YNAB: The Best Mvelopes Alternative
Almost anyone with an established budgeting habit would tell you that their budget is more than an app or an Excel spreadsheet. Budgeting is a routine, a practice, a plan for the future, a record of the past, an opportunity for growth, a sense of accomplishment, and a bit of control in a world that often feels chaotic.
It’s like a math-based meditation for many.
Okay, we’re admittedly biased (and maybe a little dramatic at times.) It’s possible that budgeting is just another chore for some people, but, regardless, there’s comfort in having a routine.
When Mvelopes, a digital envelope budgeting app, announced that they’d be shutting down their service on 12/29/22, we noticed users on social media, Reddit, and in the YNAB support queue seeking a solution that would support their budgeting needs with as little disruption as possible. And we get it. No one wants the friction of setting up a new system and learning a new process, especially when the change wasn’t their choice.
YNAB isn’t Mvelopes, however, it is an award-winning budgeting tool based on the envelope budgeting method, and we’re confident that you could create a cozy new space for your personal finances here.
Let us show you around so that you can decide for yourself if YNAB is a good fit for your financial goals.
Mvelopes vs YNAB: Similarities and Differences
The biggest and most important similarity between Mvelopes and YNAB is that they’re both zero-based envelope budgeting systems. So although there may be some differences in vocabulary or functionality between the two apps, the concepts are the same.
You give every dollar a job until you have no dollars left to assign to a category, and the budget categories act as a virtual envelope—assigning money to a budget category is just like putting cash in a labeled envelope. If you assign $50 to “Dining Out” then you have set aside $50 to save yourself from making dinner and you will spend that money from that envelope…until it’s gone and then you have to make a conscious decision to get creative with what’s in your pantry or move some money from another envelope to cover impulsive pizza delivery.
Mvelopes and YNAB both roll any money that’s leftover in a budget category into the next month which makes it easy to accumulate savings and/or save up for large, infrequent expenses. One notable difference is that YNAB only rolls positive balances into the next month—you have to cover any cash overspending in a category in order to maintain an accurate budget in a new month.
Imagine your envelope set up again. If you spent $75 going out to eat but only had $50 in the envelope, that overage would have to come from somewhere. It’s real money that was spent. Mvelopes and YNAB both encourage users to get a month ahead on their finances, and once you have a bit of a built-in buffer, changing the way you handle overspending is an easy adjustment to make. You’ll also gain the confidence of knowing that your budget aligns with what’s actually in your bank account.
Another difference that is mitigated by getting a month ahead is the process for assigning money. Mvelopes has a Funding Plan which allows you to budget money for the month based on upcoming paychecks. With YNAB, you can only assign money that you actually have (after all, what if your paycheck is late or you lose your job or some unexpected Y2K-like event disrupts direct deposits?). Your paychecks are treated as an inflow transaction that land in the “Ready to Assign” category, and you assign those dollars to their budget categories once they’re in your account.
You can create something similar to a Funding Plan by setting up a Budget Template in YNAB and adding a spending or saving target to your categories equal to the amount you’d usually assign to your Funding Plan in a typical month. You can set targets weekly, monthly, by a certain date, or on an “as needed” basis.
If we were using actual envelopes, this would be similar to writing a note that says, “Add $100 each week,” on the front of your grocery envelope if your total grocery budget was $400 a month but you didn’t have $400 in cash on hand right now. Mvelopes and YNAB both also have the option to auto-assign money to automate aspects of the budgeting process, but YNAB’s is based on a monthly budget cycle instead of per paycheck.
Another helpful similarity is how YNAB and Mvelopes allow users to spend on a credit card without incurring debt. Like Mvelopes, YNAB automatically deducts the amount of a credit card transaction from its budget category and assigns that amount to a corresponding credit card payment category, so that you can effortlessly pay in full when the payment is due.
The EveryDollar app is often listed as an alternative to Mvelopes but lacks support for credit card spending, which could be problematic for users who like to make purchases on credit cards and pay in full for the points, benefits, or cash back opportunities. In fact, EveryDollar doesn’t even accept credit cards as a payment method to purchase their subscription.
YNAB trusts you to make your own spending decisions and supports you in doing so responsibly.
We’ve created a handy features comparison chart so you can easily review the similarities and differences between the paid versions of Mvelopes and EveryDollar versus YNAB.
So, YNAB is not Mvelopes and you already know (and love!) Mvelopes. However, you also know zero-based envelope budgeting, so try to think of YNAB as a fraternal twin. Sure, it’s a little different but if you want a new friend that reminds you of your old friend, this could be a budgeting buddy match. Here’s what we think you might like about YNAB:
- The YNAB Method: Four easy-to-remember rules create a flexible framework for making spending decisions.
- Friendly, non-judgmental tone: You don’t need anyone telling you how to (or how not to) spend your money, you just need a tool to make it easy to understand your finances and priorities.
- Integrated tools eliminate debt: Credit card spending is automatically managed in a way that avoids debt and the Loan Planner tool helps implement a debt paydown plan by calculating how much time or money you can save by making additional payments.
- Spending and savings targets: Align your spending with your priorities and stay on track to achieve your goals with helpful reminders about how much more you need to assign to each category and progress bars for an at-a-glance overview.
- Subscription sharing: Get more for your money by sharing your subscription, and budgets of your choosing, with a trusted group of up to six people, each with their own individual log-ins.
- Unlimited budgets: Planning a wedding, running a small business, splitting expenses with a partner, or tracking estimates and expenses for a home renovation project? Make as many budgets as you want.
- Automation options: Although it’s good to be hands-on when it comes to managing your money, options like linking financial accounts, Auto-Assign, and automatic import for transactions can save time and streamline the budgeting process—and all three are optional if you prefer to do it yourself.
- Customizable transaction flags: Go a step beyond categorizing your transactions by adding a searchable flag. Create flags for each member of the family, for reimbursable expenses, potential tax deductions, items being returned, or anything that might be helpful to look up later.
- Real-time availability: YNAB is available on the web and as a mobile app for iOS and Android. Check it on your Apple watch, keep your budget open on your desktop, or set up a mobile widget on the home screen of your phone—your budget is everywhere you are.
- Reports: Track your spending across categories, your income and expenses, your net worth and more with YNAB’s report functionality. Enter custom date ranges and slice and dice your data however you’d like.
- One source of truth: Since you reconcile your accounts to your bank balance, your budget is a trustworthy reference when determining how much you have to spend or save. No more checking your bank account before making a purchase—just check your budget.
- Educational resources: YNAB has award-winning customer support, thriving social media communities, live workshops, and an abundance of resources in whatever learning style works best for you. Check out our blogs, guides, help center, podcasts, videos, printables, newsletter, coaching sessions, and more.
Transitioning from the Mvelopes App to YNAB
You won’t know if YNAB is a suitable alternative until you try, which is why we offer a free 34-day trial. The logistics of transitioning from one budgeting software option to another is the hard part, so we’ve put together a comprehensive how-to guide to help make that journey a little easier.
Change is hard. That’s a universal truth. However, change is also the foundation of innovation and that’s how bigger and better things happen. And if you get stuck along the way, we’re here to help.
The best budgeting app is whichever one you’ll use and we wish you the best of luck in finding a new (and hopefully improved) money management method.