Back in June when we announced Spending Insights, I mentioned I wanted to spend less on Uber (soon I may not have a choice), and to spend less on breakfast on the way to work so I could put the money towards a trip to Chile. I’m pleased to report that my self-imposed budget challenge was a success; during July and August I didn’t take an Uber journey, nor did I buy a coffee on the way to work — the money paid for an amazing trip up into the Andes mountain range (photos below) and an anniversary meal in Santiago for me and my wife. However, I’ve noticed I’ve not been quite as well behaved since I got back because I haven’t had something to save for.
Budgeting isn’t always about spending less — it’s about being organised and spending it on the things and experiences that are most important. When we spoke to our customers about how they typically save for things, we heard stories like “I put money into an account at a completely different bank so I don’t get tempted to spend it”. But this usually means another app on your phone, another set of login details to remember, and less clarity on how much you have across all your accounts.
At Starling, we want to help people control their money, budget and plan more easily, and spend it on the things that matter most to them. We’ve built a banking app that keeps your money in one place, but also offers intuitive tools to help you organise it and protect it from your spending, whilst motivating you to reach your financial goals.
So I’m really excited to share Goals, which is the next step on our journey to help you live a healthier financial life.
Setting your Goals
We have created Goals so you can save your money for the things most important to you without having to create a separate bank account (with us or with another bank). Any money that you add to a Goal will be protected from your daily spending so you can be confident that your goals will not be compromised.
You’ll be able to see all of your Goals on the new section of the app, and can create a new one in just a few taps – simply tap on ‘New’, give the Goal a name, and you’re done. You can also tap on ‘Manage’ to set a Goal value and add a photo from your phone’s photo library – we hope visualisation will give you that added motivation to reach your goal.
To add money to a Goal, tap ‘Add Money’ and enter the amount. While you’re doing that, you’ll see a live update of your main balance so you know how much you’ll have left (the most you can add is the amount available on the homepage plus any overdraft you may have accepted). You can also add money on a recurring basis (Android-only for the moment; coming very soon on iOS) to help you reach your goals more quickly, and if you do need to take money out at any time, just tap on the Goal amount, and take it out as you would when you add money.
Finally, because the money is all still in one account you’ll continue to earn interest on your entire balance with Starling and you’ll only ever be charged overdraft interest if your overall balance with Starling is less than zero.
Since I started testing Goals myself, I’ve had a think about the things I want to do over the next few months, so I’ve created Goals for a pre-Christmas trip to Austria with my wife, and a few other longer-term savings too. I’ve also found myself thinking a lot more about the implications of spending decisions as I’m always thinking that I could be putting the money towards saving for lots of Sachertorte in Vienna!
Making Goals work
When we first started designing Goals I wondered why no one had done this before. Coming from a non-finance background I was quite surprised, but after digging into the details, it became obvious it was a lot more complex than I’d thought.
Traditional banks have systems that have customers and accounts, which means that the only way customers can segment their money is by creating a separate account. The problem with this is that a customer could have a total positive balance with the bank, but if they have put some money in a separate account, they could go into overdraft in the other account and start being charged interest. We felt this was unfair for customers, which is why we’ve approached it differently.
At Starling, we’ve built more flexibility into our system, allowing you to segment your money into Goals without having to create a separate account. However, just having the flexibility to build Goals wasn’t enough. In building features to allow you to manage your money and move it between different containers, it’s important that it’s always clear where your money is. We’ve spent some extra time making the experience as simple as possible, and we’ve used subtle animations to reinforce movements of money and give you a sense of clarity. Keep an eye out for a blog from one of our UX leads, Steven, in which he’ll be explaining how we use visual design and animation to reinforce the most important concepts of money management.
As always, while I’m announcing the features, I want to make sure to recognise everyone who has helped launch Goals. A big thank you to Cristian, Vasily, Teresa and Greg who have all contributed to the Android experience and to Kris who has single-handedly built the iOS experience; to Ricardo who has built the system to manage the movement of money between Goals; and to Steven and Harry who have designed an experience which is the first of its kind.
We’ll be launching Goals next week (on iOS and Android at the same time, as always), so we’d love to hear what you’re saving for and any feedback on your experiences using it – just tweet us at @StarlingBank.
We also have some exciting developments in the pipeline for Goals between now and the end of the year. You’ll soon be able to share Goals with groups of friends to save together for something like a birthday present, make payments directly from a Goal, or set up Direct Debits against them too so you can manage your household bills. There are some other things in the works too, so keep an eye out for those announcements later in the year. In the meantime, if you have ideas of your own, join the community to chat about them with me.