Review: MoneyWell – Virtual Envelope Budgeting Software

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Mac-users! I started an email of kudos to NoThirst Software and ended up writing much more than I expected. NoThirst is the developer of MoneyWell, a really great piece of financial software for Mac that I just recently discovered and now am really pumped about.

I have tried a lot of different pieces of financial software but MoneyWell is a little different.  MoneyWell keeps track of two levels of information. First, your real life bank accounts and transactions and second, both the money you have planned to allocate to different areas as well as the money you have already allocated. Instead of the traditional envelopes, you allocate money to virtual “buckets”. As your “real life” transactions are automatically downloaded from your bank (or entered manually for cash accounts or banks without direct downloads), you assign them to your income or expense buckets.

It’s a little hard to describe in print, but I would encourage anyone (using a mac) who is looking to effectively budget – whether the goal is to pay off debt, save for the future, or whatever – to check out MoneyWell and watch a few of their videos: http://nothirst.com/moneywell/. It is a great piece of software that succeeds where other brands of personal finance software fail – ease of use, simplicity, practical functionality, and more.

Since I was writing to praise the developers about the elements I liked, I decided to share the email below in case the program might be of use to you.

I just wanted to email and thank you for MoneyWell!

My wife and I went through Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University” last year which led us to change our financial plans and begin working to pay off debt and prepare ourselves for the future.

We have done rather well since then, BUT struggled with the budgeting. One of the reasons for this was that while we liked the envelope idea, it was hard to manage when we had multiple bank accounts, cash, irregular sources of income etc etc. Keeping everything straight was a bit of a mess.

I have tried a number of personal finance programs over the past few years. I have spent hours upon hours with programs like Quicken and iBank being continually frustrated by bugs in the system, a lack of adequate or understandable tutorials/documentation, but most fundamentally I found that these programs treat budgeting as an afterthought. They are focused almost exclusively on a retroactive approach to finances: looking back and figuring out what happened! This was completely useless for the envelope system and to the approach we were trying to take to our finances. I kept trying to make the programs work proactively – spending the money on paper first – but again was frustrated at how poorly the budgeting tools worked out.

I also tried simpler programs like Mint.com. While I enjoyed mint and tried for a while to make it work, the limitations on the tools were too great and made realistic, proactive budgeting continue to be too difficult.

What struck me about MoneyWell when I first discovered it and began watching the videos (aside from the pleasant surprise that there WERE a collection of helpful videos) was that the whole software seemed to be designed around the responsible financial ideas that I had been learning and trying to implement. Spending money on paper first, avoiding debt, regarding “savings” to be your emergency fund, rather than part of your available cash, etc – even much of the language of the videos seemed to reflect the values I was working towards.

Whereas I had spent hours upon hours upon hours trying to setup complicated programs like Quicken or iBank function to help us budget, plan, payoff debt, and save, I was able to watch the tutorial videos, setup my accounts, setup my buckets, and breathe a sigh of relief all in one evening. In fact, I kept excitedly returning to the program expecting there to be more work to do, but there was not! Finally, I could put the personal finance software aside and go back to my life.

Among the many strengths of the software – easy to set up, good looking, speedy, intuitive, etc – there were a couple areas that stood out.

First, one of the difficulties in starting any kind of financial program is that it is a little like stepping onto a speeding treadmill. My paychecks are half gone for the month, some bills have been paid but not all, the budget I made at the beginning of the months is already fatally ruined… How now do I effectively “hit the ground” running with a new personal finance software? With MoneyWell, I was able to easily setup the start date and levels for my buckets and “ta-da”: I am set to go. I was so taken aback by the ease of this process.

Secondly, the idea of the two levels of your finances as noted in the videos – the real life accounts, transactions, etc as well as the virtual level of your buckets and money flows – is very helpful and well implemented so as to keep your focus on the virtual level, or in other words YOUR BUDGET. This is always the difficulty! It is one thing to setup a budget and envelopes, but if you have money in two different checking accounts, some in your envelopes, and some irregular income coming in, it is very, very difficult to keep your eyes on the budget (rather than the account balances themselves) and at the same time ensure that the numbers in your budget are still correct. MoneyWell keeps our eyes on the plan while at the same time making it easy and effective to ensure that the plan is staying consistent with reality.

After trying for months and months to setup a budget and envelopes that worked for us (and always ending up spending it all), we now have money set aside in 15+ envelopes for expenses that are coming up and we were thus able to make a higher payment toward our debt this month.

Thanks for a wonderful product and keep up the good work!

Blessings,

JonMarc, Teresa, and baby Dominic (due to be born next week)

 

Please let me know if you have any questions about my experience with MoneyWell.

If you know me, you know I get really excited about things. In fact, I’m thinking about writing more about software, businesses, charities, services, and products that I have found to be worthwhile. We need to reward good work!

One thought on “Review: MoneyWell – Virtual Envelope Budgeting Software

  1. Bstar0306

    Your wife told me about moneywell and referred me to this post. I too have attempted to use ibank and mint.com and have failed miserably! I might have to try moneywell. Thanks for the great review!

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