Think you just need a budget?
Budgeting tools like Mint, Quicken, You Need a Budget (YNAB) and others can track spending transactions just fine. There are many apps like these, and they can all tell you what you did with your money.
These apps have a budgeting feature to define spending and savings goals, then compare actual 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 best intentions. Instead, they tell us that we have run off the road, without providing any hints about how to get back. 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 GPS behaved like the typical budgeting app, it would stop working as soon as I took a wrong turn.
You need a Thinking Budget … and 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 already 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 plans 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. We expect these tools to automate the data entry by automatically downloading our transactions. Shouldn’t we expect them to be smart enough to tell us how to fix our budget?
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 spending 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.
Not for everyone
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.
- Actually, it will work great for people who don’t have all that yet, but here’s the thing: If you are used to free or really cheap budgeting tools, this is not for you.
Thinking Budget is guided by the latest science behind driving behavior change, along with some pretty sophisticated software logic to provide the intelligence to save time and help you behave as brilliantly as you intend. You don’t see these capabilities in other tools because it is hard. Really hard.
This won’t be like the legacy budgeting apps out there, and it won’t work for you unless you value your time and financial future. Expect to spend at least $20/month.
Most budgeting apps will help you create the ideal budget plan, but Thinking Budget will tell you how to adjust your spending to achieve your financial goals.
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