Many moons ago, when I was but a wee freshman in high school, the school district I attended decided to add a “life skills” requirement to our course load. The big attraction for many of us students was that it incorporated sex ed, but it also instructed us in potentially useful talents, such as budgeting. Not surprisingly, I aced the sex ed component of the course, but my performance in the finance & budgeting categories was less than stellar. Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone in my disregard for financial enlightenment. Fully 36% of Americans report that they do not use a budget to manage their family’s expenses, according to Consumer-Action.org. (I personally suspect that this percentage is much higher, based on my observations. This deficit in basic financial planning isn’t limited to the less-educated, either. I know several college-educated people that don’t understand basic household budgeting.)
Conceptually, I understand budgeting and would like to utilize it in the traditional sense. If I dealt in cash, I think the envelopes method would work well for me. (In the envelopes method, cash is divided up into several paper envelopes set aside for certain categories, such as groceries, entertainment, utilities, etc. Money is then spent from the envelopes, making it much easier to know exactly how much money is left for any given “category.” ) My almost exclusive use of cards makes this method impractical for me, though. (I realized yesterday just how infrequently I deal in cash when I remarked to the grocery checker that one of the tens I had must be a new design. Not so, he told me – that design had been around for at least six months. )
I’ve tried using Microsoft Money, but I find their tools to be cumbersome, as the information is compared against the budget after the money is spent. What I need is something that will help me not spend money that’s been earmarked for something else. That’s why Mvelopes sounds pretty appealing.
Mvelopes brings the traditional envelope method online, allowing one to designate money from their funding account to “envelope” spending accounts. They also offer transaction retrieval from over 11,000 financial institution and free online bill pay for up to 15 bills. (Additional bills are .50 each.)
A 30-day trial is offered, but it requires that you provide your billing information beforehand, which I typically don’t mind since most places offer a monthly plan. However, the shortest term available from Mvelopes is quarterly, at $39.60 (US) per payment. Other billing options include the two-year plan at $189.60 (US) and annually at $129.60 (US).