Best Budgeting Software | Why Mvelopes Won My Heart, But I Still Recommend YNAB

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Let’s start with a boring reminder: there is no best.

When I refer to the best budgeting software, I’m talking about the software that is best for me and my situation.  The closer your habits and preferences mimic mine, the more likely you are to have the same preferences.

Back in 2011, I wrote about the best personal finance software, and I crowned MoneyDance as the King of the software.  Again, in that post I indicated that one of the primary attractions to MoneyDance was its foreign currency feature.  It was also a fully financed package that allowed me to budget as well as track all my investments.

While I still think it’s the best piece of personal finance software, I’m no longer interested in tracking my investments with personal finance software.  Instead, I’m interested in finding the best piece of budgeting software.

The Best Budgeting Software

The two options I seriously considered were: You Need A Budget and Mvelopes.


In the reviews I’ve read, (see Mvelopes Review by One Money Design and my own review of You Need A Budget [version 3] or Bible Money Matters review of YNAB 4) these are the two most commonly used pieces of budgeting software.

Now, this is a good time for disclosure.  I did not purchase a copy of You Need A Budget or Mvelopes.  Both were promotion products given to me at no charge.  The links to Mvelopes and YNAB are affiliate links.

You Need A Budget (YNAB) Vs. Mvelopes

The beauty of these two products is that they are different enough that I think you’ll clearly be able to tell which best fits your preferences and which is the best budgeting software for your needs.

On computer vs. online

  • YNAB is a program you download onto your computer.  All information is stored on your hard drive.
  • Budgeting software is run from a password protected website.  All information is stored online ‘in the cloud’.

For those nervous about information being stored online, YNAB is clearly a better choice.

How information is accessed:

  • With YNAB, users go to their financial institution and download the transactions in a compatible format (OFX, QFX, QIF, or CSV).  After opening YNAB, you import the saved transaction.
  • Mvelopes does all the importing automatically.  When you sign in, your new transactions will automatically appear to be ready to drop into the correct category.

Mobile options:

Both programs have apps for both Android and Apple products.  YNAB has a lite free version and a paid version.  Mvelopes only has the full service free option.

Accounting methods:

  • Once you’ve imported your transactions with YNAB, you simply need to click on the category section and assign the expense to a category.
  • Mvelopes allows you to drag and drop the transaction into the appropriate envelop.  Mvelopes is an online envelop budgeting software.

Both programs have simple ways to see an overview of your budget transactions and history.  The features seem comparable.


Both products can be used on either a Mac or PC.  Interestingly, I have trouble using Mvelopes with Chrome, so when I get into Mvelopes I always do that with FireFox.


  • YNAB costs $60.  One of the nice things about YNAB is that you’re never forced to upgrade.  As new features and new releases are added, you’re always given the option to buy the updated version or keep using what you have.  I know that was my frustration with Quicken – they forced you to upgrade every few years.  The fully functional app is $4.99 through iTunes or Android.
  • Mvelopes has a free version with limited functions:
From Mvelopes chat:
The free version of Mvelopes completely implements the principles of envelope budgeting. It allows you to have up to 25 different budgeting envelopes to help you organize and manage your spending. The Free version of Mvelopes also lets you have as many as four different banking and credit card accounts which automatically record your transactions. You also have access to all of the on-line tutorials and the Mvelopes Support Database which has dozens of guides to help you begin using Mvelopes. Best of all, it’s free – for as long as you want to use your account.
There is also a full paid version which costs $9.95 per month, or $95 per year ($7.92 per month).
Best of all, both programs have a free trial.  YNAB gives you a 34 day fully functional free trial.  Mvelopes allows you to use their free version for as long as you wish, and if you want to upgrade, you can do so at any point.

Final Best Budgeting Software Verdict: Mvelopes

As I disclosed above, cost was not a consideration for me as both products were free because of promotional reason.
I can honestly say you won’t go wrong with either product.  They are both amazingly helpful for keeping a budget.  The best budgeting software depends on your needs and preferences.
Since I collect credit cards like most people collect business cards, the idea of downloading all my accounts to YNAB sounded like no fun.  I love the fact that I can sign into Mvelopes and all my transactions are instantly waiting for me to drag and drop into the appropriate account.  Also, I do 95% of my spending on credit cards, so Mvelopes makes that very easy.  I’m also a fan of envelop budgeting.
The end result is that I’m using Mvelopes and would highly recommend it.
However, if I had to pay for one or the other, there is a good chance that I’d get YNAB because it is a one time cost of $60.  I have a philosophy that I always try the cheaper product first, and if I don’t like it, then I try the more expensive product.
Remember, if you’re not currently keeping a budget or struggling to keep a budget, either of these programs could save you hundreds of dollars a year.  Seriously, $60 or $95 per year is a small price to pay for saving your hard earned money.
To sign up for a free trial of Mvelopes you can click here [affiliate link].
To sign up for a free trial of You Need A Budget you can click here [affiliate link].
What’s your favorite budgeting software?  Do you have any specific thoughts on YNAB or Mvelopes?


