Mvelopes Review: 5 Things To Know About the Budgeting Tool

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If you’re thinking about trying out a budgeting app, Mvelopes is one option to consider.

In this article, I’ll take a close look at five things to know about Mvelopes before you download the app or visit the website. 

I set up a budget on Mvelopes, checked out the resources it offers and compared it to other online budgeting tools. 

5 Things To Know About Mvelopes

Whether you’re trying to watch your spending or meet financial goals, budgeting is a crucial step. It’s important to know how you’re spending your money each month in order to determine areas where you can save. While you can set up a budget on your own, there are tons of budgeting apps and websites that can help make the process more convenient. Mvelopes is one to consider.

You can download the Mvelopes app for iPhone or Android or visit the website to begin. Unfortunately, the app isn’t free to use. A basic subscription costs $5.97/month or $69/year, a Premier subscription costs $9.97/month or $99/year, and a plus subscription costs $19.97/month or $199/year. Still, you can try out a Premier subscription membership for free for the first 30 days.

If you’re thinking about downloading the Mvelopes app, here are five things to know: 

Below, you’ll find more detailed information on Mvelopes including how to start budgeting for free and what to expect once you’ve created an account.

What Is Mvelopes?

Mvelopes is a personal finance app and website that bring an updated twist to the classic cash envelope budgeting method. Its goal is to help you manage your money better by helping you manage your spending. 

Mvelopes stands apart from competitors like Mint, Personal Capital, YNAB and PocketGuard by encouraging users to manage money before and after they spend it.

You can link your bank accounts to the app as well as manually enter your cash budget. Then, you can assign any available money to various “envelopes” assigned to categories such as bills or personal spending. Then, as you make transactions, they’ll appear on the homepage of Mvelopes for you to assign to the appropriate envelope. Once you do, the remaining available amount is adjusted just like taking cash out of a physical envelope! 

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You can also add your income, create and save budgets, track all of your spending and see all of your accounts/available money in one place. What’s great about Mvelopes is that it doesn’t automatically create budgets that need adjusting or automatically/incorrectly categorize your transactions. Instead, you’ll have to determine where you want your money to go and which envelope it’s pulled from each time you spend.

How Does Mvelopes Work?

Mvelopes works by having you link all of your checking, credit and savings accounts. According to the website, your data is secured with SSL/TLS encryption, which is the same level of security as that of major banks. The app also encourages users to set up a PIN code and additional security layers, so it’s safe to link your accounts. 

Once you’ve linked your accounts, Mvelopes will encourage you to begin assigning your available money to pre-set envelopes. Then, you’ll be able to add your income and set up your budget, and Mvelopes can help you stick to it.

Getting Started

To get started, visit Mvelopes’ website or download the app for iPhone or Android. When I tried out Mvelopes, I downloaded the iPhone app to create my account and set up my budget. After I did that, I logged in online. The website had a few differences from the app, but all of the same features were available online. In fact, the website had a “Reports” tab that I didn’t see on the app which provided a more in-depth look at balances and spending. 

If you’re just signing up, you can easily use either the website or app. To create your account, you’ll have to enter your first and last name, email address, and create a username and password. Then, click “create account” to get started. 

Unfortunately, Mvelopes isn’t free, and you’ll have to choose a membership plan to begin. The basic subscription includes everything you’ll need including unlimited envelopes, unlimited linked accounts, automatic transaction importing and account balance monitoring, live chat support and interactive reports. However, it’s the “Premier” plans that offers a one-month free trial. For this reason, I recommend selecting the Premier plan to begin with and then dropping down to the basic plan if you decide to keep the app.

Next, you do have to enter a payment method for any level of subscription. If you get the basic plan, you’ll be charged automatically. If you choose the Premier plan, you’ll have one month free to try it out before the subscription automatically renews. 

Once you’re subscribed and signed in, you’ll be able to set security settings including a PIN, username and password, automatic login settings and Face ID. After you set up your app security, you’ll be able to link the information from your financial institutions. This allows you to allocate funds and track your spending in the app. 

Mvelopes app: linking your financial institution

You can add an online account by selecting your bank or financial institution and logging in with your username and password. You can also add an offline account to track cash spending or to manually enter transactions. 

Once you’ve linked at least one account, you’ll be able to fund your envelopes. The app includes default envelopes divided into sections such as bills, everyday, giving, goals, periodic expenses and system envelopes. The envelopes themselves include everything from auto insurance to eating out to a $1000 emergency fund. You’ll be able to designate how much money you’d like to digitally place in each envelope for the month. Once you do, the total will come out of your “unallocated money” envelope. 

