I’ve been using Mvelopes as a budgeting and financial tracking system for many years! And, I’m a fan of the concept, but the actual software has been a hot-mess, pretty much since I joined. The old v4 Flash based UI is still in use today due to all the issues in v5; I mean, really? Flash and/or Silverlight UIs were soo 2008! And Silverlight was already going the way of the Dodo by 2015.

But, I digress, Finicity did finally build Mvelopes v5 as a pure Javascript (SPA) application. And I was truly excited…. but truly let down!

Mvelopes v5 has been such a let-down:

Finicity dropped the ball on v5 in more ways than I can count . . . occasionally I wonder how they stayed in business through this transition; but then I realize that the product team & development team definitely are not under-payed, they’re probably compensated appropriately:

  • The app was slow and buggy; still plagued with memory leaks.
    • I, still to this day, have to hit F5 to reload after dragging/dropping 10+ transactions.
    • The Planning -> Income panel has randomly forgotten or lost my income amounts and payment dates on multiple occasions.
    • Making a change to any income amount (Planning -> Income) causes ALL related funding plan details, from that income, to be deleted without warning; click over to the Monthly Funding tab and lots of data is just gone.
  • What’s that error about 24 characters? You won’t let me type more than 24 characters into any Title or Description field anymore?
    • This one item drives me crazier than ANYTHING! Hardly any useful titles can be put into a paltry 24 character field!
  • Mvelopes v5 is still missing TONS of features… its not even remotely close to having feature parity with v4.
    • Not that most of v4 features worked all that well, but I was able to make it work for me.
  • The UI initially looks nice but has far too much white-space waste and blocky areas that requires consistent and unnecessary scrolling – some parts of the UI only use a fraction of the area available and just feels unnecessarily constrained.
    • I’m rocking a 30” monitor, I imagine that it’s far less usable on smaller monitors.
  • The Mobile App has limited use, and takes much too long to launch, login, scroll+click, to find the Mvelope of interest.
    • There is just too much friction in the user experience to serve the primary purpose of helping you pro-actively know the status of a budget item prior to making a purchase (e.g. while waiting in line, or about to drive there in your car, etc.)
  • They FORCED users to migrate with an awful migration plan that broke more times than it worked.
    • Eventually I think they let people revert back . . . but umm, yeah all data changes since the migration are lost – not worth it for me.
  • And, core features for importing transactions just never got better – in today’s world, two-factor authentication is not optional, and their support for it is abysmal.
    • For my own accounts it fails to import transactions about 4 out of 5 times.
    • Ok it’s a little better after the first 6-12 months or so, but it still works only 3 out of 5 times.
  • Did I mention they still don’t have feature Parity yet as of July 2020 (beta launched in Feb. 2018)?

I say all of this because, I’m not alone in wanting to find a better alternative! But, I’ve struggled with the idea of starting over, though I think I’ve finally gotten over the friction of “oh man I’ve got to re-budget all over again”. To the point that I’m now at, “oh man, if I can find a working solution and just invest the time once, then maybe I can stop dreading (and start enjoying) my budget balancing days again!”

So what’s a good budgeting platform look like for me?

I had casually investigated alternatives before, and of course Mint was always an option, but it never met my goals for a budgeting app because it didn’t offer the pro-active elements that make a budgeting platform truly valuable. Even though it’s free, I would be just as happy with some of my own advanced Google Sheets/Excel spreadsheets for the same (free) price. There are many other great blogs and videos comparing Mint to various other budgeting platform options, so I’ll leave that to you to follow up on.

For me, these are some of the core capabilities that a budgeting platform needs to provide for me, and I’m happy and willing to pay for it:

  • Provide direct importing of all transactions from linked accounts
    • This needs to work consistently. I don’t mind troubleshooting 1 out of 5 times, but any more and I’m more annoyed and now already losing efficiency.
  • Provide an easy & efficient way to allocate these transactions to my budget (e.g. help me finish, and don’t annoy me while doing it)
    • Memory leaks that force me to refresh my browser to keep working disqualifiees Mvelopes from being easy or efficient.
  • Allow me to control how many budget items and how granular I want to manage my budget.
    • Why so much scrolling Mvelopes?
  • Help me track expenses and costs of a spicific budget item over time (e.g. Coffee Budget) so that I can look back on it retrospectively.
    • This is extremely useful for reflecting on things like Vacation costs that we budget for individually and want to reflect on later.
  • Help me pro-actively keep my costs in check; I need to be able to see, quickly/easily, anytime a budget item is at risk or over budget for a month.
    • A tangential benefit/need here is also to quickly help me identify any risky/fraudulent/incorrect charges to any of my accounts.
      • Because in today’s world this has & will happen eventually.
  • Allow me to search through all my transactions to efficiently find very specific purchases to review.
  • And finally let me Export my transactions and budget details.
    • Because everything should be backed-up, and I want to have a copy of my own data.

A system that empowers me to be productive with my budget, helps me pro-actively stay on track for long term savings goals, and makes the process tolerable (or maybe even enjoyable) is worth paying for!

You Need a Budget (YNAB) looks very promising!

So, for a long time I didn’t think there were many alternatives that met my key goals for a great budgeting platform. But, it appears that I may have been mistaken as new research has shown (driven by my now maxxed-out frustration with Mvelopes):

The first search result here, immediately gave me more hope than I’d had before. And, after several days of research, pondering, and taking in the concepts (mainly from Youtube) I realized that YNAB has a solid following, and seems very interested in publishing really good and helpful information for it’s users. Plus, if you watch Hannah, it’s pretty much impossible to not be convinced that YNAB might just change your life (she’s really a great entertainer)!

So, there you have it, I’m inspired to leave Mvelopes and try something better . . . crossing my fingers that the something better is YNAB.

And that’s the inspiration for this series of posts: