Savings Goals Dichotomies

ajbopp
ajbopp Superuser ✭✭✭✭
edited March 2023 in Feedback
Yet Another SG Discussion

Something in my Simplifi budget seems willdly off-kilter, and I suspect it's how I'm using SGs. My Spending Plan says I'll have lots of money left over this month, but my Cash Flow is not so optimistic.

Been reading a lot of @DannyB's and @Flopbot's posts and @Coach Natalie's responses, and I'm coming to a certain conclusion.

I think SGs were created to allow planning for single event situations - that family trip to Disney World, next year's trip to the Super Bowl, that downpayment on a new car you want in 5 years, that sort of thing.

What many of the users seem to be doing is to twist functionality around that intention to set money aside for regular, less frequent expenses. Car registration, holiday spending, annual newspaper subscriptions. I know that's how I'm using it, and it's not an exaggeration to call it "twisting." 

Lots of ideas have been suggested for making things better, but I'd like to offer one I haven't seen. Leave the SGs alone, and set up a different area of the app to manage infrequent-but-regular expenses. Trying to make an area of functionality do everything for everyone is likely to please no one, and there are sufficient differences between the two concepts to justify the separation. Infrequent expenses can adequately be tracked in the cash flow, but savings goals cannot really be. 

I just seems like there was a discussion around a certain level of functionality for SGs and the implementation was made around that discussion, but the pesky users are intent on making SGs something they were never intended to be, leading to confusing reports, off-balance account balances, and uncertainly about how to mark withdrawals and what it means to do so.

When SGs are used the way it appears they were intended, they really do work well.

Anthony Bopp
Simplifi User Since July 2022
Money talks. But all my paycheck ever says is goodbye

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Comments

  • DannyB
    DannyB Superuser ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited February 2023
    Hi @ajbopp

    I agree 100% with your assessment. Using SGs the to cover non-monthly routine expenses is not what they are designed for, and if the design/development team tried to implement all the suggestions from us users they would in essence have to do exactly what you say “ Leave the SGs alone, and set up a different area of the app to manage infrequent-but-regular expenses.”

    For what it’s worth you have my whole hearted support for making this a feature request!
    Danny
    Simplifi user since 01/22
    Budget: a mathematical confirmation of your suspicions.” ~A.A. Latimer
  • ajbopp
    ajbopp Superuser ✭✭✭✭
    I guess 20 years as a software tester and 7 years as a Scrum Master was good for something, @DannyB :D

    Anthony Bopp
    Simplifi User Since July 2022
    Money talks. But all my paycheck ever says is goodbye

  • Coach Natalie
    Coach Natalie Administrator, Moderator admin
    Great assessment, @ajbopp!

    We do have an existing Idea post here requesting the ability to break down these types of expenses to a monthly amount in the Spending Plan as an actual feature that I'd definitely suggest adding your vote and feedback to. :wink:

    -Coach Natalie 
  • ajbopp
    ajbopp Superuser ✭✭✭✭
    edited February 2023
    Thanks @Coach Natalie!

    I read through that discussion you linked and thought it was enlightening, but unsatisfying for reasons I can't really put my finger on yet. So this post is kind of stream of consciousness as I try to work it out for myself.

    First, after spending a good part of the morning just browsing through the forums here, it seems clear that Savings Goals are the single largest source of frustration in the application. I regard this as a good thing, as it means (to me) that Savings Goals are the area of largest interest to the user base. They just want it to do what they expect it to do.

    Ultimately, I think what many of us are looking for is an intuitive way to break down 3-to-12 month expenses into monthly buckets that we can add to, and see how full each bucket is at any given time. This also means each bucket needs to be able to be emptied so it can be re-filled.

