I'm often asked which personal finance software is the best. I strongly recommend YNAB 4, the system I personally use. It is by far the best budgeting system on the market. The software is fantastic and the methodology is extremely effective. You can read the review or Try YNAB 4 with a FREE 34-Day Trial!
**Update: Weekly Envelope has (not surprisingly) closed it’s doors. Unless, of course, you understand Russian. If so, you can find use Weekly Envelope here, otherwise they’ve shut down their English version of the site.
Weekly Envelope is a budget planner that uses the envelope budgeting methodology to a certain degree and adds a little bit of a twist in there. Weekly Envelope is a free service that’s designed to help you make sure that you don’t spend more than you bring in.
I’m a huge fan of the envelope budgeting system, so I’m fairly excited to take a look at Weekly Envelope. Let’s dive in.
Getting Started with Weekly Envelope
After clicking you simply input your information to sign up for an account. As you can see in the image below, they don’t ask for much, allowing you to take a very anonymous approach if you wish to do so. Those that don’t feel comfortable having a third party know their personal and banking information will feel comforted by the fact Weekly Envelope doesn’t ask for anything of the sort.
I wasn’t sure what the “Family Members” section was for. I assumed it has something to do with setting up the envelopes later. It turns out that you must enter the members of your family in this area in order to set up your profile (and input income) a few steps later. A little clarification or tooltip might have been nice.
The first of six steps in the profile setup wizard gives a quick overview of how you’ll set up the system. It mentions that working with Weekly Envelope involves two steps: creating a financial plan and executing that plan. Simple enough. Our financial plan, according to Weekly Envelope, consists of Income, Expenses, and Financial Goals. Also simple. So far so good.
In the second step, you input your family’s income. From what I can tell they’ve covered all the major sources and intervals of income that you could have. However, those that work on commission or have an varying source of income may find it a little difficult to use the system.
The third step consists of entering all of your known expenses. You can do this easily by clicking the (add expense) button and entering the expense information. While this certainly isn’t difficult, it does get time consuming since you have to submit and wait for a new page to come up after every single expense. I quickly got tired of inputing the information (although budgeting is suppose to be work right?).
Step four asks you to verify your “Balance” I’m assuming this is meant to be the current balance of your bank account. Again, a little clarification would have been nice. I input what our current bank balance is.
The fifth step is the Goal section. Here you can add and modify your financial goals (buy a new car, build up an emergency fund, etc.). By default they have Emergency Fund as a goal. A great goal that everyone should have. You can edit the goal by clicking “Modify Goal.”
This is a nice little function. It allows you to put the amount of the goal, how much you have saved so far, and when you want to achieve that goal. You can then input how much you want to save each month/week/whatever to accomplish the goal. They also have an ‘Auto’ option that will fill in this number, but I couldn’t get it to work.
Back on the goal page, it gives me this nice little goal graph:
Apparently I need to save $140 each week in order to meet my goal to have a $5,000 emergency fund saved up by the end of this year.
They offered a number of suggested goals (home appliance, home repair, and vacation among others).
The sixth step is simply a pat-on-the-back step. You’re presented with this congratulations screen:
It says that I’ve input all the info I need to for now, and that the system will calculate an affordable amount of weekly expenses. This has a bit of a hands-off feel to it that I’m not sure what I think about yet. I don’t know if I like the idea of having some number that’s given to me through some unknown calculation be my sole guide for spending. *I’m sure you could easily figure out the where the number comes from (which they even explain on their blog), but my guess is the majority of people will just take the number and run with it.
I’m personally more of a fan of being very cognizant of exactly how your budget works and how it is that your income and expenses relate to each other.
“Execution” in Weekly Envelope
After clicking on “Fill Expenses” on the final step of setup, this is was you’re presented with:
My first thought? Cluttered and unclear.
After looking over it a little bit, however, it became more clear that this was basically my financial “plan” for this week (Aug. 10th – Aug. 16th).
Since they didn’t do the greatest job of demonstrating or teaching what all this information is, I’ll go through each section and try to (briefly) explain it.
