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Pushing the Mvelope – An App Review

Pushing the Mvelope – An App Review

| April 14, 2017
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Mvelopes offers a digital take on the popular paper money budgeting technique. Divide money into envelopes to create individual budgets for your groceries, bills, entertainment, savings, etc. Once you’ve used the allotted amount in your envelope, you should stop spending in this category. Or, you can decide to transfer money from another envelope. This technique keeps your money organized. It helps you remain attentive, so you don’t spend more than you intend to spend. 

Mvelopes is available for iPhone and Android in the app store and on Google Play. You can also access this budgeting tool online at mvelopes.com. The online version has more features, as noted below.

SECURITY
The software is “Certified Secure” by McAfee. This means that the program is regularly scanned for weaknesses. No malware or phishing has been detected. They have a valid SSL Certificate and certify up to $100,000 of identity protection. The app is given read-only access to your information, and your account login information is never stored.

SETUP
Once you sign up for an Mvelopes account, there is a four-step setup process to get started.

First, you will sync to your credit card and bank accounts – up to four on the free version.

Second, you will be prompted to input your monthly income.

Third, create your budget by divvying up your monthly income into your envelopes. The app pre-fills budget categories based on your previous spending. You may re-allocate funds, delete envelopes, change the names, and drag and drop category groupings. Envelope categories include: bills, everyday expenses (groceries, household items), goals (savings, emergency fund) and periodic expenses (vehicle purchase, HOA dues). This approach to categorizing allows you to budget for a whole year, rather than one month at a time. The annual component is an important feature, not present in the apps I previously reviewed. Each month, you have to create a new budget or or select a previously saved one. If you spend more money on gifts around Christmastime, you can adjust the budgeted amount in your envelopes accordingly. 

Finally, “fund your envelopes.” Transactions from your linked accounts are placed in your app’s inbox. Click on each transaction and assign it to an envelope. If you attempt to assign a charge to an envelope that does not have funds available, you are prompted to “confirm negative balance.” This alerts you that you are exceeding your budgeted limit. In this case, you can either allow the budget to be negative. Or, you can transfer money from another envelope. Negative balances appear in red, which makes them easy to view and promptly address. A short list of “most used” envelopes appears at the top of the page. While you have to manually categorize each transaction, the short list feature makes it quick and easy to classify previous purchases. You may split single transactions into multiple categories. And, upload photos of receipts to help you remember the specifics of a purchase. Cool features!

REPORTING
The online version of Mvelopes offers the ability to generate reports. You can compare envelope spending and funding. You can review current balances by envelope and by account. You can see your net worth over time as well as your spending by month. Save the reports as PDF or CSV files. Note, the reporting feature is not available on the mobile application.

ACCOUNT OPTIONS 
Mvelopes offers three account levels – the free version, Mvelopes Premier and Dojo, which is a one-on-one coaching program. You are required to sign up for a free account before accessing pricing levels for the other two versions.

Another in-app offering is free debt analysis. Once you supply some personal info, you can receive a free, personalized report.

BOTTOM LINE
If you’re looking for a tool to help you get out of debt or to keep your spending in check, Mvelopes may be the app for you. The manual process of allocating funds to your budgets may create awareness and make you more conscious of your spending habits.

Although I like the concept of the envelopes method, Mvelopes is not for me. The account setup process is more cumbersome than that of Penny and Mint. Menu items are not as intuitive. I had to search online to learn how to set up my envelopes. There are a lot of manual processes that are unnecessarily time-consuming. There are a few, small features that I wish I could transfer to Mint and Penny, but all in all, I’m not a big fan of this app.

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