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Simple Bank Is Closing (oregonlive.com)
512 points by roberto8647 9 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 599 comments





I'm a Simple customer and incredibly upset by this decision. For those not familiar with their value add, Simple is essentially "envelope budgeting" built into a banking application. Sure, it's a bank and does bank things. What sets Simple apart is that I can allocate $n/month for an expense and it takes it out of my paycheck and puts it into that expense "envelope". When a charge comes in for that expense, it pulls from the envelope. Other budgeting tools like mvelopes.com and YNAB are great for visibility/tracking, but they don't move your money around. The alternative I used prior to finding Simple was having about 10 different checking accounts and manually transferring money every few weeks. I really don't want to go back to that setup after tasting the good life.

My pitch to the Simple team, or anyone interested in taking this on, is to take the app and build it on top of Stripe Treasury (https://stripe.com/treasury).


What additional benifit does moving money around provide?

From my perspective, there is not much difference between money moving around in the banking system vs moving around on your budget sheet, except the banking system might charge overdraft fees if the accounts are mismanaged.

Based on that reasoning I've taken the approach to only have as many bank accounts as I need to utilize their services, and to interact with them as little as nessecary.


I've always felt the same, but a few situations have required separate accounts:

- education savings accounts for children. There's some tax advantage to keeping them separate.

- a checking account for a personal assistant to pay bills from, limited to a few months cash

- when living together with separate finances, a household account that you both contribute to with a debit card. Convenient for splitting groceries, home improvement, etc. Otherwise, you have to keep receipts and settle regularly.

- if you're paying tax to 2 countries with a tax treaty, you may have to prove that you've already been taxed on money you're bringing in. It's best if you can do that from an account with only a single source of income, or else it gets complicated.


fwiw, I strongly recommend trying out a double-entry ledger tool for keeping track of your finances, if they are indeed this complicated.

Don't do everything at once: start with something simple like your education savings account, and expand from there (the account that you pay into the ESA with, the other accounts that account pays into, etc).

For me, it's a little bit of work each month (~30 minutes, but I've automated a lot of the work), but it buys peace of mind and a very efficient tax season.


Counter-question: Does your operating system have all its files directly placed in "/"? Why not?

Human nature of thinking needs a context, therefore it makes sense to provide folders or categories to get an architectural structure into a huge amount of data that needs to be processed.

Additionally, if you need to manage a business account; having multiple accounts to balance the differences and to trace money expenses is common practice. The IRS or German Finanzamt (for example) won't even accept a simple budget sheet that lists all expenses.


>Counter-question: Does your operating system have all its files directly placed in "/"? Why not?

Because my files are not fungible.

I understand keeping business transactions separate from personal transactions. But creating lots of little pots of money for different personal expenditures makes no sense to me at all.


They are tools for accounting: both as in actually making a count of the matter, and as in actually holding yourself “accountable” for meeting them.

It’s easier for some people to not waste money by setting up boundaries. You need detailed enough boundaries that it’s not all a fungible blob. Tada, envelope budgeting.


It makes sense to me. I channel 100 per month for the winter heating bill, no need to think about that, it's automatically there. I channel 500 per month for petty cash, don't dive into the rest, it's automatically there. I channel 200 per month for annual insurances, no need to think about that, it's automatically there. Etc.

It's a personal direct-debit, like using rules on one's email.


I know a lot of people like to do it that way, otherwise these features wouldn't support an entire new category of fintech startups. For me, this is a mental burden and too much busy work.

What's more useful to me is forecasting. If the app knows how much money I'm going to need (e.g for rent, bills, groceries, insurance, etc) and it knows how much I will probably receive by then, it can show me whether I'm on the right trajectory and how much headroom I have for discretionary spending. My Monzo app does that (somewhat imperfectly).

But if I decide to buy a new computer, I don't want to manually "borrow" money from three different pots and later replenish them manually. I just want to spend the money and have the app tell me the total amount I have to raise in order to stay solvent.


In the computer example, someone using the envelope system would decide not to buy the computer if the balance in the appropriate account was short. It’s just a different approach to timing and limiting purchases.

