Frequently Asked Questions
How does Thinking Budget differ from other budgeting tools?
Like other budgeting programs such as YNAB, Mint and Every Dollar, Thinking Budget securely connects to your bank and credit cards (if you choose to configure those connections) to automatically import your transactions, track your spending and show you how that spending compares to your intentions (“budgeted” compared to actual spending).
Two Major Differences: 1) Forecasting and 2) Course Correction
Thinking Budget was born out of frustration that other budgeting tools fail to:
1. Make it easy see the impact of current spending (or savings) on the money we will have for future needs. This lack of “cash flow forecasting” is a fatal flaw that creates a dangerously incomplete picture of our finances. YNAB, for example, rejects the idea of forecasting because “you can’t spend money you don’t have.” We certainly cannot spend the money we do not yet have, but we also cannot spend money just because we have it now. The absence of forecasting in our budgeting app requires slogging through spreadsheets to get an accurate picture of how much we can spend (or need to save) today in order to avoid cash flow problems later. This gap defeats the whole purpose of using a program to track spending. Thinking Budget includes forecasting so we don’t have to use spreadsheets
2. Adjust for our spending mistakes. Thinking Budget recognizes that we are all human. Life happens, and we spend more than we plan. All the theory about “the right way” to spend (which we agree is ideal) becomes useless when dealing with the reality that we have overspent. Thinking Budget fixes this flaw in other tools (including spreadsheets) by telling you what to do to get back on track when your spending doesn’t go according to plan.
How does Thinking Budget protect my data? If you get hacked, can the hacker get my money?
Summary: 1) We use bank-level security, and we encrypt your data in our database. 2) Neither Thinking Budget nor a hacker could get to your money without your login credentials, and we never see those.
All interactions with between you and Thinking Budget and between Thinking Budget and your financial institutions use bank-level security (256-bit SSL encryption). This is the same security used when you connect directly to your financial institutions.
Unlike other budgeting solutions (including your own spreadsheets), Thinking Budget also encrypts your data when it is stored in our database (“encryption at-rest” is what this is called by information security experts). This means that even if we had an intruder, they would not be able to make any sense of your data.
Even if a hacker could make sense of your scrambled data at Thinking Budget, we never have access to your login credentials to the financial institutions you configure for connecting to Thinking Budget via Plaid, so that hacker would have no way to access your money. If a hacker was somehow able to pretend to be Thinking Budget to access your financial accounts, they would (just like Thinking Budget) be unable to do anything other that see your transactions.
Who else gets to see my data? Do you sell my data for advertising or from some other kind of money-making schema?
It is YOUR data, not ours. Thinking Budget does not share your financial data, in any form, with any entity. Period.
We do not participate in the surveillance economy, and we respect your privacy, so we don’t ask you to connect to us via Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp, Twitter, or any other social media account.
We DO use some third-party apps to hep us measure how people interact with Thinking Budget functionality so we can improve the experience for you, but we do not allow any data collected (none of which is your financial information) by these tools to be shared with any other entities.
How is Thinking Budget getting my spending transactions? Is this safe?
Thinking Budget uses Plaid for connecting to your accounts (but only if you configure those connections). Plaid is a 3rd-generation provider of connections to financial accounts, and they were initially funded by MasterCard, Visa and other large financial players, so they have earned the highest level of trust from the financial industry. In January of 2020, Visa announced plans to buy Plaid for $5.3 Billion; that’s a pretty powerful vote of confidence.
Plaid uses the same credentials you use for each bank, credit card and investment account you connect to Thinking Budget via Plaid, but they do not expose any of those credentials to us. We receive only a unique “token” which tells Plaid that you have agreed to provide us read-only access to your transactions via Plaid. This token cannot be used for anything else, and it can only be used by Thinking Budget.
All transactions are encrypted using bank-level security (SSL) when we are receiving them, and your data is also encrypted when we store it in our database for you to see within Thinking Budget.
