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Building a Simple Budgeting Tool as Good as Simple's

Simple Bank is shutting down and their apps will stop working on May 8, 2021. Follow me over the next 40 days to see if I can build something to replace Simple's budgeting tools before they disappear. Join to get posts delivered to your inbox or follow me on social media.

Read All Of The Posts

  1. Building a Simple Budgeting Tool As Good As Simple's
  2. How Do Banks Connect To My Bank Account?
  3. A Sneak Peak At My Simple Budgeting App
  4. How I Built a Simple Budgeting App

Simple's Budgeting Tools for Any Bank

So, what made Simple's budgeting tools so great? Simplicity and automation.

Simplicity: Their expense feature closely resembled real-life cash envelopes. It was easy to assign an expense to a transaction and even move money between expenses. I had tried zero-based budgeting with other tools and they felt hard enough that I didn't stick it out.

Automation: Every paycheck would automatically get distributed across my expenses.I did not have to sit and figure out each month's budget. This was really helpful because most months are the same and I was able to average out costs that might change (i.e. electric bills).

There’s a lot more but the video below is a good description.

The more I thought about it, the more realistic it seemed that I could build some tools that provided the ease-of-use and flexibility that Simple's budgeting tools did. Here's an outline of what this entails.

  1. I'm not building a bank. This will have to be used as a layer on top of a traditional checking account.
  2. I do not want to enter transactions manually.
  3. I like the envelope system and want to have tools that resemble real life envelopes stuffed with cash as much as possible.
  4. We need something akin to sinking funds that let us accrue money for bi-annual bills like car insurance.
  5. My wife and I need to be able to access the tools from our phones.
  6. We do not, nor do we plan to, set up a budget for each month. Our budget doesn't change often and we are lazy.
  7. It needs to be good enough that my wife uses it. This rules out things like Excel.

7 things. 40 days. Let's do it.

More About Simple

Simple is was an online bank that launched in 2012. I got an account right away and have been an enthusiastic customer ever since. I did a complete overhaul of our family's finances in 2019 which was largely enabled by some of the intuitive, yet sophisticated, features built into Simple's banking software. Simple was acquired by BBVA in 2014. In January of 2021, Simple emailed their customers to notify them that BBVA was being acquired by PNC Bank who made the strategic decision to close Simple.

It's common for banks to offer budgeting features as part of their app. But none of them are really all that great. Keeping a budget and staying on track is not easy. Somehow, Simple's tools made it very easy because of how well they worked and flexible they were.

I spent several weeks researching banks that I could switch to as our primary spending account. I did not anticipate any of the large banks would have the type of tools I was looking for but was pleasantly surprised with a number of new startup banks with intriguing features. I created accounts at the 2 most promising and quickly ruled one out but thought the other would meet our needs. A few weeks in and I realized that the second bank would not cut it either. I'll talk about why they weren't what I was looking for in a future post.

But for now, there's not much time before May 8, 2021 so I better get started.