Think you just need a budget?
Budgeting tools like Mint, Quicken and You Need a Budget (YNAB) can track spending transactions just fine. There are many apps like these, and they can all tell you what you did with your money.
Most also have a budgeting feature to define spending and savings goals, then compare spending to these goals. This planning process helps us decide what we want to do–just like it is a good idea to look at a map before jumping in the car for a long trip.
What is missing from all these apps, however, is course correction–guidance about how to get back on track when our actual spending doesn’t match our budgeting goals. If the GPS app we used for our road trip had limitations like this, it would stop working if we took a wrong turn. That’s not very useful, is it?
If my car’s GPS behaved like the typical budgeting app, it would stop working as soon as I took a wrong turn.
You need a FORECAST
When spending does not go according to plan, I find myself slogging through my budget forecasting spreadsheet to figure out how to adjust my future spending behavior to get back on plan. This requires repeating the data entry I just did in the budgeting tool in order to update the spreadsheet so I can see the impact on my future cash flow and calculate adjustments to my spending to compensate. This is a profoundly frustrating and inefficient use of my time.
On one hand, spreadsheets can perform the “what-if” calculations needed for steering future spending behavior back toward budgeting goals. However, just because spreadsheets can do this, it doesn’t mean it’s a good use of our time to use a spreadsheet for this repetitive drudgery. Our budgeting tool should be able to provide this guidance based on the transaction data it already has.
This isn’t rocket science, and we shouldn’t be poring over spreadsheets. Our budgeting app should be able to instantly provide the guidance we need to adjust our spending habits and get back on track.
Coming Soon: Thinking Budget
The goal is simple: A budget app that works–fully–for real people, which helps us navigate real-life spending events like unexpected expenses and human mistakes which derail our budget plans; an app that respects our time by pulling its full weight in number-crunching and forecasting, and guides us through making the course corrections that are a natural part of our real financial world.
Thinking Budget will work great for people at any stage of their financial journey, but it will be shine brightest for people with meaningful financial “texture,” those who simultaneously juggle hefty mortgages, saving for college tuition, reducing debts, saving for vacations, car repairs, kid braces, home repairs, medical expenses. Most budgeting apps will help you create the ideal budget plan for all this, but Thinking Budget will tell you how to adjust your spending to achieve your budgeting goals.
Thinking Budget will shine brightest for people juggling multiple big spending obligations, hefty savings goals and unexpected financial events by providing continuous guidance to keep on plan.