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Mint.com vs. Mvelopes.com: which should I use?


Posted in Finances, Posts, Reviews, Technology by

I’ve been using Mvelopes.com off-and-on for the last two years, but I’ll confess that I haven’t been so good about it for the last twelve months or so. Here’s why: it sucks. It has a horribly flash interface, is ridiculously slow and clunky, has bugs, and is always having issues with downloading my account data. It’s also completely manual, so it adds a few minutes of work every day. Let it slip for a week or two and you’ve got 50 – 75 transactions that need to be categorized using a brutally painful interface. Ugh. On top of that, it’s like $7 – 15 / month.

So why do I keep using it (or trying to)? Because when you get it rolling, it’s amazing. The envelope method of budgeting works like this: for each spending category, you put money in as you get it, based on your budget, and you take it out as you spend it. When it’s gone, it’s gone. If you don’t spend all the money in that envelope for that month, it carries over to the next month. For example, let’s say I make $2000 per month. I put $700 into a rent envelope, $200 into food, $200 into utilities, $200 into spending, $300 into savings, and $400 into gas ;-) As I spend money out of each of those categories over the month, I take that money out of the appropriate envelope. At the end of the month, if I have $45 left in the spending envelope and everything else is empty, I’ll have $245 in my spending envelope for the next month. Envelope budgeting is a great way to control spending and save for things over a long period of time, like an annual insurance payment, or Christmas gifts.

Anyway, about a year or so ago, I signed up for Mint.com, which is kind of like Quicken, but online and free. The interface was good, but this was at the height of my enthusiasm for Mvelopes, and since Mint.com was mainly about seeing how you’d already spent your money, I didn’t spend much time on it.

Fast forward twelve months and Mint.com is starting to look a lot better. It’s got more robust budgeting features, some amazing graphing, trend analysis, automatic transaction categorization, and best of all, it’s all free. But at the end of the day, it still feels more geared towards tracking the money you’ve already spent than helping you spend correctly in the future.

So should I switch? I’m not sure. I really like the envelope budgeting method, but if the interface is so horrible and painful to use that I won’t do it, it’s not really giving me much benefit. If Mint.com would just add something close to the envelope method of budgeting, I would be a customer for life. I’d gladly fork over $10 / month to never have to log into Mvelopes.com again.

I’m going to get Mint.com all setup and rocking for the rest of this month. In two weeks, I’ll evaluate where I’m at and post a status update. If it’s working well for me, I’ll stick with it and cancel Mvelopes. If anyone has found any other alternatives, I’d love to hear about them :-)

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17 Responses to “Mint.com vs. Mvelopes.com: which should I use?”

  1. Weekend Edition VII: Links of the Week…

    Here are a few interesting articles and videos that I’ve collected over the past week….

  2. Matt says:

    mvelopes is such a huge steaming pile of crap. I used it for about 3 months and finally gave up. After several chat sessions with their online help and untold hours of managing my account I finally gave up.

    - Keep in mind that I am a business owner and have been for the last 5 years. My business did 1/2 a million in sales every year and I did all of the accounting. So I am not a dunce when it comes to accounting.

    Their interface is junk and it does not take into account how people actually work. Their importer regularly misses transactions from credit cards and banks and the only way to add them will require a session with tech support every time because it is so confusing and counterintuitive. It routinely took me 6+ hours to reconcile my account at the end of the month! I did not spend that much time reconciling accounts and sending out payroll at my business and we did thousands of transactions per month!!!

    For software that purports to save you money they do not take into account the endless hours you will pour into making their software provide basic functionality.

    You are much better off saving your money and spending cash.

  3. Amanda says:

    I have been using mvelopes for a year and a half and am a HUGE fan. I do agree that their software needs some improvement but the overall concept is perfect–planning where your money is going before you spend it and being able to track exactly how much is left. That way you know if you can truly afford to make a purchase from that category. When you are spending without knowing your exact status against your budget you can only see where you succeeded and failed after it is already done instead of being able to make smart choices beforehand. I would recommend it to anyone!!