This is fairly straight forward.
I think the best thing for you to do in order to see what these links do is to click around and see for yourself.
Now this is the part that seemed especially cluttered to me:
After looking over it a for a bit, you’ll find that on the left is the listing of days of this week. Today (you’ll see that it’s highlighted) is Tuesday. Under each day there is a list of a few items. One is the amount of “disposable” income that I am allowed to spend that day. This is shown as “From envelope.” On that same line are the family members (Chance and Spouse) and the amount they’ve spent that day. You can enter what you spend that day by clicking on the edit icon (). You’ll see the following screen:
You can enter your transaction as it shows (the freedom of format here leads me to think that you could easily end up with difficult to read/remember expense information).
The amount spent is taken out of the daily allotted amount.
You’ll also see other line items that are basically the planned or scheduled expenses. In the screenshot above, for example, I am supposed to transfer $600 to my Emergency Fund today in order to meet the goal that I set. I’m also suppose to spend $30 on Fuel today and $250 on my student loan on Friday.
You can click the edit icon on either of these line items to put in the amount that you actually spent. As an example, if I spent $25 on Fuel, it would reflect the spending in the following manner:
Where it gets a little more tough, however, is when you start deviating from your scheduled spending (which you most certainly will).
Admittedly, I’ve probably not given this screen the detailed walkthrough that it really needs in order for you to be effective with it. I believe, however, that the best way for you to get a feel for how this system works is to click around and play with it yourself.
“Plan” in Weekly Envelope
If you click on the Plan tab, you’re presented with the following screen:
The top section consists of your family’s income, with the option to edit.
The middle section shows the family expenses, the financial goals, and the amount in the envelopes (what you have left over).
The bottom section gives an overview of your weekly budget and how much you have left over in your envelopes.
Again I get the feeling that I’m presented with a bunch of information, but with little guidance as to what it all means. This is particularly true of the middle section.
“Goals” in Weekly Envelope
The Goals tab is one of the only sections of the software that I actually liked.
It was clear and concise. It shows you exactly what your goal is, how far along the way you are to acheiving it, and exactly what you need to do next week to accomplish that goal.
“Reports” in Weekly Envelope
There are three reports offered in Weekly Envelope. I had somewhat expected them to be much like other reports in other personal finance software applications (spending graphs, envelope balance reports, etc.). They were a bit different than expected:
The Planning Accuracy report is kind of fun to look at, but I don’t see how this helps you much in managing your finances (except to maybe help you set realistic amounts when budgeting).
Also, let me translate the last report: “Expense accumulations and goal savings” = The balance of your spending categories (what you have left to spend in different categories).
The envelope budgeting method is a very good, very simple financial management methodology to follow. You get income, you set aside money into different categories (envelopes) and then spend from those allotted amounts.
It seems as though Weekly Envelope is trying to appeal to the person that simply wants a program to tell them what they can spend each day and week (which practice is fundamentally flawed in my opinion). While Weekly Envelope uses the simple budgeting methodology, they seem to have complicated it quite a bit (possibly by trying to make it even more simple than it is). I have two main complaints about Weekly Envelope:
The first turnoff for me was the interface. It seemed cluttered, unclear, and a bit unprofessional. If you spend some time with the program, I’m sure that you’ll get the hang of it and know how to easily manage the system. But it was clear that some big improvements could be made in the way information was presented.
Also, after you input your information, it calculates all the figures in the background and seemingly spits out some magical numbers that you are to follow. They are simple calculations, but they’ve ‘mystified’ something that was quite straight forward to begin with. Even while I’m inputting the transaction information into the system, I don’t get a clear sense of exactly how those transactions effect and relate to the rest of the system. It feels more as though my budget is running me, rather than me running my budget.
Apparently I missed something with Weekly Envelope. I’ll be the first to admit, that I didn’t quite catch the vision. Had I had some Ah-ha moment, my experience may have been different.
It’s free, so if you have some extra time on your hands, give it a try. Otherwise, I’d suggest going with a more proven system.