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Funding your envelopes on Mvelopes

I loved that Mvelopes didn’t automatically try to guess at my budget or income and instead asked me to assign each dollar. This saved a lot of time because I didn’t have to re-categorize old transactions or check to make sure the app didn’t make any mistakes. Instead, I assigned each available dollar to a category as soon as I linked an account. 

How To Set Up Your Budget

Once you’ve taken care of the money you currently have available, you can go ahead and set up your actual monthly budget. Click the three menu lines in the top-left corner of the app and click “Adjust Income” to begin.

Mvelopes' app menu

In this tab, you’ll be able to add any upcoming income you’re expecting. This step is required before setting up your budget so that you know how much “cash” you have to put in your “envelopes.” You’ll have to enter a name, amount, pay period and pay day for each source of income.

Once you enter your income, you can click over to the “Adjust Budget” tab to really begin utilizing the best features of the app. In this tab, you can assign money you haven’t spent yet to any existing envelopes. You can also click the three dots in the upper-right corner to add a new envelope.

Adjusting your budget in Mvelopes

Mvelopes encourages zero-balance budgeting, which means you should assign every available dollar to a category. You shouldn’t have any unassigned money left over. Once you’ve reached a zero balance for the upcoming month, you can save your budget. 

How To Stick to Your Budget

Mvelopes’ goal is to work like a traditional cash-envelope budget system. By assigning each dollar to an envelope, you can easily see how much money you have available in each category. Once that envelope’s balance reaches zero, that’s it for the month.

As you make transactions with cards from linked accounts, they’ll show up on the homepage of the app. This is your inbox, which displays any action items that need your attention like assigning transactions. You’ll see the transaction, the financial institution it’s associated with and the amount. You can swipe the transaction to assign it to an envelope.

Categorizing transactions to fit in your envelope budget

Once you choose an envelope for the transaction, the total amount available in that envelope will be adjusted. You can also add a cash transaction by clicking the three dots in the upper-right-hand corner of the app from the “Inbox” or “Pending” tabs. Then, you can click the “+” symbol to add a cash transaction. 

At any point, you can click the “Envelopes” tab from the menu to see your current envelopes and how much money is available in each. You should check this before making a purchase so that you know how much money is available in the appropriate envelope. Just like a traditional cash-envelope budget, you keep in mind that when an envelope is empty, there’s no money available to continue spending.

If you’re motivated by progress, I recommend logging in to Mvelopes’ website at least once a month after you get started and clicking on the “Reports” tab. There you’ll find a more in-depth look at your envelope balances, spending, funding, budgeting and a breakdown of your recent transactions. 

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How Does Mvelopes Compare?

Compared to other personal finance apps I’ve tried, I found Mvelopes to be one of the best for a hands-on approach to budgeting. The initial setup wasn’t as much of a pain as it was with some competitor apps, and Mvelopes encourages you to take total control over where your money is going. 

Still, Mvelopes is far from the only personal budgeting tool available. If you’ve been searching for the best budgeting tools, you’ve probably also come across Mint, Personal Capital, YNAB, PocketGuard and Honeydue.

Here’s a quick rundown of the features available with each of these budgeting tools: 

 Mint.comPersonal CapitalYNABPocketGuardMvelopesHoneydue
Best forTracking expensesInvestmentsBudgetingAvoiding overspendingHands-on budgetingBudgeting with a Partner
Free to useYesYesNoYesNoYes
Ad-supportedYesYesNoYesNoNo
Track spendingYesYesYesYesYesYes
Monthly budget plannerYesYesYesYesYesYes
Bill payment alertsYesYesNoYesNoYes
Free credit scoreYesNoNoNoNoNo
Retirement plannerNoYesNoNoNoNo
Investment trackingYesYesNoNoNoNo

As you can see, all five budgeting apps offer a variety of different features that can help you track your spending to build a practical budget. But each specializes in different areas of your finances. 

Money expert Clark Howard is a fan of Mint and says it’s great for tracking your expenses. If you’re looking for a totally free budgeting app, Mint may be a great choice to try first.

If you’re mostly focused on watching your investments or planning for retirement, Personal Capital will likely be a better budgeting tool for you. 

Unlike Mvelopes, PocketGuard automatically sets up a budget for you and categorizes your transactions in real time. If you’re very busy and need these automated features, PocketGuard may be a great choice for you. 

