Pen and Paper to App

I used to do all my budgeting with pen and paper. Then Goodbudget started growing on me.

The way my old pen-and-paper system worked:

  • At the beginning of each month I wrote down the amount I received from my paycheck
  • Subtracted my recurring expenses
  • Deducted expenses from my total every time I made a purchase
  • Based all of my decisions off of my total account balance

What I had before wasn’t perfect, but it worked. The whole thing was sort of a modified version of balancing my checkbook.

When I started using Goodbudget, I started thinking in terms of envelopes and categories. My total account balance mattered less because I learned it was a poor indicator for spending how I wanted to in each category. The first major change was that instead of writing transactions on pen and paper, I started exclusively entering them into Goodbudget.  I always have my phone on me, so it was easy to do it right at the store.  No more saving receipts!

The second major change was using Accounts in Goodbudget. I didn’t think tracking accounts mattered since my envelopes “covered everything.” As a result, I didn’t care how much was in my account. One day, when my envelopes and real-life bank account on my bank’s website didn’t match, it’s like a light bulb went off and I wanted them to match. The peace of mind coming from knowing the amount in my bank account and the amounts in my envelopes matched was worth changing my system.

Fast forward to today, I’ve switched to Goodbudget. Completely. And I couldn’t be happier.

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Get the latest in budgeting content — straight into your inbox.

Thank you!

See you in your inbox.

Search for


Say hello to Goodbudget

  1. A strong philosophy.
    Transform your financial life with the Goodbudget Way.
  2. A time-tested system.
    Goodbudget is based on the envelope budgeting method.
  3. Great budget software.
    Available for the Web, Android, and iPhone. Get started with Goodbudget. Sign up now!

Get Help




8 thoughts on “Pen and Paper to App”

  1. My experience was totally different. Impressed initially, then paid for extended use. Each month I couldn’t get the envelopes to load properly, couldn’t get amounts to transfer from accounts, and COULDN’T GET ANY RESPONSE TO EVEN ASK A QUESTION ABOUT WHAT I MAY BE DOING WRONG. LEFT AT LEAST 4 MESSAGES AND NEVER GOT A SINGLE CALLBACK! Would have sure helped my budget by not investing in this app. Hope you do manage to hire someone that will respond to your customer’s needs.

  2. I would like to hear someone tell their step-by-step process for setting up Goodbudget. The help that is available seems superficial and scattered. Almost as if the help was written more for advertising purposes…for people who haven’t yet shelled out the money for the app. This is my second run at this program, and I am still unable to grasp how the whole things works. I set up envelopes, but I don’t know what they do or what to do with them or when to do it. What are the gree/red lines under the envelopes? Why are there different ways to add income? What are all the different ways that income is allocated? I need to be able to speak with a real person about how to navigate the Goodbudget program and do what I need to do to set up and maintain my household budget. I paid for this subscription to try it out and here we are approaching the end of our second month with nothing but confused numbers on a screen. I was really hoping that the blog would have some real detail about what people have done to set up, and are doing to maintain, their budget system using Goodbudgets. All I’ve seen is advertising for how easy and great it is. If I’m missing a good resource with this regard, please point me in it’s direction. Thanks.

    • Hi Marcus,

      Sorry to hear that you’ve had trouble getting started with Goodbudget! Our Getting Started Guide takes you through the steps to setting up your Household, from creating a budget to adding expenses ( Generally, you fill your Envelopes at the beginning of the budget period with your income and add transactions as you make them. When you do that, the amount available in your Envelope should decrease to show you how much you have left to spend. At the end of the budget period, you’ll refill your Envelopes with your new income and continue adding your expenses. If you have specific questions about your Household, feel free to email and we’ll be happy to help you.

  3. Although it seemed, at first, that this program was free, I should have known since Dave Ramsey was involved, of course you had to pay for it. Additionally, I have been starring at this program for over 4 hours and still can’t figure out to get started. Seems like you would start by putting in your income and expenses but everything says envelopes, envelopes, envelopes!
    I am fit to be tied. This is not a user friendly program.

    • Hi Debbie,

      I apologize for your troubles while getting your budget up and running! I’m happy to help. You’re right that adding your income is a great place to start. Here’s a link to our Help Center that has some great articles that can help get you started: It’s true that Dave Ramsey recommends using the Envelope System of budgeting. However, Goodbudget and Dave Ramsey are in no way affiliated. Goodbudget does have a Free version of the app that offer 10 Regular + 10 More Envelopes and 1 Account. Users that want access to more Envelopes and Accounts can subscribe to a paid plan.

      Does this answer your question? If not, I would love to help you get started. You can email me at


  4. We purchased you app which has been great however we have trouble when it comes to splitting costs. Because we pay for all groceries upfront, we enter the actual costs, however when money has been transferred to us to cover someones share of groceries and we try to input that into the envelope, the envelope does not balance….eg if we spend $500 on groceries envelope but in a week we were given $250 towards it…what should happen is when we key it in as an income to that envelope- the spend in the envelope should balance back to $250 instead of $500….tried a few different things, can you please help?


    • Hi Susan – Since you’re being reimbursed by a third-party for those groceries, you can try adding that reimbursement amount as a credit to your Groceries Envelope. To do that while on the website, click on Add Transaction. Then, fill out the fields provided, and enter a negative sign ‘-‘ in front of the number in the Amount field – that’s how you turn it into a credit which adds those funds back into that Envelope. Hope this helps!

Leave a Comment