It still sounds a bit weird to me. If I need something, I will buy it unless I don't have cash for it. The concept of buying stuff just because I still have some spare cash in some bucket but I stop once bucket is empty feels so strange to me, some sort of forced self-check on compulsive buyers. If that's the case, I would rather look for solution in the root cause of such behavior rather than symptoms.

Maybe the motivation for some ordinary folks (that don't really need structured accounting, then it might be great) is different than mine. Or if I would be on a really tight budget combined with having to juggle tons of various mandatory expenses (household, kids, whatnot).


You don't have to buy something once the bucket is full. The idea is just to have the money allocated so it's ready when you need it.

For some things those will be fixed monthly expenses (rent, insurance, mortgage. Others will be variable, like grocery shopping, maybe clothing. And others will be bigger purchases like a computer.

It's just another framework or set of tools for budgeting your money out into the future. YNAB (You Need a Budget) has some decent articles on their blog about the concept. Dave Ramsey might be helpful too if you really want to understand the motivation behind this kind of system.


> It still sounds a bit weird to me. If I need something, I will buy it unless I don't have cash for it.

Yes, and envelopes make it easier for many people to figure out if they have the cash for it. They let you "spend" the money the instant you get it, in a virtual way, even if you don't really need to spend it until later. This way you know that when it comes time to pay rent/mortgage, property tax, etc., you're good.

I think you are right though: I think the envelope idea is primarily targeted at people on a tight budget, where you really are trading off pros and cons of spending relatively small sums of money, and where the usual question is what gets sacrificed if this or that is purchased.

You suggest that in such a situation you'd look at the root cause of such behavior (e.g. compulsive spending). Often, the "root cause" is simply unawareness of spending patterns, and envelope spending is a useful technique for a lot of people. It isn't a crutch to cover up some sort of underlying personality flaw that has a deeper "root cause" -- It is just a way of tracking earmarked spending.


Yes, exactly—-you don’t have the spending problem that some people have, or don’t have the desire to save money to the same extent that some have.

Root cause analysis is of course best if successful and can be completed quickly enough.


what if its just a want? i can upgrade the gpu now or next month. I'd already bought a birthday gift this month.

I did my own budgeting in a spreadsheet for awhile, and those big lump purchases were definitely something that's hard to model.

I think it's pretty easy to create a budgeting product for the 90% case but those odd lumpy purchases and split payments are something everyone wants to deal with differently.

For example, my girlfriend and roommates often split purchases by one person buying, and the other person adding an entry on Splitwise.

That Splitwise entry isn't a bank transaction until maybe weeks later when I get a Venmo payment from a roommate covering several Splitwise requests, and for my budget I want to match up the $100 charge at the grocery store with the $50 Splitwise request with the $250 Venmo payment that was only partially for the $50 owed on groceries... not an easy problem to solve in a general way that makes lots of users happy.


> That Splitwise entry isn't a bank transaction until maybe weeks later when I get a Venmo payment from a roommate covering several Splitwise requests, and for my budget I want to match up the $100 charge at the grocery store with the $50 Splitwise request with the $250 Venmo payment that was only partially for the $50 owed on groceries... not an easy problem to solve in a general way that makes lots of users happy.

When you spend $100 at the grocery store you make an entry with $100 subtracted from assets:bank, $50 added to expenses:groceries, and $50 added to assets:receivables.

Once your friend pays you $250 for your outlay, you add them to assets:bank and subtract them from assets:receivables.

It’s a little tedious in a spreadsheet, because each transaction results in at least two new rows, so it can feel redundant, but this is basically double entry accounting that can handle this and many other situations.


Yeah I mean I understand the money flows, but it's so tedious to keep my credit card transactions, splitwise, and venmo open while I'm entering things in the spreadsheet.

A budgeting UI that managed this would be amazing, but I understand other people may not keep track of their money flows this way so it doesn't necessarily surprise me that it's not already built.


A bit tangential: This is one of the good things coming from PSD2 and Open Banking - increased options and choice.

That's a good point. We used to partition our disks and assign space budgets to specific partition/mounted directories.

It was to me a PITA, and juggling with partitions, redimensionning them because circumstances changed, moving files from one partition to another because it was getting saturated etc. were horrible.

