Ideas and Validation February 10, 2020

Help me validate my budget app idea?

Deven Jarvis @devenjarvis

So I’ve been frustrated with existing budget apps for a long time, and I think I’ve got a unique vision for one to meet what I perceive as major shortcomings for modern money management. Can you help me validate if I’m the only one who would be interested in an app that overcame these shortcomings?

Namely: would you use it, and would you PAY for it?

Shortcomings that I think I have a solution for:

  1. Between hourly jobs, the rise of the gig economy, self-employment, and profit-sharing income is often not static from month-to-month for a lot of people. A modern budget app should account for that automatically.

  2. Overspending on a budget category and it “turning red” or something isn’t really helpful. If you overspend on one thing you have less money for other things - a modern budget app should adjust for that automatically

  3. You don’t magically get money on the 1st of the month you didn’t already have (unless you got paid), month-based budgets don’t make a ton of sense and can be unnecessarily restricting.

It should support automatic transactions, and be mobile-first. It’s 2020 though, these are a given for me, not differentiating though. What do you think, should I build this?

  1. 6

    My advice to you would be to pick a customer.

    Is it the freelancer with irregular income?
    Is it the employee with a steady, regular paycheck?
    Is it the rich person who thinks about money annually as opposed to weekly or monthly?

    I think you’ll trip yourself up if you try to be everything to everyone.

    1. 3

      Completely agree! I think right now my customer is me, but I want to gauge if I represent a large enough group of people who would benefit from a tool like this. That said, this is really early stage validation and I haven’t been specific in this post about customer, and to be fair I need to think on that more.

      PS - huge fan of your work and contributions around IH. I’ve been following you since SongBox and am real excited to be getting your input on one of my posts! I really appreciate your approach to making and advice/feedback you’ve given on different posts. Just wanted to say thanks for that!

      1. 2

        Wow - holy shit, thanks very much. That means a lot.

        I don't even usually acknowledge that anyone other than the person I'm replying to even reads my nonsense haha.

  2. 3

    It feels like those shortcomings are already addressed by YNAB, so there's a market.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the reply! I’ve tried YNAB and found it fell short in being a pretty manual process. I get the philosophy, and their approach to basing this month’s income off of last month would help
      adjust for flux. I don’t remember YNAB handling overspending though and it’s still a fairly rigid month-based system.
      But to your point it does address a portion of what I’m looking for and they do have a market!

      1. 1

        I didn't dig a lot, but if I remember correctly, they do handle overspending (you transfer from one pocket to another or something like that). The interesting part is their philosophy of giving each $ a job, which works well with irregular income.

  3. 2

    I use airtable right now. I've always been huge on budgeting. I actually think it's fun, but it would be hard to get me to pay for a budgeting app. So, you will have to figure out a good way to monetize it.

    If a budgeting app could focus on strategy, I would love that. Similar to how my workout strap/app (whoop) tells me how much sleep I need to have to "just get by," "preform," or "peak" the next day. If my budget had some ai that would suggest how much bigger or smaller my budget could be to still make it to the next budget in good standing - I could calculate risk better. Basically how much risk can I possibly handle and if I go $$$ over budget how long will it take me to recover based on how much I currently make at the rate my business is growing. The kind of budget app I would use is a pretty hard build and expensive if your not a coder. But, that kind of app could give me an advantage at increasing my income and would love to have that kind of data in a matter of seconds. I would definitely use it. Otherwise airtable is just as efficient. I hope that makes sense!

    BTW just created my IH account a few days ago! I'll add in my info and fill in my profile later this week - hopefully. Excited to find this.

  4. 2

    What you tried the existing budget apps? I would go through each and decide what you like and don't like about each. Blog about that to attract like minded people.

  5. 2

    I'm also in the processes of creating a budgeting/spending app. I came up with a lot of awesome features. The problem I encountered is there are so many free solutions that are really good. Mint, Personal Capital, etc. It's hard to compete. Perhaps if you get 100 of your close friends to pay $5 a month, which is hard to do, since no one wants to pay in the B2C world. I think it would be a great micro-saas idea, maybe it can pull in a few grand in MRR, which could be enough fro you. But you'd have to create something as good as Mint. Good luck!