    If (as a prior Scrum Master and Agile Coach myself), I look at this with an Agile mindset, I'd be inclined to offer the following questions to the community of users.
    1. What problem(s) are we attempting to solve?
    2. How is the current implementation not solving them?
    3. What solutions would we offer to correct this? And what are the strengths and weaknesses of each proposed solution?
    My personal response:
    1. (a) Track savings for vacations, college education, new car, etc. (b) Set aside sufficient funds on a regular basis to pay for infrequent but relatively consistent and high expenses, such as property taxes or what we expect to owe the IRS every April. [IMO, the budget shouldn't really care if I need to spend $30 a year for a Plex subscription - it's nice to track it, but the budget should be flexible enough to absorb that sort of thing without having to budget $2.50 a month to pay for it.]
    2. (a) Savings Goals work great for expenses that occur so infrequently that it makes sense to save for it once, then start saving for another one all over again if necessary (like cars). (b) There is no current mechanism in Simplifi to comfortably accommodate semi-annual or annual expenses, and yet, personally, these sorts of expenses represent upwards of 10% of my annual cash outflow. I try to pay for as many things annually as possible because it saves money - almost every company from insurance to streaming services offers a discount for paying annually.
    3. (a) I see no reason to change the current functionality of Savings Goals. If I want to save for a vacation to Europe in 2025, and I have an idea of how much I want to spend on it, the way it works now is fantastic. (b) For regular but infrequent expenses, it seems to me an easy solution (not necessarily the best) is to add some functionality to setting up a recurring bill. A checkbox confirming I want to add pro-rated amount to my monthly spending plan to accommodate a bill I need to pay for once a year would be a start. These sorts of things could then be added to somthing like a watch list that sends an alert if I haven't got what I should have for this time of the year to take care of the expense when it comes due. (Yes I know that's a nightmare algorithm to implement - that's why we need developer input as well).
    I'd love to hear the thoughts of other users as well.

    Anthony Bopp
    Simplifi User Since July 2022
    Money talks. But all my paycheck ever says is goodbye

  • Coach Natalie
    Coach Natalie Administrator, Moderator admin
    edited February 2023
    @ajbopp, I'd suggest adding 3 (b) to the Idea post so that when our Product Team reviews it, they'll see your suggested way of accomplishing something like that. :smile:

    -Coach Natalie
  • ajbopp
    ajbopp Superuser ✭✭✭✭
    edited February 2023
    Also with an Agile mindset, I'll confess I don't know how to do that, or even what an idea post is or when I created one. :D

    Anthony Bopp
    Simplifi User Since July 2022
    Money talks. But all my paycheck ever says is goodbye

  • DannyB
    DannyB Superuser ✭✭✭✭✭
    @ajbopp

    Ditto to your answers.

    For 3 (b) in addition to your answer, I'd like to see added similar functionality for infrequent flexible expenses like auto maintenance/repair, house maintenance/repair, birthday/holiday gift giving that would allow one to accumulate up to a certain amount over a period of time and spend from it when needed.
    Danny
    Simplifi user since 01/22
    Budget: a mathematical confirmation of your suspicions.” ~A.A. Latimer
  • Coach Natalie
    Coach Natalie Administrator, Moderator admin
    edited February 2023
    Great assessment, @ajbopp!

    We do have an existing Idea post here requesting the ability to break down these types of expenses to a monthly amount in the Spending Plan as an actual feature that I'd definitely suggest adding your vote and feedback to. :wink:

    -Coach Natalie 
    @ajbopp, I'm referring to the Idea post I linked in this above comment. For more info on Idea posts, we have an FAQ here that might be helpful. :smile:

    -Coach Natalie
  • ajbopp
    ajbopp Superuser ✭✭✭✭
    DannyB said:
    @ajbopp

    Ditto to your answers.

    For 3 (b) in addition to your answer, I'd like to see added similar functionality for infrequent flexible expenses like auto maintenance/repair, house maintenance/repair, birthday/holiday gift giving that would allow one to accumulate up to a certain amount over a period of time and spend from it when needed.
    Sounds like another good option for how to deal with rollover money :)

    Anthony Bopp
    Simplifi User Since July 2022
    Money talks. But all my paycheck ever says is goodbye

  • ajbopp
    ajbopp Superuser ✭✭✭✭
    @ajbopp, I'm referring to the Idea post I linked in this above comment. For more info on Idea posts, we have an FAQ here that might be helpful. :smile:

    -Coach Natalie
    Done! Thanks!