Instead of having a tool handling that horror, thinking of disk space as a continuous resource and checking from time to time where that space go and if it needs cleaning is more manageable IMO.

I have the same mental model for money, and outside of very specific cases (mortgage accounts, kids account, professional expenses etc.) I don't think it's worth it partitioning at the account levels just for the sake of it.


Having a separate bank account for each logical account sounds like having a separate drive for each folder. Accounting already provides very high levels of organisation (e.g. Chart of Accounts) that don't map directly to bank accounts and a, greatly simplified, version of this would seem to be adequate for personal finances?

Edit: This almost makes me want to write a personal Hyperion Financial Management application...


> Does your operating system have all its files directly placed in "/"?

The various directories all share the same disk storage. I would argue that creating multiple accounts in your bank is akin to creating multiple disk volumes.

If one volume runs out of storage, you have to resize it, and requires decreasing the size of another volume.

Just like if one bank account runs out of money, you have to move money from another account.

Though I am unfamiliar with the products mentioned, so perhaps these are virtual accounts that all draw on the same underlying “physical” account, and thus can have a negative balance without incurring overdraft fees.

In which case this would basically be a (simple) accounting app provided by your bank.

I could certainly see some value in simplified accounting added to a banking app, if however you are after “proper” view of your finances, a real double entry accounting system should be used, where you would be able to also track assets outside of the bank (like cash on hand), liabilities (debt), etc.

Personally though I do see value in having a secondary (bank) account for fixed expenses, but that is only because I am too lazy to do “real” accounting, so having this separate account makes it easy to view a history of all fixed expenses (for next year’s budget).


> Counter-question: Does your operating system have all its files directly placed in "/"? Why not?

That's not a counter question. A file system is an abstraction over the physical layout of your hard drives. An accounting system is an abstraction above your accounts.

In the same way, you don't need one hard drive per folder, you don't need a separate bank account per bookkeeping account.

My take away from the closure of Simple and some commenters laments is that personnal accounting still suck.


I think it's a human thing - it works better with the brain if the money is "physically" in a different location (When in reality it makes no difference). It's the same why people actually use envelopes instead of just having a pile of money and a sheet of paper to note what is what.

For me it’s about a single source of truth. Paycheck comes in, it’s in my Safe-to-spend (i.e., not in a goal). I have a separate goal (virtual envelope) for each monthly bill. As I move the bill amount into that goal, it is removed from my safe-to-spend. I can quickly fill up my goals for all monthly expenses (water, electric, cell, etc) and once done, I know how much is left. I don’t have to worry about importing transactions or ensuring an external system is up-to-date and reconciled.

The only advantage I can see is for people who don't monitor their expenditure well so their purchases get denied when they try to spend too much on a particular thing. Otherwise, I agree, there are plenty of services and other banks that allow you to categorize transactions so you know how much you are spending on particular things.

Simple turns this on it's head. Instead of looking back at transactions and how much money has already left, this looks forward. I have house and car payments due on the first, utilities due later in the month, kids college accounts, Internet, car registration due once a year, garbage due quarterly, insurance due every 6 months.

I get paid twice a month. The day after I get paid a job at Simple runs that takes a share of all the above expenses from my account, moves those funds into "envelopes", and gives me a main account view of the money I have left over after my expenses are accounted for. So in the middle of the month I have half my rent and car moved off for 2 weeks in the future.

I guess a similar notion would be to just add all these up, or maybe keep a spreadsheet of them, and have it give me a number to transfer into a secondary account every paycheck, and pay bills off of that.

But the Simple expense view is great, I can see what expenses have already come out (because they are empty), which haven't been paid yet (they are fully funded, according to the progress bar), etc...

In fact, their "categorize transactions" I've found to basically be useless. Aside: Part of this is their system, which has never seemed to be able to learn some transactions. Part of it is that you just can't track Amazon spend (is this Home Improvement, Groceries, books, etc...).


That seems an easy one to me. In your case, you maintain software that provides you a budget sheet. In the case of the OP, the app does that for you.

