YNAB vs Mvelopes: Pros and Cons of Each

The economic effects of a post-COVID-19 world have touched people worldwide, especially in homes with stay-at-home moms, who are struggling more than ever to stay on top of everything, including a budget. That’s where programs like YNAB and Mvelopes come in. 

Both YNAB and Mvelopes are applications that help create a budgeting system for yourself or the entire household. They are user-friendly and have personalized plans suited for every type of spender—or saver. Users have peace of mind knowing their finances are always in check.  

Each of these programs has its advantages and disadvantages, so the one you choose to help manage your money will depend on your personal preference. In this article, we will cover their pros and cons so you can better decide which application is better for you. 

What Do Budgeting Applications Do?

When you decide you are ready to get help from budgeting software, you are starting your journey to financial freedom. A budget app or program is designed to help you see where your money is going and how you can spend more mindfully.

There are many situations where consumers are literally wasting money every month and not even noticing. That’s where a budgeting program comes in. These apps help you layout your monthly spending versus your income and will track every cent you are handing out (zero based budgeting).

There are multiple ways in which a budgeting app can help you save and never overspend mindlessly again. These apps:

  • Track monthly bills
  • Set a monthly spending limit
  • Create savings accounts
  • Identify monthly subscriptions and other recurring billing that is not being used
  • Give you a visual idea of how your money is being spent

Now that we know the purpose of these applications, let’s discuss the pros and cons of two popular budgeting programs: YNAB and Mvelopes. 

YNAB (You Need a Budget)

This app has been designed specifically to make you aware of where every penny you spend is going and allows you to stay involved in your budget. It’s not like other financial apps that make you feel guilty about where your money is spent or tells you when you overspend. It simply allows you to take control of your finances your way while helping you understand your budget.

Getting started with YNAB requires a subscription, at $11.99 a month or $84 annually. There’s also a free 34-day trial if you want to test it out before committing to the platform. 

YNAB Features

You probably wonder exactly how this company differs from the rest of the budgeting apps out there. Here are a few of YNAB’s features to give you a better idea of what they offer and how they can help you and your family get ahead financially:

  • Set Rules for Successful Budgeting YNAB provides users with four essential rules to follow when setting and managing their budget:
    • Give every dollar a job.  Make a list of where every penny of your paycheck should be placed, whether towards a bill, food, or entertainment.
    • Embrace your true expenses. Break down more considerable infrequent expenses like holiday gifts and car maintenance into a monthly payment to set aside.
    • Roll with the punches. If you overspend in one category, simply make up for it by reducing your spending in another.
    • Age your money. Once you are on your way to success with the first three rules, you will be able to save money to put towards future spending. You won’t have to worry about paycheck-to-paycheck budgeting.
  • Budgeting Together – YNAB allows couples and families to work together to create a budget that will make everyone happy and have the ability to access it from all devices, no matter where you go.
  • Free Live Workshops – Every day, YNAB offers their users 20-minute live workshops to help them learn the art of finances with professionals. This includes understanding YNAB’s four rules better, learning how to save and budget, and many other important financial topics.


Mvelopes’ budgeting tools will take you back to the old days of financial planning and spending. It works just like if you were to put away physical money in labeled envelopes, only allowing that cash to be spent for that specific purpose. Mvelopes models this process to create a new, virtual way of envelope budgeting.

This budgeting app helps you see what spending areas you have money in and where your money is dwindling to give you a better sense of how you need to spend your money. 

The basic subscription for Mvelopes costs $5.97 per month. The Premier plan is $9.97 per month, while the Plus plan is $19.97 per month. (Currently, Mvelopes is offering a free 30-day trial for their Premier plan if you wanted to try it out.)

