by Rachel Giuliani

3 Steps to Simplifying your Financial Life with Goals

screen shot of Banks Simple mobile app, person swiping credit card, woman watering a plant

As many of you know, Simple is so much more than a great way to track your spending. In fact, as we’ve built Simple, one of our guiding premises has been that you’ll save most successfully and spend more intelligently when it all happens in the same place.

That’s where Goals comes in. We designed Goals to be a powerful and flexible tool that could help with both budgeting and saving. If you already use Goals, you know it can be used in a couple of ways: you can use it to save over time, and you can use it for envelope-style budgeting. If you’re not familiar with that term, it’s exactly what it sounds like: setting aside discrete amounts of money for specific purposes, such as bills and regular expenses, so that you’ve effectively hidden money away from yourself before you could spend it.

screen shot of bank simple app showing spending budget

Goals and volatility

We’ve talked before about how Goals addresses a real problem that many of us face: volatile spending habits. What’s that mean?

We spend more when we have more, and less when we have less: we buy our friends a round of drinks on payday, forgetting that we were living on ramen the day before. In other words, Americans’ spending fluctuates greatly from one payday to the next. This makes it difficult to save and leaves us little buffer in the event of an emergency–it makes us less financially secure.

It is gratifying to hear so many of you tell us that you’re saving more with Simple than you’ve ever saved before–some of you say that Goals is the only thing that’s ever really worked for you. And the numbers back you up:

We see that daily spend variability decreases by 30% for customers who use Goals. Less fluctuation means more savings over time, and therefore more financial security.

But maybe you don’t use Goals. Heck, maybe you aren’t even a customer yet. So if you need a hand, let’s talk about what life looks like when you budget with Goals.

Goals ❤ Safe-to-Spend

First, some background. To really see the value in Goals, it’s best to imagine Goals and Safe-to-Spend as partners in crime, like a mastermind dynamic duo performing the opposite of a bank heist.

It’s 2013. Your account is on a computer. You shouldn’t have to get out a calculator just to figure out if you can afford a new pair of shoes or a nice dinner out. The old way, “Current Balance”, means you see how much is in your account, but then you have to remember to mentally deduct your upcoming rent, the groceries you’re buying this week, and the gift you have to buy for your cousin’s wedding. Safe-to-Spend does all that math for you. Safe-to-Spend takes your balance and subtracts upcoming bill payments, pending transactions, and any Goals for which you’re saving. And then you know what’s, well, safe to spend.

So let’s get started.

Screen shot of Bank Simple app showing current balance

Step 1: Start saving for the fun stuff or the big stuff

Probably the easiest way to start budgeting with Goals is to dream big. It may seem counterintuitive, but think about something you want to do: start an emergency fund, go on a vacation you’ve always wanted. Goals will help you get there, automatically and rather painlessly. Choose when you’d like to have the money, and Goals will take care of the rest: a little bit of money will be taken out of your Safe-to-Spend every day until your Goal is reached. It’s a pretty empowering experience–when it comes time to spend that money, you can do so without guilt or worry.

You can even do this on the fly: Goals is on Android and iPhone so you can start saving whenever the mood takes you.

image of two phones showing the Bank Simple app

Step 2: Envelope-style budgeting

See how easy it is to slowly save (by effectively hiding money from yourself) over time? Now that you’ve got the hang of it, let’s look at some of the other ways you can use Goals to feel good about the way you spend and save.

First, let’s go back to Safe-to-Spend, specifically, the fact that it saves you from doing mental math. It factors in upcoming payments (we’ll get into this more later) and pending transactions, but you can manipulate Safe-to-Spend to help you be even more organized with your spending.

We’ll do this in story form: let’s say you get paid today (yay!). Your account already knows you have your cable bill being sent next week (before you’ll be paid again), so your Safe-to-Spend has been adjusted accordingly.

You also need to fill up your car’s gas tank next week. You haven’t spent that money yet, but in reality, it doesn’t belong in your Safe-to-Spend–you won’t be getting any income before then. Goals are perfect for this: make a Goal for gas by entering the approximate amount a full tank costs, then choosing “Save it Now”. When the time comes next week for you to fill up, the money has already been set aside, so you’re less likely to have spent it prematurely. Simple makes it easy to organize–you get a push notification saying you’ve bought gas, find the gas transaction in your Activity, and choose “Spend from a Goal.” Your Safe-to-Spend will return to what it was before you made the purchase.

woman filling up car with gas and screen shot of bank simple app deducting gas from budget

Okay, but what about budgeting for things about which you’re not sure of the cost? Simple can help with that too. Using our Reports, you determine that you tend to spend about $200 on food every pay period. So you take $200 from this paycheck to put in a “Food” Goal. Every time you get groceries or takeout, you can grab your phone and use “Spend from a Goal” so that it comes out of your Food budget. That way, you can keep yourself on track, and know that your Safe-to-Spend is that much more accurate, because you’ve already accounted for a known expense.

Step 3: Use Goals to automate your payments

We love this, because as we noted above, one of the best ways to increase your financial security is to reduce your spending volatility–to make sure your account balance varies less over time. And one of the biggest culprits of spending volatility is your monthly rent or mortgage payment. So Simple makes it easy to schedule a large payment in the future, and automatically save for it using a Goal.

It works like this: you can schedule a payment to be sent, and choose to have a Goal automatically created for that payment. That means you can schedule your rent for next month now, and you’ll immediately start saving up for it. When it’s go time, it’ll automatically be withdrawn from the Goal and sent to your landlord.

screen shot of Bank Simple app showing savings plan for rent

This all means that you’re not taking a big hit to your Safe-to-Spend at the end of every month. Since you’re saving gradually over the month for a large payment, you’ll spread out the impact, and you’ll have more flexibility and less volatility.

You got this.

We designed Goals to be not only the best way to save, but also the best way to budget. And the more Simple helps you budget, the more accurate your Safe-to-Spend will be. In turn, that means more peace of mind for you, and less time spent worrying about money.

To those of you who tell us that Goals has changed your financial lives: we’re so thankful and proud that Simple has helped you feel more in control. That’s what we’re all about. We’ve given you a really useful set of tools to help you save, but you took the steps to make it happen. We built it, but you did it. Go you.

Learn how Simple can help you manage your budget.

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