    • George Love says:

      I'm a huge fan as well but I do check it regularly and the mobile app makes it much more useful. I'm able to make much better spending decisions. However, I recommended it to my employees, some of them tried it but they all gave up and I will say that it was initially painful to move to a more controlled way of spending. Bottom line, my financial anxiety stays low, I've built up a significant cash reserve, and in two years I'll have all my student loans paid off. Though I will admit, I was checking mint to see how well it compared and it doesn't seem to have the envelope function for future spending, that we both seem to appreciate.:-)

  4. Brett says:

    Ryan,

    have you tried NeoBudget? i just stumbled across it today and don't know if i want to try it or not…

    http://www.neobudget.com

    thanks

  5. Luke says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I'm the guy who created NeoBudget (that Brett suggested you try). I created it as an alternative to Mvelopes, because in my opinion it's way too expensive. NeoBudget is just $2.50/month. Check it out for a free 7-day trial: http://www.neobudget.com

    Luke

  6. KD says:

    Nice post…

    but I am more adicted to manageME as with the help of this web application I can track my expenses anywhere,anytime.

    I have bookmarked its upcoming enhanced version http://www.manageme7.com/

  7. Mike says:

    Luke,

    You should sell NeoBudget to Mint.com! It would be the perfect marriage of two great products. In the meantime, neo-budget is a great program – but if Mint.com were to incorporate all the main features of neobudget with the ease of Mint's interface, and the ability to manually enter (and then reconcile transactions) – it'd be game over.

    Until that happens I highly recommend NeoBudget. It's cheap, fast, and effective.

  8. Lee says:

    Mint is definitely the best, but i was also trying – perfios.com (http://www.perfios.com) check it out – Perfios is for anyone who wishes to solve the problem of managing wealth distributed among various asset classes and among various institutions. If you have bank accounts, credit cards, Mutual Funds, Equity etc with multiple institutions, how often have you felt that – ‘what if all of this could be accessed at one place?’ Perfios addresses exactly this aspect (and more!) and provides access across asset classes on one platform.

  9. Brenda says:

    Oh my god! I'm not alone. I was starting to think I was an imbecile not being able to use mvelopes. Exact same problems: my bank and mvelopes don't always play well together, and I spend more time figuring out where to put the New Transactions than actually paying my bills. And because I dread logging on, the transactions stack up. But not all of it is mvelopes' fault. A lot of transactions come through with only an address, so I have to do some sleuthing to figure out what they were for. Another problem is my teen daughter has a pre-paid charge card that we fill as we go. She will go to the grocery store for me, call for me to add money to her card, then make the purchase. The problem is those transactions all come through mvelopes as generic transfers.

  10. TJ says:

    It's consoling to hear that others have the same problem with mvelopes. I've been using it for a year now and while I tolerate it, I hate it…but I love it because it is the perfect solution for me…at least in theory.

    It does what I want- downloads the many daily transactions that I make, leaves them for ME to categorize, and of course the key to the whole thing- Uses Envelopes as the budgeting technique.

    Having said that, the interface is horrible, it's buggy and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone…and I'm still paying for it!

    After using an envelope based budget though I could never go back to the "spend from your checkbook balance" method.

  11. BN says:

    I am really surprised at all of the negative comments regarding Mvelopes. My husband and I have been using it for almost 5 years and would never go back! We have helped over 20 friends and family set up an account with Mvelopes over the years and have never heard a complaint (with the exception of the occasional stressfulness when they have ignored it for over a week and are overwhelmed with catching up). The envelope method of budgeting has helped my husband and I plan for so many spending categories in our lives that many people ignore, and since we have those spending categories funded each paycheck, we have a surplus of cash sitting in our interest bearing checking account making money for us on a regular basis. Even though Mvelopes may cost $7-8 a month. I can honestly say, my husband and I make close to $100/month now that we are saving money effectively, know where are money is going, planning and using interest and rewards points in a way we never imagined. I will agree that Mvelopes is lacking the pretty graphs, speed, alerts, etc, but unless those items are going to make me even MORE money if I switch to mint.com or something else, I am an Mvelopes user until the end!!!

