This post contains outdated information. For the latest, see my 2012 Mvelopes review.
I have decided to convert Mvelopes into a full subscription for the next three months (see billing periods below), based on my positive experience so far and my desire to continue working with the system beyond the trial period. Mvelopes has worked for us so far – both my wife and I like the setup and ease of use, and I believe that it’s a good value for the price. Whether it actually helps us with our money management will be a function of evaluating it after a four-month period, but I believe that it’s a good method of financial planning and have full faith that it will help us exponentially.
The basic concept is based around the envelope budgeting method. Instead of tracking your money after it’s gone, you manage it before you spend a dime. Each time you get any form of income, you fund previously established envelopes which correspond to your budget categories.
Why is Mvelopes Great?
- Setup was simple and the customer service is quick, accessible, and outstanding. I had only one issue during my trial with connecting to my bank, and a quick online chat with a representative fixed the problem right away. He was very friendly and pointed out several features I hadn’t tried yet that could make my Mvelopes experience better.
- Good self-service support. The help system is extensive and easy to navigate. It also answers the most frequent issues with Mvelopes, and additional help is always just a click away.
- Mvelopes will reverse the way you think about money. While traditional budgets limit your spending at a set amount, Mvelopes “gives” you a certain amount to spend on each budget category. When you’re out, you’re out.
- Funding envelopes and moving money around is simple with the funding and “sweep” features built right in.
- It’s easy to set up multiple savings goals without having to open multiple accounts. Each savings goal gets its own envelope and can be funded once income is received.
- It’s also easy to plan for irregular or unexpected expenses with sinking funds. We’ve set up envelopes for each of our irregular expenses, including insurance, health, and clothing, and one more to put money aside for “unexpected” (but ironically, often regular) expenses.
- The reports function is comprehensive and user-friendly. Reports can also be downloaded in many formats, including PDF.
- Bank updates are automatic and synchronize when your bank provides new information.
- If your bank doesn’t sync quickly enough (it often takes a few days for transactions to clear), you always have the option of entering purchases manually using “pending transactions.” I do this frequently with categories in which we’re prone to overspending.
- Budgets are easy to modify for the month in question and adjust on the fly based on month-to-date spending without too many regrets about “blown budgets.” This flexibility allows for success regardless of unforeseen hurdles.
- Online bill pay is available, although I have an established system with my bank and did not evaluate the service.
- There is a large community behind the site in which you can participate actively or passively, including groups, mentors, forums, a blog, and a feedback center where you can vote on proposed features.
What Didn’t I Like? (Or You Might Not Like)
- Performance issues have continued since my last review, but aren’t as noticeable. I think I have finally become used to having to wait a few moments at start-up for the software to load, and the brief lags after each command is issued. For a program that runs entirely through the Internet, the performance issues are understandable and worth the ability to access information from anywhere. Update 10/2009: Performance issues during use have largely gone away with backend software updates, but you’ll still have to wait a few seconds for the software to load up.
- Sometimes, it’s easy to get lost and forget what you’re looking at. Because the main control panel doesn’t present information in the same way as a typical financial software (all amounts are in individual envelopes), it can be hard at times to evaluate your overall financial situation.
- Transfers are a little akward. As I mentioned in my mid-month review, account-to-account transfers can be difficult to enter correctly because of the way transactions are treated in the program. But once you’ve figured it out for the first time, it’s pretty easy to replicate.
- Mvelopes doesn’t replace my need for Quicken to manage accounts, bills, and reports. That’s okay because I use Mvelopes strictly as a way of budgeting and controlling spending, eliminating my need to track budgets and cash flow in Quicken. But Quicken continues to help me with scheduling payments, checking balances, and preparing detailed reports, and works well in conjunction with Mvelopes in my new system. Update 10/2009: I’ve completely eliminated Quicken from my system, using components of Mvelopes for account and net worth tracking, and Google Calendar for the few bills I still have to pay manually. More to come in a future update…(February, 2010).
- Mobile access is a bit wobbly. On several occasions, I had trouble accessing the mobile version of the software to enter transactions. It’s possible that this was a problem on my end, because it’s only happened a few times. Otherwise, it’s pretty nice to be able to see your envelope balances on the fly before you make a purchase.
- The minimum billing period is once per quarter. Price levels offered are: $41.97 per quarter ($13.99/mo), $131.88 yearly ($10.99/mo), or $191.70 for two years ($7.99/mo). The most efficient method is paying for two years, but if you want to give Mvelopes a try for more than 14 days, the quarterly plan is a good way to test for a total of nearly 4 months (with your 14-day free trial).
Does Mvelopes Live Up to Its Claims?
Mvelopes claims to improve your financial management by managing money before you spend it. By definition, it obviously achieves that with perfection. But can this actually help you spend less, save more, get out of debt, and achieve financial independence? That depends on your style of financial management, including budgeting. (Update 5/10: I can tell you that in a little more than 2 months, it’s worked wonders for our savings). What makes Mvelopes work well is that the level of detail and interaction is highly customizable – it will work for those who are detail oriented, as well as those who like to see the big picture.