Monzo Plus: export to Google Sheets - feedback and thoughts after a couple of weeks of use

So I wanted to drop in a few thoughts about the Google Sheets tool now that I’ve had the chance to use it with more purpose than random IFTTT tweaks (which is still possibly my favourite thing).

I think when paired with Custom Categories - it makes for the two best features of Plus - but unfortunately I think there’s enough lacking in the implementation of it, that make it not quite as useful as a paid product should be. I’ll explain.

To summarise: My feeling is it was designed from a point of “how do we make our CSV export a live tool”, rather than “what’s the optimal use of the data we’re exporting” or “how will users use this data”.


The Good Stuff

  • It’s live - and therefore it removes as much friction in making use of the data as possible. I barely touched CSV export even though it was just as available.
  • It updates itself (mostly) - which means my exported data is also live - changes are therefore better tracked and means dashboards are genuinely live. Good stuff.
  • If you have the knowledge, you can make pretty decent dashboards and workflows with the data. But there’s a barrier to entry.
  • And when you pair that with Custom Categories, you can really get a powerful overview of what your spending looks like.

These things alone are a really helpful tool to help change behaviours - just seeing my spending patterns change month to month is great, or my savings balances creep up month to month - I think the views this allows is what I’ve always missed from Monzo’s in app views - it tells no story, it doesn’t give a view of growth like a chart does.


The Could Be Improved Stuff

My first problem comes with the way Monzo have decided to structure the data set, and what information needs including in that. As I said above, I don’t think this feature has been designed in a “what is the end goal a user might want” type of way.

To expand on some examples of why that’s the case:

  • The data, in my view, is not well future proofed - what happens if Joint Accounts (or connected accounts) come in and they suddenly add an ‘account’ field - every dashboard built needs updating.
  • Some key information is missed - it’s not much but I don’t get a view of my Pot Interest in this data
  • Some Plus features are not represented in the data - if I paid with a Virtual Card, and which one, is data I’d like to have available.

Those three things there mean that changes to the data structure in future will break other things.

Beyond the structure alone - some of the interactions with other parts of the Monzoverse become a bit weird:

  • Split Categories - It’s not easy to turn a split category into a spending overview (you can use formula that turn the splits into cells, but then that becomes harder to graph, or you can use a ScriptSee note below about this too, apparently, but that is probably a small subset of users who will do that). And summarising that data gets a bit messy (I’ve got a monthly category summary, that now has 4 long sumifs to do each category split).
  • And building on that because changing custom category names doesn’t retroactively adjust the category names in the Data Export - you can easily make inconsistencies in the data set, and break how your analysis elsewhere works.

I think for a paid feature, the ‘gaps’ or future flaws this can cause is sub optimal - and I really think the design should be considered from the end-goal of what do users want to do with the data, and how does this feature enable that.

And if you pair that with the limit on Custom Categories limitations (50 max, and no nesting yet), my ideal data set will not be as detailed as I would like it to be.

On my note about scripts to split categories - The barrier to entry is quite high, and there’s no useful way to do it: If you do it to your raw data feed - it can break the data (per the warning) - and if you import the data into another feed, and try and script that, you break the import (I think).


What new stuff would be good too?

I’d really love to see a ‘library’ of Google Sheet templates - there’s been so many discussions in the forum about Dashboards (which always makes me happy) - but imagine how many more users would get the joy of Dashboarding if Monzo made an accessible library of them? (is that a book by the way, The Life Changing Magic of Google Sheets Dashboarding. Should be if not)

Linked to that - show case some of the great things you can do with this data now! I primarily got Plus because of the Data. I’d love to hear more widely what other people do with it. (There’s a great example Monzo retweeted about someone plugging it into another more powerful data tool - which is by no means an ‘entry level’ thing to do - but IFTTT tweaks etc are!)

I’d also love much more powerful analytics in app - I look to my Google Sheet because I can’t see any trends in the way I’d like in app. Summary has some basic views yes, but I’d like to slice the data differently, in an in-app kind of way. Hopefully that will come in time.

Bring in connected card data too - even if it’s only daily balances, I would love it - but a future where you can categorise your connceted card transactions?! swoon

Find a way to show payments direct to pots too - so I’m not missing part of my picture.

I know things are early days, and hopefully some of this will come :slight_smile:


As it stands, I am desparate for Monzo to allow me to replace YNAB with an “in Monzo” solution - I don’t think Sheets yet does that for me - but I hope in time it can.

So yeah, a few thoughts. Any other takes out there on the Sheets stuff?