  6. 2

    I think there are apps like Mint in the market, Personally I don’t trust these apps if it asks to link to credit cards or bank accounts to track spening.

    1. 1

      Hey, thanks for that feedback, I’ve gotten that sense before from others as well, but I personally see tremendous value in automatic transaction pulling and categorization. Is there anything an app could do to earn your trust for these links, or is I always going to be a no go for you?

      1. 1

        well, it depends on value add coming from the app. If app has partnered with credit card companies for rewards or something that adds some level of trust. I'm sure credit card companies will have some way to validate the app. CRED is the app most innovative app in FinTech I have seen in recent times .

        P.S. I don't promote/use this app.

  7. 2

    I too still search for a budget app, but my take is kind of the opposite. I only care about daily/weekly/monthly budgets and I only care about putting in the numbers as quickly as possible (so integration with Revolut to immediatelly see a card payment would be awesome). I guess when comes to budgeting 100 people == 100 ways. Why? Mostly because I know how much I earned in a year by filling for taxes and day-to-day I don't care how much it is....

    1. 2

      Also I would pay for a good budget app, but probably not very much, if that's helpful :) (in my mind I easily justify one time payments OR subscriptions with huge value).

      1. 1

        This is great feedback, thanks! There are definitely a bunch of different ways to approach personal finance - and I know this wouldn’t be for everyone. It’s helpful to hear what people are looking for and to know if/what they’d pay for.

        1. 1

          Also recently I am thinking about separate budgets for specific category, e.g. set $$$ for a year for health and so any massage or expensive but healthy food can come to this bucket and not take anything from the daily limit...

  8. 2

    I personally dont like budget apps. I prefer something that just tells me how much money I spent. There arent alot of clean expense managers out there to me. Any way..if you ever heard of buxfer (https://www.buxfer.com/). See if they provide your solution

    1. 1

      Thanks for the feedback! Do you care about knowing what you spent by category, or justbas a whole?

      I’ll check out Buxfer, thanks

      1. 1

        Yes. So spent by category, a run down of expenses for the month with percentages.
        Top expenses monthly, yearly. Comparisons month to month expenditure.
        Those things for me are really helpful.

  9. 1

    Having researched and started a budgeting application, these were my key findings:

    • Couples: I want to track expenses with my wife, meaning that we share one budget but we both individually spend money. This needs to be jointly trackable. We also need to be able to hide some transactions, e.g.: gifts, from each other- at least until her birthday.
    • Auto-categorization: doesn't work. If I to go Target and spend $50 on a t-shirt, paper towels, and groceries, how can that be auto-categorized among clothing, household expenses, and groceries? I doubt it could be. Similarly, money I spend on expenses for work (for which I'll be reimbursed) may not need to be tracked at all.
  10. 1

    I will not use it. I will not pay for it. Nothing beats excel or Google sheets

    1. 1

      Hey, thanks for the feedback! I know there will always be die-hard excel budget era out there. Tiller actually targets that market well and isn’t something I’d be competing with. This would be for people who prefer a tool to help make managing personal finance a lot less manual, but still helpful.

    2. 1

      lol. So you want an app that can integrate will excel and google sheets and create a nice dashboard for you :)

      1. 1

        No. Lots of people use excel and google sheets to plan, budget and track. It's very flexible and configurable. Many people fall back to it after trying so many shiny budget apps

  11. 1

    I would not pay for it.

    1. 1

      Hey, thanks for the feedback!

  12. 1

    I am not sure you have narrowed down enough specifically on the problem your solving and how your going to solve it. The problem with budgeting in the sense of getting an accurate estimate of predicting expenses on projects is usually not that I don't have the tools to do so, but rather that there are circumstances that I did not predict or adequately take into account or control effectively which led to delays and overspending. A better tool will not help me with these problems, maybe only experience will.

    1. 1

      Hey, I think I missed the clarifying word here that this was for personal budgeting, not for a project budget. In the case of a project budget I could completely see what you are saying here