Segregating daily spend / bills in Trends

In the 2022 predictions and big poll topics there’s been some discussion about Trends’ inability to segregate out mandatory and discretionary spending. So I’ve got the crayons out and done some fan-fiction to see what Trends might look like with this included.

Hold onto your hats, mock-up incoming…

So what’s going on here?

The essential conceit is really simple: The two sub-headings in Trends (‘spending categories’ and ‘excluded from spending’ become user customisable. You can then choose which categories to show under each of these sub-headings, and which of these sub-headings to show in the graph.

In a bit more detail…

At the top…

  • we have taken away the label ‘spent’ under the value. This is because we’re not just looking at spending any more (as we’re including savings etc).
  • Also included is the value for the average monthly value. This is, arguably, better information than the average across the weeks within the month.
  • I’d expect the average monthly value to be tappable, so it can cycle between ‘average monthly figure’, ‘average figure for this time in the month’ and ‘this period in previous years’. The latter would mean that I would see what the average January spend, for example, was (useful because it takes into account seasonal trends). The figure for this time in the month would be useful to see how I’m tracking to expenditure (and could perhaps extend to budgets when they come in in the future).

On the graph…

  • I’ve crudely turned it into a stacked bar chart with each block of colour representing a collection of categories (see below). If you select just one collection, it’d look a lot like the current bar chart.

Down below…

  • There are now user definable “collections of categories”. This is effectively a user defined (and named) group of categories that let us create collections of categories that are useful to us. In this example, I’ve grouped mandatory spend under ‘Bills’ and discretionary spend under ‘Spending’. The categories in the example are a bit crap - it’d be better if Bills were ‘Energy supply’ and Family was ‘Rent’, for example.

  • Savings can now be tracked because they’re a category like any other. There’s no logic to having them excluded - so in this example, I’d thrown them together with investments so I can track all the money I’m setting aside.

  • Each collection of categories can be turned on or off of the graph (this also changes the headline figure) by the tick-box. They can also be collapsed to show just the name of the collection (the last collection is collapsed - it contains the transfers category).

What’s not shown?

  • A screen to create and manage collections. I think this would probably be via a similar means to the edit pots screen from the accounts screen.

A big shout out to everyone who threw in similar ideas when Trends and its graphs were announced. I’m standing on the shoulders of giants here.

Now, let’s critique this. What works? What doesn’t? What have I missed or overlooked?

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Probably prefer a Exclude from Trends switch in the transaction as to keep it tidy, or an overall Bills - Exclude from Trends switch.

Similar to the exclude from summary, not tried, but since Summary is moving to Trends does this function the same?

Edit: no it doesn’t.

But would be good to have for household bills as a prime example.

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How would you envisage this working? I came to the collection categories idea because you need some way of grouping or identifying bills…

And would you never want to analyse your spend on bills?

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I like the idea of collections as a way of breaking down things like the current Holiday or Expenses categories. E.g. the transport category could fall into General Spending, Holidays, Expenses, or even Bills depending on the reason for using/spending money on said transport.
However, I think it all becomes a little too granular and busy.

The simplest fix for me would be a toggle for each category in Trends where you can select whether it should be “Excluded from spending”.

Basically toggle the categories much like you can currently exclude accounts/pots.

Then instead of a dotted line showing the average spend in the current month, have it show the values for the previous month.

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This could be a way to upsell the idea of custom categories in Plus/Premium. You can create your own Bills sub categories for everything - E.g Bills - Groceries, Bills - Energy, Bills - Rent. Same for Holidays and Expenses, even different types of Transport

Then if you could toggle categories in Trends like you currently can with accounts and pots you’d have a infinite* number of collections you could create and analyse on the fly, depending on what categories were toggled on.

*not infinite, but a lot.

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Just managed similarly how we do it now to exclude transactions and the learning methods after that, just like assigning categories to transactions (all current, this only, all past and future)

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This really looks great; especially given how Trends looks at the moment. I guess another way would be to toggle the whole graph between each macro category - discrationary/mandatory/savings, though the stacked chart is also (separately) good. I very much like the meta-categories idea. Ultimately when you are trying to break anything down recursively, you end up with a tree structure.

There is of course a risk of allowing too much flexibility. But the way you have it broken down here seems like it work work for most people. And additionally Bills ties in directly to the bills pot, and savings are something kind of different anyways.

Honestly it mostly just looks great.

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Of course that’s rhetorical, but let me expand on it. You can always reduce your spending across discretionary and mandatory, but it’s much easier to reduce the discretionary. In fact, keeping your Pret / Starbucks / Going Out habit in check was one of the original key selling points of Monzo. I think it’s a lot worse at surfacing that now that it’s a full current account, but with some interface tweaks (like yours!) it could be easy to see again.

But the same can be done for bills. If you want to save money you can always move to a cheaper home / get a better rate on your mortgage. You can change gas supplier. And so on. But those are often larger decisions that happen at a totally different cadence and with a totally different part of your brain than the “quit the coffee habit” part. And I think that Monzo could really help you to work out which bills might be cut in order that you could save more, and make the interface such that those are obvious.

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Agreed that, ideally, we should be able to manage spending across both discretionary spend and bills. And also agree that the way to attack the problem would ideally be different across both.

I suppose what I’m trying to do here is suggest something that’s practicable given the current foundations. I think what I’d really like to see are things like:

  • Tagging common bills with their type - so if you move from British Gas to Octopus for gas, the app will know they’re both gas suppliers and show you your cost for gas over time.
  • Specific fields available for certain bill types. For example, in mobile bills, record how many minutes, how many texts, how much data used - ability to map over time and use that information to renew contracts effectively; for energy, the amount of gas etc used, standing charges etc
  • This data - with user consent - aggregated data transparently and responsibly to answer questions like “how much do I spend on groceries compared to others of my age / gender?” “Am I spending too much on rent?”, “what’s the best gas supplier?”
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