I tried to avoid this project for years. There are tons of budgeting programs out there, financial gurus are everywhere, and the personal finance space is very noisy and crowded. Those gurus (and many of the budgeting tools) thrive on cult followings. One almost needs a cult following just to be heard above the deafening noise.
I am not a financial guru. I have worked in the financial space for 20 years, and I have (like anyone earning six figures) seen millions come and go, but there is nothing “guru” in that. I have made the same spending mistakes made by most people, and that is where the other budgeting tools just fall apart for me. If I have guru credentials, they are:
1. My hard-won realization that if you don’t do things exactly “their way,” you just aren’t right for the other budgeting tools out there; and
2. I have made just about every spending and budgeting blunder imaginable, so I have a PhD in what NOT to do.
I tried for 10+ years to find a budgeting tool that fully works for me (and my bride)–one that is smart enough to make useful suggestions when unexpected spending events happen in our real world–a world very familiar to most: We make dumb spending mistakes, or a car breaks down, or we intentionally spend more than we had planned, or an aging parent needs help, or a kid breaks something, or other real life just happens.
I finally conceded that there just aren’t effective budgeting tools out there for the rest of us: People who don’t want to join the cult of Tool A or Guru B; people who need a budgeting solution which meets them where they are (in the real world); people who need a budgeting solution capable of recovering from normal human mistakes and “life happens” events; people who just won’t fall in line with The Way.
In the real world, real life keeps happening. Our budgeting tool needs to deal with that gracefully.
Of course, it is much easier to implement rigid ways of behaving than it is to create software which needs to adapt to the real world. That’s why all the other solutions only work if you fall into line with their way; they break if you don’t behave as expected because reacting intelligently to unexpected situations is hard in software–really hard. It is just so much easier to build something that is “good enough” for the people who will fall in line.
I Demand Thinking Software
For me, “good enough” is not even close. I still have to use a massive spreadsheet to understand the impact of spending setbacks–or to even know that what I’m about to spend won’t cause huge problems three months from now. This does work, but “work” is the operative word here: If I’m going to do all that work poring over a spreadsheet, what good is my budgeting tool?
Call me stubborn. (Guilty as charged.) Call me Quixotic. (I’ve certainly been called worse.) I do, however, know how hard it will be to build the Thinking Budget I envision, so I’m building it a chunk at at time. It hasn’t taken me long to already hit “Ah! That’s why this is so hard!” moments, and I am hitting them every day.
I Demand “Wow!”
While I’m at it, I am also striving for an Apple-like user experience, which I summarize as “Oh wow!” and “Breathtakingly elegant” and “It just works.” I know this sounds cliche, and I’m OK with that.
This won’t be for everyone–even if it should be. Remember: I’m not building a cult; I’m building a solution to improve the financial lives of one person or family at a time.
Helping to improve financial lives. That’s my why.