I can't get myself to pay for services like YNAB or mvelopes.com

I could see someone wanting to pay for a year or two until they've established the habit of disciplined saving. But to perpetually pay a service to present a (useful) facade over your money doesn't seem right if it's not also instilling habits in you that don't depend on software.


YNAB is excellent - its design forces people to budget properly.

It also lets you track all expenses and let’s you keep lifestyle inflation in check.

I’ve found it well worth it (and I’m pretty responsible financially).

Mint on the other hand is totally useless.


> Mint on the other hand is totally useless.

That's hyperbole. Having a bird's eye view of every single account, transaction, investments, net worth, etc. is "totally useless"? No.

I use Mint and it works quite well for keeping an eye on your financial life at a glance. I don't need some micro-managey software like YNAB (that I'd have to pay for monthly!) to continually increase my wealth and keep debt in check - here's my tricks:

* Pay off credit card in full every month (I have one card that I use for gas, etc.)

* Invest 20% into company-matched 401k, my Roth, etc. primarily focused on S&P 500 Index Funds

* Save roughly $275/check into a liquid savings account.

* I have no car payment (paid of my 2010 Subaru that I got for $9k).

* Everything on autopay.

* Don't buy stupid nonsense.

It's worked well thus far. There's no real "need" to budget - KISS principle wins the day again.


> That's hyperbole. Having a bird's eye view of every single account, transaction, investments, net worth, etc. is "totally useless"? No.

If you can get it to actually connect to things (I have 2FA on most accounts, and since Mint scrapes the sites and stores passwords in plaintext, it doesn't know how to handle this) and tag everything properly (MCC's vary pretty widely). I think that the promise of Mint is great, but in reality it falls apart as soon as you have more than a few accounts, or start using anything that wasn't originally built in (e.g. 2FA).

That all said, I follow the same general principles: autopay everything in full, invest money first, live within my means (with certain exceptions that are the "budget").


I just don't understand giving your banking credentials to a third party. Will your bank even cover fraudulent withdraws if you give your login info to Mint?

This is the main reason I stopped using it. The benefit was too low compared to the risk. Once I started using 2FA and realized how it worked I noped right out of there...

My Sparkasse app (Germany) lets me add other bank accounts and the credentials are stored only in the app. I think there's an EU directive forcing banks to have an open API, which makes it work. Much better than screenscraping.

Is there any such trend in the US?


Giving someone read-only access makes more sense. Even better is like what you mention, a program you run, but open source.

I shared your hesitation as well, but I don't think Mint is storing your bank password in cleartext anymore at least for Chase. I just signed up for Mint the other day and did not see anything like this for any of my accounts. For Chase, they specifically use Oauth to grant read access to the account.

For me, my checking account is the only banking account I really care about. So much so that I don't use my debit card for purchases and only use it for ATM. I really don't care if my credit card gets stolen since that's their problem and not money out of my pocket.


> Mint scrapes the sites and stores passwords in plaintext

Incorrect:

> How secure is my login information I store in Mint?

> Your login user name and passwords are stored securely in a separate database using multi-layered hardware and software encryption. We only store the information needed to save you the trouble of updating, syncing or uploading financial information manually.

Ref: https://mint.intuit.com/how-mint-works/security


In other words, Mint doesn’t store your passwords in plain text, it stores them reversibly encrypted. That is indeed better, because if someone hacks Mint’s database they might not be able to read your passwords. However, it has the same problem as plaintext passwords that if someone at Mint is untrustworthy, they can decrypt your password and pretend to be you. That system makes it inconvenient for you to protect your accounts (you would have to memorize new passwords for all of them) and difficult to apply for restitution later (because it looks like you were the one who logged in).

> "Don't buy stupid nonsense."

That bit is doing a lot of work. Seeing 'bird's eye view' is useless because it has no real effect on behavior after the fact, the feedback loop is too long and disconnected. Also - Mint's software is itself bad and intermixed with the ads it's just hard to figure out what's going on.

How much do you spend on food? How much on groceries? A gift you forgot to plan?

YNAB let's you get a real intuitive understanding for all of this, you know explicitly where every dollar is going and you do it in real time per transaction.

It gives you a lot of power.

Do you need it? No. You've got the basics down with 401k max, monthly savings, Roth IRA, etc. That's awesome.

