One of the people I spoke to explained that her attitude towards money shifted dramatically when she paid her rent, as it was her biggest expense by far. I was inspired to see how our fixed monthly expenses could be balanced out throughout the month to alleviate this lopsided situation.
Problem statement: How might we smooth out a user’s cashflow so they don’t ride the rich-poor rollercoaster?
Experiment: Balancing Expenses Over Time
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To try this idea out, I tallied up all my fixed monthly expenses aside from my rent and found the total was about the same as my rent. Since my rent is due on the 1st of the month, I manually changed the due dates for all my other bills to the 15th of the month. Since I got paid twice a month, I saw that if I put my first paycheck of the month towards my rent, and the second paycheck of the month towards all my other bills, I would have approximately the same amount left over to spend.
The Big Idea: Prorating Per Paycheck
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About half the US is paid weekly or every other week, which doesn’t line up nicely with monthly expenses. While the original idea was to balance monthly expenses across two paychecks, I realized I needed to make the system more flexible. If enough of a cushion was saved up initially, you would be able to prorate all fixed expenses per paycheck, resulting in smooth cashflow. This is from an early pitch deck where I demonstrate the idea.
Exploration: What Does Prorating Look Like?
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The first priority of the Bills feature was to make sure the user had 100% of the money needed for bills that were due before payday—these I termed “Near-term Bills.” The second priority was to earmark 50% of the money needed for bills due after payday, which I called “Far-term Bills.”
Without any regard for the design constraints of a mobile screen, I first set out to make a chart that showed what was earmarked for Near-term bills vs Far-term Bills to see if people could understand it.
Explorations: Color and Layout of the Dollar Stack
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The dollar stack graphic was a big hit with the users of our Concierge Prototype. I played around a bit to find a balance between information density and busy-ness. I also eventually switched from purple to red to represent bills.
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At the top are different amounts of paid bills, followed by the remaining earmarks for Near-term Bills. At the bottom are the partial earmarks for Far-term Bills.