Mint and Mvelopes Personal are two popular personal finance software programs available on the internet today. I’m always on the look out for tools to help people manage their finances better and I think both of these applications are in the top tier of the list.
Personally, you’ll usually find me recommending Mvelopes because of its unique design around the envelope budgeting concept. Envelope budgeting is a proven method that works well for planning and controlling monthly expenses.
Mint has brought a new perspective to personal finance software. Mint helps find you ways to save money by “comparing your needs to product, bank or service offerings” (as mentioned on their website).
Differences between Mint and Mvelopes
I’ve always been curious about the differences between the two products. In the past I haven’t considered Mint seriously because it didn’t have budgeting capabilities. They have not implemented a budget module in the product.
[box type="info"]Update: I now have written two comprehensive reviews for both Mvelopes and Mint. Be sure to read them to get more information about these two products.[/box]
To learn more I signed up for my free account with Mint and also reached out to my Twitter network to see if anyone had experience using both products. Wojciech at Fiscal Fizzle immediately sent me a reply message letting me know he’s used both of them and would be willing to help answer some of my questions.
So, without further ado, here are Wojciech’s responses to my questions about Mvelopes and Mint.
Mvelopes is known for automating envelope budgeting, does Mint have a similar capability or budgeting feature?
Mint does feature a budgeting module, and you can set it up to “roll over” from month to month, which is kind of like having an envelope, especially for irregular transactions. However, this is still a “traditional” budget setup, where you set an upper limit, not a $0 limit. It’s a small distinction, but I believe it makes a big psychological difference.
Mvelopes takes my bank account balance and tells me what job each dollar has, including regular expenses like loan payments or rent. Mint tells me how much I can spend in each category (usually discretionary expenses are what most people set up), without considering the whole picture.
Note from Jason: I think the $0 budget is important in avoiding over spending and staying on track with savings, debt reduction, etc. For those who don’t know, a $0 budget means you find a purpose for every dollar each month and balance your income and expenses.
Favorite Feature Comparison
What is your favorite feature of Mint that Mvelopes doesn’t have? What is your favorite feature of Mvelopes that Mint doesn’t have?
My favorite Mint feature is alerts – I get weekly summaries of my activity, as well as large deposit and withdrawal alerts. My favorite Mvelopes feature is the program’s automatic ability to set aside money whenever I charge something on my credit card to pay it off at the end of the month.
[box type="info"]Use Mint to manage your budget[/box]
Note from Jason: I noticed there are a lot of different alert options with Mint which I think could be quite handy for staying on top of your finances. Examples include bill reminders, low balance reminders and unusual spending notifications.
Social networking or the ability to learn from or leverage cost savings from others has become a feature in some products today. How do you think that either product provides these benefits?
Mvelopes is starting to develop some social features – currently, they have a blog that showcases “success stories” and tips, and a Twitter account. Mvelopes also has forums for interacting with other users and getting help, “groups,” where people with similar goals can join together, and “mentor” forums, where individuals of specific expertise can help you. All of these are mostly in their infancy, so their potential is just getting developed.
Mint also has a blog with some very useful tip-based posts, which is something Mvelopes is only starting to incorporate. They are also starting to leverage social networking intra-software, by providing features like comparisons to “average US spending” when budgeting. They’ve also made finances “fun” by integrating a point system for doing certain things with your money, although some of those clearly benefit Mint financially via affiliate income.
Note from Jason: I’ve become a regular follower of Mint’s blog which produces great personal finance content. I think Mint is well ahead of Mvelopes when it comes to incorporating social networking into their product and website. I would like to see Mvelopes make a stronger move in this area since there is real value in learning from and interacting with others.
Care to share which one you use today and why?
90% of our financials are currently done in Mvelopes. Prior to this year, I used desktop Quicken almost exclusively, but felt that it was inadequate in preparing us for irregular expenses and motivating us to save for various goals. Now, we have issues with neither, and we also don’t argue about money as much as we used to. It’s no longer any one person’s decision whether we “can” or “cannot” buy something – if the money’s not in that specific envelope, it’s not available. The peace of mind in knowing that everything that needs to be there will be there when I need it (or by how much we’re short) is incredible.
The other 10% of my time is spent in Mint, mostly looking at overall net worth and investment performance, as well as reading their blog.
Note from Jason: I agree that having a set of envelopes and their associated balances helps when it comes to talking about money with your spouse. This is the heart of our money meeting conversation each week.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Many people shy away from pay-based tools like Mvelopes because we expect almost everything to be free these days. I can tell you that there’s no free lunch – even Mint uses affiliate-based “suggestions” that drive me nuts. The money we pay for Mvelopes has paid itself off ten-fold.
Whether or not you use Mint or Mvelopes, I hope you’ll find some of this information helpful in your use of either product, or perhaps in your decision to use one of them. As I mentioned, I signed up to test drive Mint a little bit. I’ll continue to explore this product and perhaps provide a review of my findings and what I’ve learned in a future post. But for now I’m planning to continue using Mvelopes as my primary personal finance software tool.
I recommend signing up for the free trial to create test envelopes and transactions to better understand how the software works and to make sure it’s a fit for you.
What about you? Have you had experience with either Mint or Mvelopes? If so, feel free to share answers to any of the same questions I asked Wojciech with readers in the comments.
Special thanks to Wojciech!
Wojciech Kulicki is the blogger behind Fiscal Fizzle, a personal finance blog that emphasizes sound principles, simplicity, critical thinking, and money paradigms. Wojciech likes to show you money in new and unique ways. Follow him via RSS or Twitter!