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Might be worth them adding another dozen or two “reserved” columns to the end of the ‘Monzo Transactions’ sheet now to give themselves at :monzo: some room for future expansion before too many people start adding their own

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I think that’s a great idea - it would allow for them making an “Account ID” column, or any other future build - and it may make it out of chronological order, but that’s certainly more optimal than having to go in and edit every tool that uses it.

+1 for that feature.

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Great overview. Definitely agree around the future proofing.

An example dashboard or library of dashboards would be neat and probably help a lot of people see the value in having the live data export. That said, I fear its a recipe for endless troubleshooting of users’ sheets. The problem is that there is no one size fits all with presenting financial data. They could probably just keep it to the basics and show account and pot balances over time. But people will ask for more and you can’t show much more without it being unsuitable for some amount of the user base (due to monthly versus 4 weekly pay cycles). I would rather Monzo spend that dev time improving the in app analytics (as you’ve suggested).

I think ^this summarises it really well. I use my sheets dashboards to give me a sense of my financial trajectory and to highlight problem areas that I can address to improve that trajectory. The app currently does an ok job at highlight areas of overspending using the budgeting tools, but it definitely doesn’t give me any clue as to whether I’m better off today than I was 3 months ago, or this time last year. The lack of historic balance data in app is at the root of this problem I think.

I wonder whether the lack of a sense of financial ‘story’ or ‘journey’ in app was a strategic choice. I guess you could argue that “You are £8,203 worse off than this time last year” is not a great notification to receive and may do more harm than good.


Side note: This thread from earlier this year provides a little bit of context for the groundwork that I likely led the way to having live exports: CSV Exports

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Brilliant post.

Agree, a template library would be great, and there are currently barriers to entry for most users (inc myself!) on some of the whizzier elements that I’ve seen in the other discussion thread.

If Monzo are too focussed on developing the app perhaps they could contract you in to help support this :thinking::man_teacher:

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Darn, I wish I was paying more attention in that thread / had started making a Dashboard before Plus came about in that case!

I’ve been working on a very very rubbish and draft version of a somewhat universal template. Similar idea to what @Lewis_P posted in the main GSheets thread, but specifically focussed on what I would see as “The Basics” - Monthly Category Summaries, Monthly Pot Summaries, Merchant summaries maybe, net worth tracking?

But I haven’t really had the time despite constant shitposting about Sheets & IFTTT to do it justice.

Maybe if there’s interest I’ll give it a proper go - but I need to make sure it’s really difficult to break accidentally / properly structured.

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Would someone mind sharing what the live data spreadsheet looks like please (for us “not-yet Plus users” :blush:).

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It looks identical to the CSV export that you can access via the summary page here, with the addition of one sheet that explains what it is and that editing might break it:

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Thanks for (as usual) such a useful and reflective post. I think I agree with most, if not all, of it.

This is important and is something that’s been bugging me. Right now, Monzo Plus doesn’t feel so much like it’s been designed to solve problems - more that it’s an amalgam of things that they think will make money. So, as we saw over on the thoughts on Monzo Plus design thread, we get features for their own sake, rather than as part of a broader plan.

That said, I have worried for a few years that Monzo doesn’t seem to have absolute excellence in its DNA: by which I mean, features are always nice, but they never seem to go one step beyond to delight. So, for example, things like connected accounts work well - but the extra features that would make it excellent: easy two-way transfers between the two, enriched data, ability to add notes or categories, just aren’t there. Now there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ve always hoped that Monzo would do more.

And so it is for the Google Sheets export. Past history suggests that it won’t be iterated on: but part of me still hopes that it can become something exceptionally important and useful. If Monzo realises the power of what they’ve created and has some imagination about what next.

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I think the problem is that Monzo’s approach tends to be to try to get the minimum viable product into the users hands as early as possible, then bug fix and (sometimes) iterate and expand. Which isn’t always compatible with an ‘absolute excellence’ approach.

Maybe I’m mistaken, but the impression I get from discussions from devs on here is that projects get spun up, teams get allocated to these projects, and upon successful roll out of whatever the project was trying to achieve; the team is disbanded and devs are reassigned to new projects. This agile approach to development is awesome and has many, many benefits. But perhaps one of the consequences of this approach is that projects like ‘Plus’ get spun up as a separate activity to the projects responsible for the features that ended up being part of Plus. Resulting in a set of disparate features that (arguably) lack a sense of common direction/theme. Personally I think they do feel like they’re part of a broader plan, but I can understand how they might be perceived to be as lacking a common theme/direction.

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I think I agree with that theme.

So far, for me, it just feels like it’s not quite cohesive yet.