    Anthony Bopp
    Simplifi User Since July 2022
    Money talks. But all my paycheck ever says is goodbye

  • cfields
    cfields Member ✭✭
    We need 3(b) real bad.  The work arounds, as stated, are not glamorous.  Simplifi should recognize when the infrequent bill is paid too, and reset the accumulated balance to $0. I seen this type of thing referred to as a "sinking fund" in various budgeting methods.     
  • RobWilk
    RobWilk Superuser ✭✭✭✭✭
    Savings Goals, to me, are just there to give me a % towards a savings amount and an estimate of when I get there based on planned monthly contributions.   It's useful as-is, and complicating it to do more than that will make it too complicated for me as a user.


    Rob Wilkens

  • Flopbot
    Flopbot Superuser ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited February 2023
    @ajbopp Thanks for giving Savings Goals some serious thought!  I agree with most of your conclusions although I'm unsure about creating a completely separate feature/mechanism/thing to handle "single event situations"...as you called them.  With not that many tweaks, I do think Simplifi could make the existing Savings Goal feature cover a wider range of situations.  I absolutely agree that a lot of user frustration comes from trying to pound a square peg into the preverbal round hole AND that there's enough collective user interest to warrant Savings Goals being the next area of major focus for Simplifi's developers.

    I just posted this to another user, but I think it's appropriate in this string as well...

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Over the last few months, I've been really focused on Savings Goals and how they work...or don't.  In just the last 7 days, I finally have my real world accounts set up in a way that seems to mirror well the realities of Simplifi's current design in regards to Savings Goals.

    To start off, I think Simplifi's Savings Goals are a great tool and I really like what they have so far.  However, unfortunately, they're not quite there yet.  For more details, see this really great "Survey" of Savings Goal idea posts done by @DannyB awhile ago (click here).

    Specifically, in my mind there are three (3) key missing features:
    • Ability to schedule a Contribution / Withdrawal for a future date.
    • Lack of ability to see a historical log of past Contributions/Withdrawals for reference purposes.
    • Ability to automate the Contributions/Withdrawals under Spending Plan>Savings Goals.
    Until Simplifi implements these three items, I've decided to follow these personal -non officially sanctioned - guidelines:
    • Only use Savings Goals with Savings Accounts.
    • If a real-world Savings Account has a Savings Goal in it, ALL THE MONEY in that account MUST ALSO be accounted for by Savings Goals.  Said another way, the Available To Spend amount for that particular Savings Account will always be $0.
    • If I have a regularly occurring, scheduled transfer from Checking to Savings, it goes into a dedicated, real-world Savings Account that DOES NOT use Savings Goals.  For example, each paycheck, I have money deposited directly into Savings for B-Days & Christmas.  These two (2) separate accounts are not covered by Savings Goals.
    Here's what it looks like in Simplifi:
    • Checking Account - (NO Savings Goals)
    • Savings Account A - (Short Term Savings Goals)
    • Savings Account B - (B-Days NO Savings Goals)
    • Savings Account C - (Christmas NO Savings Goals)
    • Savings Account D - (Long Term Savings Goals)
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I gather from the subject of your post that you don't want to use Savings Goals, but they can certainly be a useful tool in specific situations...but not every situation, yet.
    Chris
    Quicken Desktop user since 2014.
    New to Simplifi in 2021.
  • cfields
    cfields Member ✭✭
    Just to try to make this discussion actionable - I see two at least two related feature requests:
    Perhaps we can vote those to the top and then have a discussion on implementation?  It seems like two different topics but both requests occur frequently.


This discussion has been closed.