Mvelopes Features

Mvelopes offers some great features that will help you understand banking better and teach you how to become more financially independent:

  • Unlimited Accounts – Connect all of your bank accounts, loan information, credit cards, etc., to one Mvelopes account so you can see all of your income and debt in the same place.
  • Real-Time Budgeting – With all of your accounts in one place, you can see where your money is within minutes before you spend.
  • Reduce Your Debt – With a tailored plan to your situation, tackling your debt is easier than ever.
  • Four-Step Approach – Similarly to YNAB, Mvelopes provides users with a set “plan” to follow to guarantee financial success:
  1. Give your money a purpose. Organize every paycheck for monthly bills, groceries, entertainment, etc. Plan ahead for your children’s college funds or set money aside for a second car. Be ready for each holiday and birthday.
  2. Avoid debt. Learn to save for the things you want, rapidly pay off your debt, and keep it paid. 
  3. Simplify. The Mvelopes app will do most of the hard work for you by organizing all your income and expenditures in one easy-to-access dashboard. 
  4. Plan for tomorrow. Nothing is worse than running into an emergency and struggling to decide how you will pay for it. Whether it be a car accident, unforeseen hospital visit, or flooding in your basement, this app makes sure you will be ready.
  • Learning Center Mvelopes also offers a “learning center” with an array of classes to take to help you achieve your budgeting goals. The goal is to help you learn something new, do something different, and live better.
woman budgeting

Pros of YNAB and Mvelopes

Here is a comparative list of benefits YNAB and Mvelopes can offer for your financial and budgeting needs: 

The app is incredibly user-friendly and great for those new to budgeting applications. Easy-to-manage budgeting envelopes allow you to see where your money is and also lets you move your money from one envelope to the other if needed.
With this app, you will see savings almost immediately. YNAB customers save an average of $600 in the first two months of using the app and nearly $6,000 in the first year. Imagine the feeling of having $6,000 stashed away for a rainy day!There is an extensive array of financial learning tools and courses.
YNAB offers a variety of ways to help you not only understand your current budget but teach you all the ways to make finances more manageable.The app automatically adds financial transactions to your account so they can be disbursed into the appropriate categories.
You can budget on any pay cycle; you can budget your finances according to a weekly paycheck or monthly income.With the Plus subscription, you are assigned a personal finance trainer and can access other debt reduction tools. 

Cons of YNAB and Mvelopes

Unfortunately, nothing is perfect, and that goes for our top picks for budgeting apps. Here are a few reasons YNAB and Mvelopes may not get a full five stars from its users:

YNAB does not offer any type of investment tracking. Setting up your first account can be too time-consuming and quite confusing.
YNAB is a bit costly compared to other similar budgeting apps.Customer support is lacking, and getting help navigating and moving through the app is hard.
Customer support is very limited, and it can be challenging to get information or help from an actual person.It seems almost as if you have to purchase the more expensive packages to get the budgeting help you actually need to get ahead.

YNAB and Mvelopes: Are They Worth It?

Both Mvelopes and YNAB offer free trials for about a month to start out so that you can take their programs for a spin to see if it’s a system that works for you.

Many people tend to wonder why they would spend the very same money they are trying to save on an app to help them save it. The quick and simple answer here is because you need the help.

These apps are designed by professionals who are very knowledgeable in finances and are equipped with all the information you need to be successful in your future. The other ways are not working, so why not try something designed to make your life easier?

Takes Less Time than Using Paper and Pen

Whether you are a stay-at-home mom who has now taken on the role of a chef, teacher, entertainer, etc., or someone who works 12 hours a day, no one these days has the time to write everything down. 

If we did, there is a good chance we would miss many quick transactions like gas for your car, buying a coffee on your way to work, or having pizza delivered because you just can’t manage time to cook dinner one night.

All these little extras can add up in a big way and much faster than you think. Taking time to sit down and fill out bank books and organize bills is not a priority for most of us anymore.

YNAB and Mvelopes will monitor every purchase you make and pull it directly from your funds in your app. You will never have to guess how much money you have coming in and out of your account again.

Easier to Keep Up with Than Spreadsheets

Having a spreadsheet accessible to you online is an excellent step in the right direction from using paper and pen. However, the problem remains the same. Although you may find some extra time to quickly access your spreadsheets and even scanned receipts or bank information, you may not be able to keep up with everyday purchases.

