Another Look at Mvelopes

Back in February, I talked about a couple of personal finance programs I had tried: Mvelopes Personal
(completely web-based) and Moneydance (a cross-platform desktop app that’s built in Java). Because there have been some big changes to Mvelopes and our own family situation since February, I thought a rereview was in order.

First up: My family’s renewed value of our time. Back in college, I religiously entered our receipts into Microsoft Money every day, giving us an almost realtime snapshot of our spending habits. Now with a 10 month old, the new house, the new job, fitness goals, and an MBA degree to finish, categorizing bank transactions isn’t exactly on the top of my to-do list anymore. This means that as good as Moneydance is, it never got off the ground because I couldn’t devote the time needed to keep up with our transactions.

Second, In2M introduced version 3.0 of Mvelopes since I last took a look at it. My biggest gripe with Mvelopes was that it was excruciatingly slow and painful to use because it was written completely in JavaScript. From a quick glance, version 3.0 looks pretty much like the version I was used to, but there is one very important difference: Instead of JavaScript, it’s now a “Rich Internet Application” written using Adobe’s Flex. This just means that it’s delivered as Flash in your web browser. For an application like Mvelopes though, it makes all the difference.

Mvelopes now feels and responds like a desktop program, but it’s Internet delivery means that it’s always updated with your latest transactions and account balances. The “net worth” screen is a powerful example, giving us an automatically updated view of our total assets and liabilities. There are a few tasks that aren’t all that intuitive (like doing account to account transfers), but the documentation is thorough, so it doesn’t take very long to learn the steps.

Through this whole process, I learned that the Mvelopes approach is what I was really needed. Looking at our previous spending in Moneydance isn’t very useful if it doesn’t result in a change in future behavior. Mvelopes requires you to think about the tough questions surrounding your money up front, making the actual day-to-day choices relatively painless.

So, I give Mvelopes 3.0 two big thumbs up, and would recommend it to anyone wanting to get a better grasp on their finances.