Envelope Budgeting – A Product Recommendation
For the last several years, I have been very much into budgeting, becoming financially free by having no debt. Of course, this is not as practical as I would like. I am a former and current student with student loans which are in a deferred status, continually collecting interest. I was free of credit card debt for some time, but have fallen back into that path of carrying a balance (a small one, but a balance none the less) and that has caused me to be really interested in changing my spending and budgeting habits.
While I have had an excel based budget and utilize a program called Moneydance to track my spending, see my balances and run reports, I have found out that it does nothing to track my spending and compare it to my budget. Having a comparison of budgeted and actual expenses is a crucial key to making your budget work for you and prohibit overspending. While Excel will track all of this for you (with a lot of extra work and dedication on your part), there is an easier way, and I have talked about it before on this blog: envelope budgeting!
The issue with envelope budgeting is that, when done in the traditional sense, requires paper envelopes and cash. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to carry cash, and making sure that you have your envelope(s) with you in order to make the necessary purchases is difficult. So, I set out on a quest a few weeks ago to look at different electronic options to this budgeting system. I came across an Excel spreadsheet which actually was more of a check register which allowed you to deduct transaction amounts from “envelopes”. There were some issues with the way in which the maker of the spreadsheet decided to calculate the envelopes and needed a lot more work to meet my requirements do what I wanted it to do. I moved on.
Next was a program that I used before called Mvelopes (www.mvelopes.com). This is a system which is co-created by Crown Financial Ministries, a Christian organization that I love, and look to for guidance for multiple financial issues, and Godly wisdom. Mvelopes is an on line based program (extra points for portability) and allows you to again, work through an envelope type budget. There are several issues with this program though: #1. The cost for the program is more than I want to spend. For a subscription, you are looking at a cost of $35 per month or up to $189 for a year. This is outrageously expensive. #2. The only option for this program is automated transaction acquisition. There are no options for manual entry of transactions (at least that I could find). This seems really odd to me. Because of this, I found the program overly cumbersome to use. Now, keep in mind, there is a learning curve with such programs, but I didn’t find it as intuitive to use as I was hoping it would be. #3. If you want to reach customer service about an issue with your account, or other general question, they don’t provide a phone number. You only have the option to IM a CSR, or they will schedule a time when they will call you, usually on the next business day. It is a hassle.
At this point, I was beginning to think that there was no good option for my electronic budgeting system. I was about ready to whip out the envelopes and start getting them organized when I decided to check YouTube to see what other people have done to combine the electronic and paper aspects together to make this budgeting more effective. Thank goodness I did that because I came across this video for an on line envelope budgeting system called NeoBudget (www.neobudget.com)!
I was so excited to see that this was an on line product (which is very nice because it adds the portability factor and easy access to your budget anywhere you have Internet), it is simple and intuitive, and it is CHEAP! We are talking about a 7 day free trial, then it is just $2.50 per month, or you can get 2 months free and pay an annual fee of $25! Compare that to Mvelopes! Not only that, but it will automatically graph and trend spending and is supports the importing of transactions through PDF statement upload to help you get started fast with your current transactions! I was able to set up this program with my envelopes (Tithe, Housing, Food, Automobile, Insurance, Debts, Entertainment / Recreation, Clothing, Savings, Medical Expenses, Miscellaneous, Investments, School, Personal Allowance) in about 10 minutes. The GUI is wonderful, and the colors are fun but easy on the eyes and I really like the way the system works together between accounts.
Since I just signed up for this program tonight, I haven’t had more than a few transactions entered but I will be using it regularly starting this weekend since Friday is payday. I will continue to update you on how the system is working out for me as I use it more and more. Please, if you sign up, let me know what you think! This is a great alternative to the traditional envelope budgeting system!
When it Pays to Recycle!
Technology is wonderful! Let me rephrase that: technology is wonderful for us but not for the environment! We throw out a lot of tech and it is becoming one of the major types of “trash” that is being thrown out but doesn’t bio degrade (of course) and is causing headaches with water contamination and other hazards. There are many locations throughout the United States that will take and recycle your tech…any of it: television, computer, printer, cell phones etc.). But, for a majority of us, including myself, finding a location that is close to my house or workplace is difficult and not always convenient.
Well, that is until Gazelle (www.gazelle.com). I saw this company on the Today Show a while back, and thought it was a wonderful idea. Essentially, this company will BUY your tech (cell phones, digital cameras, MP3 players, laptops, GPS units, camcorders, gaming consoles, satellite radios and more) and recycle it in order to keep it out of the landfill! It is great! But, you might be thinking, “Is it even going to be worth my time to send my tech to them, I mean, how much are they really going to pay me?” Well, let me just say, it depends on the age of the product you are wanting to sell to them. But, even if you don’t get a lot of money for your tech, it is essentially free: Gazelle will pay to have a priority mail box, with paid postage already attached, to your house to pick up your tech, that is how much they want it!
I recently purchased an iPhone and wanted to recycle my Blackberry Storm 9530 (a piece of crap by the way) so I though I would see how much I would get for it. I was surprised to find out that Gazelle will be purchasing this phone from me for $173! So, here is what you do to get your free money and help the environment at the same time:
- Click http://www.gazelle.com
- On the homepage, start typing in the name of the product you are wanting to get rid of (ie: Blackberry Storm 9530). The smart search bar should provide you with some options to select from as well as you are typing.
- Simply answer 4 questions about your devise, and click “Calculate” to display how much Gazelle will pay you for the devise!
- Select to have a shipping box sent to you for free, and then wait for the box to arrive in the mail (about 2-5 business days).
- Once you receive the shipping box, send it to Gazelle (pre-paid box and shipping label are already placed on the shipping box!)
- Receive your check in the mail! It is that simple!
This is a website that I will be using for a long time. Even if you only get $10 for a product, it is $10 more dollars than you previously had!
UPDATED REVIEW INFORMATION!
Alright, it has been a few weeks since writing this post, and I now have some information to share. Let’s start with NeoBudget.
NeoBudget is a wonderful tool. I used it for about a week before loafing off and forgetting all about it. I found that between this program and my current computer tracking software (Moneydance, which is basically a huge check register with reports) I was entering transactions multiple times, or I was forgetting to enter transactions at all in one of the two programs. However, as will all things, I have decided to give NeoBudget another try. Since my 7-day trial had expired, I signed up for a subscription. At $2.50 per month, billed monthly, this is not bad at all.
The reason I am giving this product another shot is because I really like it. The user interface is nice, the processes are simple, and it is very easy to use. Not to mention, the cost is very inexpensive, especially when compared to other products such as Mvelopes. I do still recommend this product, but need to come up with a way to personally manage my budget a little better with these two products. If you use NeoBudget alone, you are in good shape. Any additional tracking of your spending outside of NeoBudget needs to be tailored to your preferences to ensure that you are not spending all evening entering and tracking transactions.
Now for Gazelle! I sent my phone and all of the components in the free, postage paid packaging sent to me by Gazelle (which was sent to my house in just a few days upon my request from their website). A few business days later, I received an email that the phone was evaluated, and they counter offered a price, which was a slight reduction from the original quote of $173 down to $158 due to some damage that I forgot about (a scratch on the screen and a small mark on the side where I dropped it on the pavement getting out of my car). I accepted the offer, and within just a few additional business days, I received a check in the mail!
This was a great service, easy to use and good for the environment. I will be using Gazelle again in the future for my tech recycle needs!