Don’t get me wrong there’s loads of great value I am getting from Sheets and the other plus features. But as an ecosystem it doesn’t quite flow together just yet. (Though there are “themes” of features… And I am conveniently ignoring the buckets I don’t have use for)

And I think sooner or later I’m going to hit a need that can’t be properly solved without more effort than other solutions may have. I suspect that may be Joint Account data support.

Slightly away from the data export topic - Budgets/Categories/Pots/Summary are another place I feel the same problem applies - there’s just something I can’t quite put my finger on / explain that just makes these not work as well all together as they could.

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Thanks, @Lewis_P - good challenge. But ultimately I don’t think there’s a tension (or rather, should be a tension) between the MVP approach and what I was saying.

This was Monzo’s original approach, The problem was that there was never enough time allocated to actually iterate. So we end up with lots of basic stuff.

That seems to be the case. And is standard across the industry. What is really needed, though, is some strategic thought: either a master product design, a really good Chief Product Officer and/or something else to keep everything aligned. If you know you’re going west, you can then let your squads move in that direction whilst having autonomy in how they get there.

Agreed.

See, if that’s the case then it’s just wrong. You wouldn’t want your feet both walking in different directions.

What is the broader plan, then, if you don’t mind me asking?

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Very astute and well articulated. It definitely doesn’t feel coherent yet.

It’s got to be difficult for monzo, since even if there is a strong sense of leadership governing all of the features earmarked for plus; if you have a set date for when you aim to release, combined with separate teams working on those features it seems inevitable that you will end up with varying degrees of “polish” across those features.

I think broadly speaking the plan with plus was to ‘level up’ the existing app offering, without segmenting the user base too significantly by introducing any major Plus exclusive features;
You used to have to download CSVs >>> Let us automate that for you!
You can pick from these categories >>> Or write your own!
You can see your monzo accounts >>> Why not add your other accounts?
You can round up your spending >>> Why not round it up even more!
You can track your subscriptions >>> Why not make them more secure with virtual cards? (granted that’s a loooose fit)

This approach clearly hasn’t pleased everyone because they see some of these features as basic/free. Another ‘theme’ is the ‘keeping everything under one roof’ idea. Which I’m a fan of, but also hasn’t pleased everyone as it leads to “I can get most of these features for free elsewhere” comments.

^This is an area that I really hope a team at Monzo are working on a significant update/overhaul. And I’d imagine that whatever they’re planning will have to be compatible with the ‘level ups’ listed above.

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I think this encapsulate almost perfectly, Monzo in a nutshell. I think it’s where most of my frustration with them stems from, and I hope that changes.

Monzo aren’t alone in that reality though, It’s a similar feeling I have with all of the other UK players, but when I broaden the scope and look at offerings elsewhere, like Simple in the US. Their product has that delight factor. N26’s EU offering did too. Everything I’ve tried in the UK has left me feeling underwhelmed and wanting more.

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For another topic, but I’d be fascinated to hear more about why these have the delight factor. I know very little about Simple, but N26 has always seemed like a proto Monzo to me.

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Best suited for another topic for sure, but I’ll be brief. It’s hard to pin point what exactly is the delight factor, but I think ultimately it comes down to elegance and simplicity in design and execution. Monzo’s features are nice, but their approach is rarely elegant, or as simple as it could be.

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That’s a fair take: we started with a simple implementation that was pretty much a self-updating version of the csv export feature. We were also confident that users were going to come up with great ideas on how to use it (and it is happening :slight_smile: ). There wasn’t that much time to plan for anything else (initially we had to finish this by end of Jan).

I think we never imagined Joint Accounts transactions going into the same sheet as Personal Account’s ones, they would go into a different sheet, possibly even a different spreadsheet.

(I never had a Savings pot :see_no_evil:) are interests deposited directly into the pots or into the current account?

I think when we built this we didn’t have virtual cards yet :grimacing:, but it’s a fair point. It would also be required for Joint/Business accounts with multiple cards.

That update is not trivial for how things work behind the scenes. I don’t work in the team owning the feature anymore, but I’m afraid it is possible that this will not get addressed in the short term :disappointed_relieved: .

A workaround could be doing a new full export (resetting the integration) whenever you change a custom category name, eventually manually copying over all of your formulas from your old spreadsheet :disappointed_relieved: .

I’d love that too, maybe a read-only spreadsheet with some fake transactions and a lot of sheets with different graphs/data aggregations.

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Which would be just as good if they actually iterated. At times if feels like dumping the minimum required and losing interest (managing payees for example).

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