- Review: MoneyWell
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Back before computers and electronic banking, many families managed money using the “envelope budgeting” method. You’d lay out several envelopes and write a budget category and amount on each. When you got paid, you’d cash your check and divide it up according to the amount on each envelope and then set aside those envelopes until you needed to pay your bills.
MoneyWell took the same approach — and created it digitally — on your Mac’s screen. Your income is assigned to an income “bucket,” and money flows out to fill the expense buckets, which are also used for withdrawals from your accounts. It’s about as easy as stuffing cash into various envelopes.
What Is MoneyWell?
MoneyWell is a personal finance app that allows you to allocate money into buckets for monthly expenses like groceries, car payments, rent, insurance and dining out. Once the money has been spent, the bucket tips over. This is a nice way to visualize your spending and helps you keep track of where your money goes.
The MoneyWell method of money management is straightforward:
- Fill your expense buckets when you get paid.
- Assign your spending to buckets.
- Stop spending when your buckets tip over.
You spend only as much as you put into each spending envelope. If a bucket has a positive amount next to it, you can spend that money. If it’s empty or negative, you have to fill it before you can spend from that money category.
If you need more money for a specific expense, you can take it from another envelope, but the idea is to help you stay within your predetermined spending plan.
The key to financial freedom is to eliminate debt and increase savings. To do this with MoneyWell, you create a Debt Repayment bucket and a Savings bucket. Each pay period, you set aside a portion of your income for debt and another amount for savings.
The software connects with all your financial institutions, so you can add transactions from your savings, checking, credit card and investment accounts. Connecting to your accounts is quick and simple, requiring the routing number and account information. Once you’ve connected your account, you can download new transactions to keep MoneyWell current.
MoneyWell allows you to set budgeting goals and put aside money for future big-ticket expenses. And MoneyWell supports some investment features. You can get a high-level view of how your portfolio is performing, as well as track the performance of your individual assets and the fees you pay on those assets. This gives you an idea of where your investments fit into your financial picture but doesn’t offer in-depth analysis.
MoneyWell is more than a checkbook app. It lets you create a budget — income and expenses — in the easiest way possible: the “envelope budgeting” method.
|Mobile App||Yes – Apple iOS|
Pricing — The regular price is $60. Version 3 is currently in beta, and as soon as the final release is ready, No Thirst, the company that develops MoneyWell, will be submitting it to Apple as a downloadable app. It will be $40 for the first month and $60 after that. While updates and patches are available for free, the cost for upgrading to the most current version from an older version varies.
Interactive reports — You can create and save customized reports that have different content, totals, groupings, and date ranges. MoneyWell also includes multiple reporting options that give insight into your finances. Available reports include net-worth overviews and cash flow and spending reports. Customized reports are easy to create.
Smart filters — You can do a quick search using the filter bar to organize your data. For example, you could filter your transaction list to all withdrawals last year with a “vacation” tag. Or you could filter all transactions with an amount over $20 assigned to dining as “business expense.” MoneyWell allows you to create as many smart filters as you’d like with any combination of conditions based on date, payee, memo, amount, tags, and more. These work for every view and report.
Direct connect — The software connects with hundreds of financial institutions. You can automatically add transactions from your savings, checking, credit card and investment accounts. Connecting to your accounts is quick and simple, requiring just the routing number and account information.
For the few banks that don’t yet support direct connections, MoneyWell makes it easy to avoid manual entries by allowing you to import common file formats like OFX, QFX, QIF, and CSV (delimited text).
Easy transfer from other personal finance apps — If you have years of transactions stored in another finance product, it’s likely you can export your data to a QIF or other file and then import it into MoneyWell. All your buckets and accounts will be automatically created.
Multiple device compatibility — MoneyWell works equally great on your Mac or iPad, and both versions sync with each other and with MoneyWell Express on your iPhone and iPod Touch. All versions of MoneyWell use Secure Sync to keep your transactions up to date on all your devices.
Data sharing — You can export your data to share with your financial manager or tax preparer by copying and pasting your selected transactions to any application that accepts tab-delimited data. It’s also easy to get your numbers into Numbers, the new iWork application.
Versatile currency support — MoneyWell allows you to record a transaction in one currency, store it in an account register in a second currency, and assign it to a budget bucket in a third. When you set the currency on your transaction, MoneyWell automatically looks up the exchange rate based on the currency of your selected account.
- Based on a proven budgeting technique — The "envelope budgeting" method has survived generations because it offers simplicity. MoneyWell's digital envelope system allows you to create a budget that’s easy to understand and follow.
- Designed for Mac users — Quicken, the brand name of budgeting apps, doesn't provide a good option for Mac users. MoneyWell was designed with the Mac user in mind and is seamlessly comparable across all Mac devices.
- Spending accountability — MoneyWell’s software is set up to help you stay within your predetermined spending plan; you spend only as much as you put in an envelope. If a bucket has a positive amount next to it, you can spend that money. If it's empty or negative, fill it with money from another bucket to spend money in that budget category.
- Event-based budgeting — You can create a list of events that tell MoneyWell’s program how you spend your money, and it will build a customized budget for you. For example, your Dining Out bucket can have one event for your weekday espresso, another for lunch out three days a week, and a third event for date night with your spouse once a month.
- Visual budgeting — Graphs are available for nearly every list in MoneyWell. Headers above each list give summary information along with quick totals for selections.
- Connectivity is seamless — If you are signed up for direct-connect banking with your financial institution, MoneyWell sets up all your accounts for you. Just pick your bank from the list, enter your access information, and MoneyWell establishes a secure connection to retrieve your account details.
- Cost — MoneyWell costs $49.99. There are similar products suitable for budgeting that are free.
- Customer service — Customer service seems to be lacking, particularly for budgeting software you must pay for. It took some digging on their website to find an email address for support, and although I received an automatic reply that my query was received, nobody followed up with me after that.
- Not a viable choice for active investors — MoneyWell is good for budgeting and features solid reporting, but it’s not a portfolio manager and isn't a good option if you have a lot of investments you want to manage.
In our world of electronic transactions, it’s no longer practical to cash your payroll check and shove your money into envelopes. The majority of our financial transactions happen using credit or debit cards and often via a website. MoneyWell is easy to use, well balanced and offers users a time-honored budgeting approach using “digital envelopes.”
One drawback of MoneyWell is it can take a while to set up your budget. You need to assign each transaction to a bucket, as well as decide how much to allocate to each bucket.
MoneyWell is not devoid of features, though. It handles direct connections to banks, imports standard QIF files, works great with Excel and Numbers, and the approach to managing money is just easier to understand than any but the simplest Mac checkbook apps.
I like the event-based budgeting feature; having a spending plan broken up into events makes budgeting more complete and mirrors real life where things like spending on birthdays can derail a regular budget.
I have given MoneyWell 3.5 out of 5 stars, because it is a good option for users looking for simple, back-to-basics budgeting software — and the single-window design eliminates the typical clutter of other finance apps. However, customer service is lacking if you need it. And there are some excellent free options out there that do the same things as the paid version of MoneyWell.