What about my payment information--the credit or debit card I use to pay for Thinking Budget? How do you protect that?
Thinking Budget collects subscription fees by charging the debit or credit card you specify, but we do not have access to your credit card number or other information which directly authorizes charges to that card.
This is because modern online payment systems (the services which enable you to authorize charges to your card by online services like us) are designed to protect you (the cardholder) and us (the merchant) from fraudulent charges bing made to that card in the event that we get hacked. Similar to how your financial account credentials are protected by Plaid not exposing them directly to us, the online payment providers (Stripe, in our case) protect all of us by never exposing that information to us.
What other ways do you protect my data privacy?
Thinking Budget is a privacy-first product. This means that we do not participate in the “surveillance economy” by sharing your browsing history or other activities with any other parties. In fact, we don’t use Google Analytics for website statistics, because they capture and record too much information about you. Instead, we use a website analytics solution which is designed to produce statistics on number of visits, clicks, etc. without requiring cookies or capturing any information which could be used to uniquely identify you.
This is also why we don’t ask you to register of log in by using Facebook, Twitter or any other “social” login. By doing so, you would feeding your data to the Internet surveillance infrastructure through that social media account.
Can you give an example of "actionable advice" Thinking Budget provides?
We are all human–regardless of our level of income. Unlike other budgeting apps (and spreadsheets) which expect us to do things “the right way,” Thinking Budget helps us to get back on track when we overspend.
Example: Let’s say we plan to spend $200 on fancy coffee and restaurants, but we end up spending $300 instead.
- Other apps (and our spreadsheets) will highlight this overspending.
“Over-budget! You blew it!”
- Thinking Budget recommends how to get your budget back on plan.
“Would you like to take $100 from Entertainment to get back on track?”
How does Thinking Budget deal with credit cards?
Credit card accounts are configured just like checking or savings accounts; once you use our bank-level-security process to authenticate those accounts for read-only access by your Thinking Budget account, charges and payments to your credit card are automatically imported–just like your checking account transactions.
What is different for credit cards (and unique to Thinking Budget) is:
1. We help you keep on top of your credit card spending to avoid racking up a big balance (when you are paying your full credit card balance each month).
2. We help you keep on top of paying off your credit cards when you do find yourself carrying a balance.
- We do this by allowing you to see the impact on your checking account (the account you use to pay off your credit card) of each credit card charge.
What about my retirement savings, house, car and other assets? Does Thinking Budget show my my full financial picture?
Yes. Thinking Budget lets you track all your financial assets and obligations in order to show you your complete financial picture.
Can I share my Thinking Budget account with my spouse or partner?
Yes! Unlike many other budgeting apps, Thinking Budget is designed from the ground up for multiple people (each with their own login credentials) to access a common set of Thinking Budget accounts. These Thinking Budget “teams” are typically a couple or family, but you could also add your financial advisor or accountant to your Thinking Budget team to make it easier for them to give you the best advice.
What if I don't want to connect Thinking Budget to my financial institutions? Can I enter transactions manually?
Yes! You are welcome to enter transactions manually. Some financial experts actually recommend that we do manually key in our transactions in order to get a more visceral appreciation of our spending behavior, and Thinking Budget includes the manual transaction entry.
How does Thinking Budget make money?
Thanks for asking! Thinking Budget is a subscription service; we collect monthly (or, for a discount, annual) fees in exchange for providing the service to you.
As we discuss in more detail in the data security and privacy topics above, we do NOT share any of your data with any third parties in any way, so we are not open to any money from the surveillance economy.
That said, we plan to explore partnering with trusted firms (those who share our philosophy and practices about data privacy) who can provide valuable services to our users. This would be in the form of a tasteful notification to you about a service we believe is appropriate and relevant to your financial situation. The Thinking Budget partner would know about you only when (and if) you respond to that notification, and you will pre-approve the sharing of any information if we ever considered doing that in order to improve your experience when interacting with a Thinking Budget partner.