The best part of using online budgeting apps like YNAB and Mvelopes is that your transactions can go straight to your account without you having to remember or do anything at all. Your paycheck hits the bank and is directly sent to the app of your choice. Your purchases are all recorded for you and in an easy-to-access file for convenient viewing whenever you need it.

Simply put, using an app is hassle-free and a more convenient way for our increasingly busy schedules to work around budgeting.

If you prefer spreadsheets, you do not have to get rid of them completely. YNAB is programmed to use spreadsheets to track all of your finances but makes it easier to read and track your spending.

Offer More Tools Than Free Apps

Free apps will not offer you all the same features and help that the apps you pay for can. 

Although there is a profit to be made, you are also paying companies to access information and tools you cannot get anywhere else. The extra tools help you a lot more than you think they do, and each of these additions cost the app creator more money. They need to make up for that by charging their customers.

You’re More Likely to Use a Paid App

It’s also worth purchasing a subscription for an app because you have a more likely chance of using an app that you are paying for to get your money’s worth. Many people will download free apps only to get frustrated or bored with them and forget they exist. 

If you are paying monthly for the extra financial help, you will want to use the app more often and are more likely to spend the time to set it up and understand it.

If you are concerned about cost, going with the basic version of Mvelopes will give you an affordable option that will not have you wondering if you should switch to something free.

Avoid the Headaches of Math

If you use a budgeting app to help you with your finances, you will no longer have to worry about figuring out income versus purchases ever again. These apps are designed to do the math for you right down to your very last penny.

Both YNAB and Mvelopes will do the math for you; they will subtract your spending from your set budget. YNAB will show you a list of your transactions in an organized sheet, with the math completed for you. Mvelopes will correctly deduct every cent from each of your envelopes that you spend from that category and add every deposit to your balance.

Get Automatic Alerts

When you use a budgeting app, you can do away with your payment calendar or that pesky payment command center. You will automatically be reminded when bills are being paid and what bills are being paid. No more missing payments simply because you forgot they were due or paying the accrued late fee charges.

When you are busy taking the kids to a soccer game, running to doctor’s appointments, cooking dinner, or walking the dog, not only do you not have the time to write down your financial information, but not many of us have any room left in our brains to remember it all. 

With budgeting apps on your phone and always with you, you will never have to worry about being forgetful. 

The YNAB app has many positive reviews regarding their alerts; the app lets you know when you have over-budgeted, tells you when your budget “needs you,” and will let you know when you are coming close to your spending limits.

Avoid Costly Mistakes

Handing over a few dollars a month can certainly benefit you from losing even more money due to an error. People lose tons of money every year paying late fees or overdraft fees to the bank. 

Having apps like YNAB and Mvelopes that tracks your money and how much is coming in and going out will keep you from losing $35-$50 every time you go over your bank account spending limit, even if only by a few measly dollars.

Is YNAB or Mvelopes Better?

When you are getting ready to purchase a budgeting app, you want to make sure it is right for you. You want it to be affordable, easy to use for your situation, and something that you will be successful with—saving you lots of money in the future.

With that said, both of these apps are great, but it seems like YNAB may be more worth the investment, especially if you’re new to budgeting or using an app for this purpose. YNAB is perfect for just about anyone to use—even small businesses. The app will help you keep your expenses separated and organized. 

Of course, that’s not to say that Mvelopes isn’t worth the investment. Depending on what you’re looking for in a budgeting app, it could be just what you need. Below are a few key features you may want to look for in a budgeting app and where YNAB and Mvelopes fit in. 


When you create a budget to fit your personal life, you need to have an app to create your own budget. You need to move things around and adjust tabs and spreadsheets to make it easy for you to understand and personalize. This is especially necessary if your income and spending change throughout the year.

The YNAB app is perfect for this specific feature. You can customize your tabs and name your folders to personalize your budget in a way that works best for you.


