1. Computing

A First Look at Mvelopes Online Budgeting App

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The toolbar in mvelopes makes it easy to use the online application to budget.

Mvelopes Toolbar

Finicity Corporation
09/15/2011
This is a short review based on my first impression, for a full, detailed review, see my Full Mvelopes Review with suggestions for who should use this online software app.
Mvelopes is a subscription-based online personal finance and budgeting software application. Subscription prices are noted at the bottom of this first look review, and subscriptions include extras like online bill pay services for up to 15 bills, free support via chat and email, video tutorials, and tracking for checking, savings, credit card, retirement accounts, investment accounts, mortgages and auto loans. Sign up at the Mvelopes web site to try the app.

Setting Up Mvelopes

I give Mvelopes kudos for an easy set up. The Account Set Up Wizard takes you through adding financial accounts, bills, and setting up envelopes which are the budget categories. The wizard has time estimates for setting up each of these areas, and if you get part way through the set up and need to log off, your changes are saved. The time estimates for setting up are probably averages. It took me twice as long to set up a spending plan as Mvelopes said it would.

Download Automatically, Or Not

Once you have accounts set up on Mvelopes, your transactions will always download automatically so you don't have to enter them. From there, you categorize transactions for budgeting purposes by dragging and dropping them to one of your budget envelopes. Mvelopes imports transactions from over 14,000 financial intuitions. For those who are not comfortable with an online app doing automatic financial transaction downloads, you can elect not to allow Mvelopes to save user IDs and passwords for your banks and other financial institutions, and you can enter these log in credentials manually whenever you want to download transactions and update accounts.

Getting Around

I like the Mvelopes interface especially because once you start using the app, everything you need to manage your budget is at your fingertips. The toolbar at the top of the screen lets you click once to get access to features like the spending plan, bill pay, reports, the envelope funding window where you tell Mvelopes how to distribute income across your budget. There are also support option buttons.

Your income cash pool envelope and collapsible budget/spending envelopes are located on the left, along with spending account balances and tools for credit card payments and account transactions. At the top of this bar, you'll find options for creating, editing and deleting envelopes, and a tool for transferring money between envelopes. There is also a link to a Sweep feature, which I'll cover in the full review later.

Notable Features

  • A debt calculator is included in the spending plan set up so you can track debt you want to pay down. This calculator is also accessible from the Tools menu at the top of the page in Mvelopes.
  • Support includes message boards, FAQs, tutorials, and an online help manual in addition to access to support reps via chat or email. Use chat for the fastest response.
  • Easy to read and thoughtfully-formatted financial reports with output to a browser window, a PDF that can be saved or emailed, or to a format that's usable by Excel or other spreadsheets.
  • iPhone and Android apps.
  • Multiple users can log into Mvelopes at once. So, if you're working in Mvelopes at home, your significant other can use the mobile app to check some budget number while out shopping at the same time.

Shockwave Issues

Unfortunately, I had trouble with two browsers during the set up phase of using Mvelopes. After entering information into the set up for a few minutes, Adobe Shockwave crashed in Chrome and the Set Up Wizard would just hang up and do nothing in Firefox. I tried restarting these browsers with the same results, then submitted a support ticket. In a couple of hours I had an answer, but part of it was probably too technical for most home users: if I was running Windows 64 bit, a 32 bit application would crash. I've asked for clarification to this question while providing more information about my system and will report back in my full review on the sufficiency of the final answer. In the meantime, I am running Mvelopes in my least-favorite browser, Internet Explorer (64 bit).

Important Privacy Advice

Mvelopes uses the same strong security that banks do, but always log out and close the window when you leave your computer. Mvelopes will automatically log you out and ask you to log in again when you return, but the last screen you were on while in the app stays up. So, if someone walks by your computer or tries to use it, they may see all of your account balances and your budget or other personal financial information.

Mvelopes Pricing

Mvelopes comes with a 14-day free trial, but you are required to enter your credit card information while registering a new account. To avoid being charged, you need to cancel your subscription in 14 days. I suggest canceling in 13 days if you don't want to use Mvelopes beyond the trial period, and note the name of the person who cancels the account for you along with any other details. I have no reason to expect there to be any problem with canceling the account, I just like to err on the safe side with this kind of set up.

You can sign up at the Mvelopes web site, and below are Mvelopes' subscription plans. These plans renew automatically each year, so if you want to stop using the software you will need to get in touch with customer support to avoid the auto-charge. I haven't verified this yet, but I suspect that Mvelopes does not offer pro-rated refunds should you cancel.

  • 2 Year Plan: $189.60 ($7.90 per month)
  • 1 Year Plan: $129.60 ($10.80 per month)
  • Quarterly Plan: $39.60 ($13.20 per month)

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