This is the third post in a series of financial software reviews. I reviewed Mint yesterday, and today, I will tackle Mvelopes. With the slogan “The Simple, Smarter Budgeting System”, Mvelopes gives itself a lot to live up to. And Mvelopes delivers.

The Process

Adding an account to Mvelopes is a simple process. Just plug in your information, and Mvelopes takes care of the rest. Setting up your budget is a more involved process, but Mvelopes provides a good tutorial to help you along. Mvelopes makes it easy to budget each paycheck, as long as your paychecks are about the same size every month. I ran into trouble when my husband was paid a base salary plus commission, because I never knew what his commission would look like from month to month. I got around it by budgeting the necessities out of Jim’s base salary and budgeting the variable expenses out of his commission.

When our income became really irregular, due to unemployment checks and various part time income, using the budget feature in Mvelopes was pretty much impossible.

I like that Mvelopes provides tools for balancing your checkbook and online bill pay. It truly is a one stop application for budgeting, tracking spending, and bill pay. Their customer service is also excellent. Anytime I’ve had a problem, a quick call to customer service straightened it out.

If you’re planning on running up credit card debt, Mvelopes is not the program for you. I found out the hard way that running up additional debt is a sure way to screw up the budget you create for yourself in Mvelopes. After doing that, I pretty much had to start over with a new budget.

If you’re trying to pay off your cards, however, and you’re really committed to no new debt, Mvelopes is a great tool. And if you charge purchases and pay them off at the end of the month, Mvelopes also works well. It’s only when you carry a new balance from month to month that things get dicey.

Mvelopes has a pretty steep learning curve when you get started, but once you have it figured out, it’s a powerful program. You can sign up for a 30 day trial to check things out, and 30 days is about the right amount of time to decide whether it will work for you or not.

Pluses and Minuses

The Pros

  • Online, so it’s accessible from any computer.
  • Great customer service.
  • 30 day free trial before you have to pay.
  • Online bill pay.
  • Make your budget before you spend.
  • Reconciling your account is easy.
  • Discourages new debt.

The Cons

  • Cost. It comes to between $6.32 and $10.56 per month, depending on whether you pay quarterly, yearly, or biannually.
  • Steep learning curve.
  • Can be difficult for irregular income.

I’ve used Mvelopes myself for over a year now. The 30 day trial is worth a shot. I’m thinking about switching to another program, solely based on the cost. So far I haven’t found a program that is as thorough as this one, though.

Be sure to stay tuned tomorrow, when I review YNAB!