tear.

I’m now using the ‘Glass Jar System’. It works exactly like my old ‘Envelope System’ only that now I’m using glass jars, not envelopes.

You must know the jars I’m talking about, they’re the ones you buy jam or honey in – they’re made of glass and they’re clear (of course) with a screw-on metallic cap.

I wash them clean when the jam or honey is finished, then clean off the gum on the label with home dry cleaner. I stick a masking tape on the side of it and label it, as I would have the envelopes.

My ‘Glass Jar System’ tells me how much I’ve spent on what, in that month and whether I need to revise my budget for savings or over-expenditure.


If there are any notes or coins left in any jar at the end of the month, I move them all to the jar labelled ‘Emergency’; I always start the month over with an empty jar.

If I find any loose coins lying around the house – even if it’s a shilling or change I find in my hubby’s pants as I’m sorting laundry – I put it in the ‘Emergency’ jar.

Sometimes my wallet gets bloated with coins, I transfer them to the ‘Emergency’ jar.

When I travel or go out of town, I leave my Help with the ‘Emergency’ jar. I tell her to spend only what she must. She does – thankfully, she’s as disciplined and as frugal as I am.

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