“We no longer charge our ‘wants’ to credit cards.”

Niki and her wonderful family

Niki and her wonderful family

I recently had the privilege of speaking with Niki about Mvelopes (one of my favorite topics).  Niki and her family currently live in Chesterfield, Virginia.  About a year and half ago, Niki shared the following comments with us:

My husband and I each came into our marriage with fairly high debt through credit cards, school loans, car payments, etc. As our financial problems grew, our marriage problems grew. We found ourselves growing apart from each other.  We got connected to a wonderful church that offered a small group study on money management, based on a video by Larry Burkett from Crown Ministries. My husband and I took what we learned very seriously and we started to use the old-fashioned envelopes system. We started to communicate more openly about our finances.  Then we started using Mvelopes in February 2006. Mvelopes has taught us discipline, helped us to remain focused, and has enabled us to stick to our budget. We no longer charge our “wants” to credit cards. We now focus on our savings and retirement, instead of frivolously spending what is left over each month after our mortgage and bills. Thank you, Mvelopes!

During our recent conversation, Niki provided the following additional information:

Q:  How long have you been using Mvelopes?

A:  I believe I started using Mvelopes in February of 2006.

Q:  How has Mvelopes assisted you in living within your income?

A:  It has helped us by categorizing our expenses.  Through the use of Mvelopes, we’ve been able to realize what a realistic budget looks like.  For example, in the past, we planned for day-to-day expenses (utilities, groceries), but we didn’t plan for any variables–things like auto expenses (tire changes, oil changes, repairs) and gift-giving expenses.  Now we plan for those things.

Q:  How much consumer debt have you been able to eliminate during that time?

A: I would say roughly $10,000.

Q:  How much have you been able to save while using Mvelopes?

A: We have saved about $1,300, and that’s just been within the past six months.  Once we reduced our debt significantly, we were able to start saving.  We are on the last leg of our debt reduction and we will now be able to make greater headway on building our savings.

Q:  How much has your average checking account balance increased while using Mvelopes?

A: Probably $200 to $300.

Q:  What financial goals have you achieved while using Mvelopes?

A: Debt reduction has been major–it included paying off our second car.  Also, now when we have unexpected repairs, we can pay for them in cash.  In the past six months or so, we have felt a great relief knowing that we have those funds set aside for emergency expenses.  We have also learned to go without things that we don’t really need.

Q:  What are your next financial goals?

A: Within this year, we would like to pay off the rest of our debt.  I spent four years of college creating debt, and now I want to be rid of it.  We are also working hard to build our savings so that we won’t have to rely on credit.  We have also increased our charitable donations and out tithes and offerings, which has really blessed our lives.

Q:  How many envelopes have you created?

A: We have created about 15 envelopes.

Q:  How has Mvelopes helped to reduce financial stress?

A: It reduces the paper-pushing.  There are a lot of different benefits in one place.  I have an accurate balance of my checking records.  I can see what we’ve spent during the week.  I am able to pull up reports, historical records, and that helps us tweak and alter the way we look at things in the future.  We don’t have to go through filing cabinets or contact various organizations for that information.  We also love that we can access our records anywhere and keep up on our budget when we’re on vacation.  It helps us to still be responsible, even on the road.  It you’re not careful, debt piles up.  We have also found that frequently eating out, and eating a lot of fast food, for example, has multiple consequences.  Not only can that lifestyle cost a lot of money, but it can contribute to numerous health problems.  So, rather than eat out, we now pack our lunches.

Q:  If married, how has Mvelopes helped you better collaborate with your spouse?

A: We have been able to set and achieve goals easier because the information in how we’re spending and how often we’re spending is all in one place.  We don’t have to look for receipts or remember where our money has gone.  We’ve been married for nine years and I’ve always been responsible for handling the finances.  It’s now so simple to look at our financial situation because it’s all there together.  We used to have to shuffle through papers, which wasted a lot of time, was frustrating, and would often cause arguments.  Now our budget meetings are quick and efficient.  We set our goals, review our habits, and we’re done.

Q:  What advice would you give to new Mvelopes users?

A: Something that I struggled with in the beginning, because it was a new concept, was that I thought the program would automatically solve all my problems without much effort from me.  Obviously, there is a need to update records (every time you spend) so that the picture is clear.  If you spend money, you need to update the budget.  Initially, I only accessed the program about once a week, and that became a bit overwhelming.  Now I am in the habit of checking my Mvelopes account on a daily basis and it is very simple.  It’s important to stay on top of it.  Otherwise, you may forget what you’ve spent and, as a result, may overspend.  Debt reduction can be frustrating, but it’s so important to endure.

Q:  If you could create a “tag line” for Mvelopes–keeping in mind what it’s done for you–what would the tag line be?

A: The one key word that comes to mind is freedom.  Whether you’re a debt-free consumer or a consumer swimming in debt, you can still be a slave to money.  I don’t want to be a slave to money or debt.  I want to be free to choose my path.  Financial burdens steal my time, and steal from my relationship with my husband.  So many marriages end because of money conflicts.  I have the freedom to live as I choose.  Now that we have a budget, we can set up reasonable decisions about where our money should go.  We now have the freedom to choose our direction for our financial goals.  When we didn’t have a grasp on our budget, we didn’t have any freedom.  We paid our bills, but they would quickly become due again.  I feel a very big sense of relief now that I have a system that works.  It took effort and my husband and I had to work at it together, but Mvelopes provided a simplified way to do it.

At the conclusion of our telephone discussion, I asked Nikki if she had anything else she wanted to add that wasn’t included with my questions.  She responded with the following comments:  “Now that we’ve used Mvelopes for a few years, it brings us such joy to see the understanding our daughter (who is now 8 years old) has for money.  When she is in a place to give, like Sunday school, she willingly shares and gives for things that are a good cause.  But she has also been taught that when you don’t have money for things, you simply don’t buy things.  We no longer just go to the mall and wander around in order to kill time.  Instead, we exercise, play outside, or watch a movie at home.  We avoid things that are time and money wasters.  Our daughter has developed a healthy respect and appreciation for money and what it can do.  She knows it’s important to be accountable.  Our daughter also knows that there are temptations–things that she’ll probably want to buy when she may not have the money, and she is learning to manage those temptations.”

Niki, thank you so much for taking time to speak with me about Mvelopes.  The lessons you have learned, and have shared with us, are so valuable.  We wish you and your wonderful family continued financial success and much happiness.