You can have the best financial advisor on the planet put together a spreadsheet for you to abide by, but if you don’t understand it, it’s not going to help you. That goes for your budgeting apps too. Make sure you can understand what each tab and page are used for and what they represent. Know where you can track what money is coming in and exactly where it is going when it leaves your account.

Find a program that is well organized and easy to manage. No matter what, there will be questions, and you will get stuck somewhere as learning a new budgeting plan on any app will provide a huge learning curve, so make sure the app you choose also has customer support that is easy to find and access when you need them.

When it comes to this type of user-friendliness, we feel YNAB fits this feature the best. You are given multiple ways to learn and understand how to navigate through their platform. 

In contrast, Mvelopes doesn’t offer very much help in guiding you through the account. However, to give them some credit, they offer an online chat feature if you get stuck on the spot, whereas there isn’t much help for specific questions within the YNAB app.

Getting Started with the App

No matter what program you choose, getting set up and going will be time-consuming. You have to connect every account you use to one program. This includes your bank accounts, loans, credit cards, utilities, etc. That will require IDs, passwords, credit card numbers, etc. This will take a lot of time, so make sure you choose a program that will help you get started. 

Getting started with YNAB is definitely much easier than it is with Mvelopes. They have tons of ways to guide you throughout startup, and their videos and live classes will help you understand how to use their tools wisely.

Privacy and Safety

Identity theft and hacking have become a serious problem over the last few years. Scammers and computer hackers have the tools and knowledge to access more information than ever before, putting your identity and financial safety at very high risk.

Some apps may not have the kind of security in place you would hope one does when handling thousands of clients’ personal information. With that said, make sure the software you use offers extremely secure protection of all your information, including your personal information, your banking information, and all of your credit cards and accounts you have set up through the site.

Fortunately, both YNAB and Mvelopes have sophisticated and effective security programs to keep your personal information safe and secure.

Connecting Accounts and Shared Users

If you are setting up an account that will be shared by a spouse or anyone else, you should sit down and create an account together. Decide where your spending should go and agree on each set limit. A budget plan will cause more harm than help if someone involved is not happy with the way things are set up. Talk it out, create a plan, then take action together.

Both YNAB and Mvelopes offer unlimited devices for each account; this makes connecting easy, and no one will be left in the dark when it comes to your budget.


Although we have touched on this previously, it is essential to know what you are paying for. Sometimes when spending extra money for a better service, you may be paying for features you don’t need or won’t ever use. 

Ensure the app’s features fit your future plans, whether it be investing, saving, or becoming debt-free. This will help you get your money’s worth in the end. If you have no interest in purchasing stock or investing your money into a company, it will only make sense not to use an app that requires you to do so or even one that offers it.

Also, check the plans available if you have an app that charges for different levels. Depending on your needs, the basic plan may not be enough. For others who are simpler and don’t have many financial needs, anything above the basic plan would be a waste of money. 

We have to give YNAB the award for being the most affordable between these two applications. No matter what choice you make (monthly or yearly), you get access to all the features, and the most you will pay is $89 a year. 

Mvelopes would be a bit cheaper if you went for the basic subscription at $69 a year, but you will not have access to all the great features they offer. To get everything they offer, you will have to pay about $200 annually.

Account Compatibility

There is nothing more aggravating than setting up a program only to find out they do not work with your bank or one of your credit cards. This will make the app useless and a waste of your time.

Both YNAB and Mvelopes work directly with most financial institutions and major credit cards to offer help to as many customers as possible. 

Final Thoughts

There are many options available to consumers today who are looking to free up some money and save for the future. Many apps have been designed to make life easier for people to keep their finances together in such a busy and unpredictable world. Take the time to secure your future and create a sense of financial relief with YNAB or Mvelopes. You won’t regret it!

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Kristen is the founder and content creator at Mom Managing Chaos where she teaches busy moms how to simplify and organize their life and finances. She writes about frugal living, budgeting, productivity and organization.