  12. Galen says:

    Yea, I too am surprised about how many people hate mvelopes. I've been using if for a few years, and don't know what I'd do without it. Although I will be the first to admit that it is a little slow and clunky.

    For those of you promoting neobudget, manageme, and perfios–you have to understand something:

    You're not really in the game (at least with me) if your software doesn't perform 2 very important functions (that mvelopes does):

    1. Import transactions automatically (and no, uploading a bank statement is not acceptable–I want to know what's happening in my budget NOW, not at the end of the month after it's too late to do anything about it).

    2. Provide true envelope budgeting. If all your software does is aggregate all your accounts in one place, who cares? There are probably 1,000 different websites and software packages out there that do this, so you're not really that special.

    I think a lot of people do not understand what envelope budgeting really is. They think that being able to classify transactions is "envelope budgeting." Sorry, not true. Envelope budgeting is pre-allocating income into envelopes so that at any time in the month, you know exactly what your spendable balance is in given "envelope" and allow that to influence your present spending decisions.

    Mint is impressive in that it seems to be developing very quickly. I would not be surprised if it would provide envelope budgeting in the near future. Mvelope hasn't changed much for years–and that kinda annoys me. Unless your platform is constantly improving and growing, you might as well get out of the game.

    Mvelopes may be clunky and slow, but I'm still a loyal customer because no other software can rival it's key features.

    • James says:

      I'm not a salesman, I promise:-) With that out of the way, I saw your comment that you like that your transactions import automatically. I liked that too, and it was a bit of a nuisance at first, but I have gotten used to just entering stuff in (it helps to have an app that lets you do that) and syncing it onto my computer using You Need A Budget (YNAB). In a way, it's got more features (I think) than Mvelopes, and it's a one-time payment for the software ($60) instead of a monthly payment that can add up pretty quickly. Check it out – I switched after using Mvelopes for about 2 years. http://www.youneedabudget.com

      They actually explain (though I discovered it first) that:

      "We do not directly connect with your bank, log in with your username and password, and download transactions for you. That kills awareness and promotes a “set it and forget it” mentality that lets you not revisit your budget for months, leaving you right back where you started. We’ll import downloaded transactions (OFX, QFX, QIF) to make sure you’ve captured every transaction, but bank importation should not be the primary means of entering data into YNAB. (Use your phone and record it as the transaction happens, or make entering receipts a 5-minute daily ritual. Your money will thank you for it. Promise.)"

  13. Barry says:

    i have used Mvelopes for about 3 years and it has it problems but they have been worked out easily with tech help and i can see at any moment how much money i have in each budget account! And I can set up new accounts to save into as needed. i save so much more now as i can watch my spending and my savings. There is also a way to get life membership at a great cost! You just need to ask about it.

  14. Twotalentguy says:

    I used Microsoft Excel as my first budgeting tool, though it was more of a money tracker. Then I switched to Mvelopes, and I loved it… Then, I (somehow) found You Need A Budget (YNAB). It's a one-time payment for the software ($60), and it *is* manual. It does not automatically sync your bank to the computer or device… However, it is noticeably better than Mvelopes due simply the ease of use along. And on top of that, it's just nicer to use overall. I like the app better than the Mvelopes app, too. Not to mention that the one-time $60 would only get you about 6 months with Mvelopes… I have absolutely no plans of switching back to Mvelopes after using this:-) http://www.youneedabudget.com

  15. Tim Mangan says:

    I have used mvelopes for two years. While it does have it false, it failings pale in comparison to MINT. Mint is terrible. Duplicate transactions run rampant. I will stick with mvelopes for lack of better choice.

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