If you’re looking for a free budgeting app to manage your finances with a partner, Honeydue is a great app to check out.

YNAB is the only other budgeting app on the list that isn’t free, and it may be worth paying for if you’re an organized person who’s ready to commit to a strict budget. However, if you’re willing to pay for a budgeting app, Mvelopes’ hands-on approach is definitely worth trying out before you decide which one to use. Thankfully, both apps offer a 30-day free trial.

How To Get the Most Out of Mvelopes

If you’re signing up for Mvelopes, there are a few ways that you can set yourself up for success. Here are five tips to keep in mind while using the budgeting app: 

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  1. Link as many accounts as possible. This is the best way for you to take control of all your available money as well as tackle all of your outstanding debts. You’ll have to provide your usernames and passwords for this, but Mvelopes doesn’t store your banking credentials. Instead, it uses an encrypted system to protect your data with bank-level security.
  2. Track cash spending from the app. If you budget with cash, you can track your transactions manually in the Mvelopes app. From your inbox, click the three dots in the upper-right-hand corner and click the “+” symbol to add a cash transaction. 
  3. Be realistic when setting up your budget. Mvelopes doesn’t automatically calculate a budget for you, which means you’ll need to decide how much money goes to each category. Be realistic here in order to set yourself up for success. Also, be open to adjusting your budget for the first couple of months as you start noticing where you can make improvements. 
  4. Categorize your transactions daily. Every time you make a purchase (cash or card), make sure it’s reflected in the appropriate envelope. Each transaction appears in your inbox where you can assign it to a category. 
  5. Create envelopes for savings and emergencies. The app is set up to work just like a traditional cash-envelope system, which means if you want to put money toward a vacation or emergency fund, you’ll need an appropriate envelope. You can create and edit existing envelopes from the app or website and title/fund them appropriately.

Final Thoughts: Pros and Cons

Budgeting is essential if you’re serious about reaching your financial goals, and Mvelopes provides everything you need to stay within your budget. After trying out Mvelopes myself, here are the biggest benefits and drawbacks that I’ve found.

Pros:Cons:
Easy Set Up. You don’t have to spend time categorizing old transactions; instead, you’ll focus on the money you have available and your upcoming income.Price. The app isn’t free to use, which is a major drawback. Still, you can try a 30-day trial of the Premier membership for free. If you like the app, you can purchase a basic membership for $6/month.
Hands-On Approach. You’re completely in charge of your budget and spending: There are no automatic calculations on the app’s part. You’ll have to assign money to an envelope when you receive it and subtract money from an envelope when you spend it.Planning. Mvelopes doesn’t keep track of upcoming bills nor does it remind you to set aside a certain amount of money for savings. You’ll need to remember to do these things yourself and have funded envelopes ready ahead of time.
Cash Tracking. You can track both cash and bank account balances with Mvelopes. Having all of your available funds together in one place allows you to see how much money you truly have available and where it’s actually going throughout the month.Reports. While there are some spending reports available on Mvelopes’ desktop version, the app doesn’t offer a great visual breakdown of your most recent spending. Mvelopes is more focused on current and future spending than past spending. If this is a feature you need to stay motivated, Mvelopes may not be the best option for you.

Compared to other budgeting tools such as Mint, Personal Captial, YNAB, PocketGuard and Honeydue, Mvelopes stands out for its hands-on approach to budgeting and expense tracking. The initial setup is a breeze compared to other apps, but you will have to take more ownership when it comes to setting up your budget and planning for expenses/savings.

After I linked my accounts and set up my budget, Mvelopes wasn’t hard to use. Still, any budgeting app comes with a learning curve. If you already have a free budgeting app or a classic spreadsheet/pen and paper budget that’s working for you, there’s no real reason to switch to Mvelopes. 

I use a simple spreadsheet on Google Sheets that works well for me. After trying out Mvelopes, I’m still going to stick to my spreadsheet. I can treat each category on my spreadsheet as an “envelope,” and I feel like I basically have a free version of the same budgeting tool. For this reason, I couldn’t justify paying $6/month for Mvelopes, but if the app works for you, the basic membership fee could definitely be worth it. 

If your current budget isn’t working out, check out Mvelopes. For more information on how to set up a budget with the app, check out the company’s FAQ page online.

Do you use Mvelopes or another personal finance tool to stay on budget? Tell us about it in the comments below!

More Clark.com Content on Budgeting: 



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