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 🙂