The “envelope” method of personal budgeting has been around for a long time, and for good reason. It is a simple and easy way to enact a budget, allowing people to take control of their personal finances. However, in our increasingly cash-less society, taking money out of the bank and sticking it into envelopes isn’t exactly practical. Not to mention envelopes stuffed with cash doesn’t exactly scream “secure.” Luckily, there are apps that take the envelope method and update it for the modern era.
What Is Envelope Budgeting?
The envelope budget allows people to easily compartmentalize and track their spending. It allows people to budget effectively while avoiding any serious number crunching. The gist of it is that you keep cash for different expenses in separate envelopes. Typical expenses include things like groceries, gasoline, entertainment, dining, etc. For example, let’s say you spend $500 a month on groceries. If you get paid every two weeks, you have to set aside $250 of every paycheck for groceries. That money goes into the envelope labeled “groceries” and can only be used for groceries.
If there is money left over in any envelope at the end of the month, you can roll it over or pop it in your savings account. The envelope method is an easy-to-understand system that allows people to keep tabs on how much money they’re spending.
The Goodbudget app is well-reviewed and recommended by finance experts from Forbes, Lifehacker and more. Formerly known as EEBA (Easy Envelope Budget Aid), Goodbudget is an expense tracker that makes budgeting a snap. Goodbudget uses the principles of the envelope method but eliminates the physical envelopes. Instead of using cash, Goodbudget allows users to link their bank accounts to the app. Users can then create digital envelopes and allocate money from their bank account into these “envelopes.” This allows users to quickly and easily keep track of their expenses without having to pull cash out of the bank.
The Goodbudget app has default envelopes for regular expenses like rent and groceries. Users can also add additional envelopes and customize them for irregular expenses like saving for a vacation. In addition to being available on both iOS and Android devices, users can also use the Goodbudget website to maintain and edit their budgets. The website is also home to guides and instructional videos to ensure you get the most out of the app.
The Goodbudget app is available in both a free and a subscription-based version. The free version allows users to configure up to ten envelopes while supporting only two devices. Subscribing allows users to create as many envelopes as they wish, as well as supporting up to five devices. The free version doesn’t have any ads, so if you don’t need the additional envelopes, the free version should suit most.
Like Goodbudget, Mvelopes is an app that helps users get in control of their finances with the tried-and-true envelope method. The Mvelopes app can be linked to a variety of financial accounts including bank accounts, credit cards, PayPal, and more. Adding these accounts in the Mvelopes allows the app to automatically track your spending. In addition, users can input data manually for any windfalls or other accounts that are not supported.
Mvelopes has three different service tiers: Standard, Premier and Money4Life Coaching. The standard version is free and allows users to link their accounts and create up to twenty-five digital envelopes. Like Goodbudget, Mvelopes tracks spending and gives a good overview of your spending habits. Premier costs $9.95 a month and allows users to create an unlimited number of envelopes and gives access to a 24/7 live chat support. Money4Life Coaching gives users access to personalized advice to attain financial goals. Money4Life pricing is based on an individual’s needs, so it will vary from person to person. Mvelopes is available for both Android and iOS devices, and also has a desktop app for Windows and macOS.
If you’re in the market for an app that is a little simpler than the ones mentioned above, look no further. SimpleBudget doesn’t have the most attractive interface, but it does work. In addition, the app is completely free. This is in stark contrast to the others that lock users out of certain features unless they pony up the cash. That being said, SimpleBudget is ad-supported, so you’ll have to deal with that minor annoyance.
SimpleBudget lives up to its name in practice. Users create their envelopes and set the budget for each one. As a user spends the money, they simply make the deductions within the app. One big downside to SimpleBudget is that it doesn’t link to any of your accounts. This means that users must input funds received or spent manually. While this requires some discipline, there is one upside: Since the app doesn’t connect to the Internet, it means that all data is stored locally on your phone. For those concerned with privacy and security, this can be an advantage that they are happy to sacrifice convenience for. Unfortunately, SimpleBudget is only available for Android devices.
What is your opinion of the envelope-budgeting system? Do you use any of the apps listed above? If so, have you found that they are helpful in managing your finances? Let us know in the comments!