  1. Dannette Henning says

    I have not used either Mvelopes or YNAB. I have used Mint – it is free, very basic but has some nice features, it is online and will pull your transactions.

  2. Mary says

    I tried Mvelopes quite a while ago when they only had a paid version, and I ended up purchasing ynab instead because I found mvelopes a bit too hard to get the hang of to make it “work” for me. I love ynab because I need to make it a priority to enter my transactions each day (I prefer entering them by hand rather than importing each day because it does a better job of making me track and “own” what I am spending money on…(that’s just me because I don’t do a good job of tracking without that self-imposed pressure). I love the set-up and feel of ynab. Glad to see mvelopes now has the free version though, may be worth another look! Thanks for your reviews!

    • says

      The beauty of the software is that we’ll each find one that ‘works’ best for us. YNAB is very slick. Every time I open it there is a cleanness and crispness that I really like.
      Thanks for the comment.

  3. Rita says

    Thanks for the links to the budgeting programs. May I also suggest They are out of Canada and the format is in an actual calendar. I like it better than mvelopes because I cannot visualize my due dates as well by line items.

  4. Adrian says

    Keeping expenses under control is very important. And to do that it is mandatory to maintain a monthly budget. I am doing this for a few years already and I say that it pays off. I started first with an excel sheet, later I realize there are free online tools which helps you to do that.

  5. Gordon says

    Thanks for the informative article.

    A quick clarification: You mentioned that YNAB doesn’t force you to upgrade every few years like Quicken. This is a little misleading, because technically Quicken doesn’t force you to upgrade either. The only thing that stops working if you don’t upgrade is the automatic downloading of transactions (and maybe bill pay for people who use that – I don’t). You can ALWAYS continue to use old versions of Quicken if you are willing to download your data manually from your financial institution. So in effect, it is just as functional as YNAB at that point.

    Note: I’m not a huge Quicken fan. In fact, I get super frustrated by it when it does dumb stuff and for its lack of any semblance of a decent budget system (at least in the versions I’ve used). But I try to correct misinformation when I see it.

    • Gordon says

      Please ignore my above comment. I was always under the impression that you could import financial data into old versions of Quicken if you took the time to download them yourself from your financial institution. I think I got this impression because Quicken says the following about what services get discontinued: “Downloading financial data from your bank, credit union, credit card, brokerage, 401(k) or mutual fund accounts.” I took that at face value, and assumed that Quicken would no longer download the QFX (or OFX) files, but that I was free to download them myself and then import them into Quicken.

      Turns out I was dead wrong on that. Apparently Quicken will not import the data after the forced upgrade date, no matter how you come to get the data. It really is a forced upgrade for anything but manual data entry.

  6. Analee says

    Do you know any apps that work in a foreign language (like French)? I would love to use this but everything is in English and I can’t use it here in France.

  7. Aileen says

    I have used mvelopes for years. It took me a while to master it. I’m not very disciplined with my budgeting but I could at least tell if I was overspending and/or going to over draft. I like the envelope feature and have multiple categories. I especially love that the transactions download automatically for all my accounts and that it automatically funds my credit card envelope when I use it so I can pay my balance in full every month confidently.

    Recently I moved to England and had to find a new budgeting system as mvelopes doesn’t support foreign currency

  8. Nicki says

    I appreciate this review and it was one of the first things that came up in google for comparing products. It may be worth revising because now in 2016, there is a new version of YNAB that is online based. You can still get YNAB 4 if you wanted to, but it will only certainly be supported to the same extent through the end of 2016.
    This makes the following things about YNAB and Mvelopes the same:
    Both Budgeting software is run from a password protected website. All information is stored online ‘in the cloud’.
    Mvelopes does all the importing automatically. When you sign in, your new transactions will automatically appear to be ready to drop into the correct category. Now YNAB also makes this feature an option, but it’s your choice as to whether you want it automatically tied to your bank account or not.
    YNAB now works in any browser. I don’t know if the Mvelopes glitches with chrome are fixed, but YNAB online seems to work well on Chrome in my experience so far.
    Paid versions:
    The paid version of Mvelopes may now be a different amount, but for YNAB online it is subscription based for about $5 /month (slightly cheaper if you pay for the whole year upfront). However, while there is still a free trial, there are no “forever free” versions where you have a limited number of accounts. Of course, for me personally, the free version of Mvelopes (if it is still the same) would be far too limited anyways.

    Thanks again for providing a great, easy to follow review of these products!

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