Could you benefit from it? Almost certainly yes. I'd bet if you used it seriously (even just the 30 day trial) you could trivially double the amount you're saving per month in liquid savings.

One reason I like it a lot is the exactness of it gives me complete confidence I could control my burn rate to any number necessary, good for FI.

It's marketed to people who need help getting out of debt, but it's also good for people with high savings rates and high income. It frees you to allocate large amounts of money to index funds, or stock market bets without worrying about how much you need in your account for auto-pay expenses.

Its yearly subscription cost is effectively negative.


This is completely your opinion and not necessarily true for any person who reads your comments. I used YNAB for 120 days when it had longer trials. It didn’t do enough for me. It was more annoying for me than any potential savings.

Bird’s eye view has been much more helpful as a middle ground. Not Mint and technically i can budget, but I’m not too interested in that.


Do you have a family, or at least entagled budgeting with a significant other? Either one of those makes this workflow almost impossible.

>Invest 20% into

Seems rather difficult with family.


> There's no real "need" to budget

You just described your ... budget.


I'd refer to it as more of a "set-it-and-forget-it automated financial framework". I'm not, for example, pondering how much I'm spending on groceries, frantically updating YNAB with those transactions. Everything's sorted and just keeps working for me.

I tried YNAB, but didn't fall in love with it. I currently use Mint, which I'm familiar with and have used for years, but I don't like Intuit. I now pay for Lunch Money and am gradually using it more and more. I'd like to switch over properly at some point to a service that isn't using my data for ads.

I agree, Mint is a joke compared to YNAB. It didn't even come close to addressing my budgeting needs or giving me an insight into my finances.

That and the ads really add insult to injury.

Yes, I pay for YNAB and have for years, because otherwise I would have to rebuild it in Excel and my version would be terrible. It's well-designed, it's fun to use, it makes me less anxious about the state of my finances and it helps me to spend and save more responsibly.

I'm in the same boat. In a world before I found Simple, a spreadsheet with all of my monthly expenses and totals for each account transfer I needed to do was good enough. I can't get myself to see the additional value of mvelopes.com. Simple, however, was a game changer for me. Sad.

What’s the main difference between Simple and YNAB? I’m a YNAB user but have never used Simple. You say that you can’t see the extra value of mvelopes (and I assume YNAB) but if you don’t have Simple then why is YNAB not good enough?

I have both, and since adopting YNAB, my Simple budgets have been redundant and abandoned. Simple offered nothing that YNAB doesn;t, other than direct actions on your account (transfers, etc). That was far outweighed by YNAB's ability to manage multiple accounts, in particular their credit card balance & payment management.

I'm not familiar with how YNAB ingests transaction data, but I seem to remember when I looked at it last that at least some transactions have to be logged manually.

If you used Simple pretty much exclusively you wouldn't have to manually enter any transactions, although you might occasionally have to categorize things.

The obvious exception would be cash transactions, which I don't believe Simple ever tracked in any detail.


It’s all automatic. You do have to approve and categorize transactions though. But the import is automatic if you’re using a major bank.

not for all major banks, mine (usaa) forces 2fa which broke ynab and made it useable because i don't want to do data entry for every transaction.

I ran into this for alliant. Reach out to YNAB support, they adjust your account supposedly to not use Plaid for instances like MFA being enabled. It wasn't clear if its an all or nothing deal though for all your accounts to use Plaid or not.

It's been said elsewhere but just in case, they recently started using different import provider(s) and many accounts that were broken before now work great, including MFA ones.

They might have fixed this. They switched to using plaid for external accounts this year, and I was able to add several banks which had 2FA earlier today.

USAA works fine for me. It just asks you to enter the token during login.

EDIT: and I think it migrated to OAuth anyways so no more tokens


I pay for YNAB. For me it's worth it for their auto-import to take a quick look at my spending across accounts at various institutions and to look at larger trends over time. A lot of folks were annoyed when they went to a subscription model, but I think the visibility they provide really does pay for itself.

I tried it. Auto-import never worked reliably. I asked their customer support for help, and they said I should just do it manually.

They seemed like a close alternative, but if I'm doing all this work manually, I might as well use a spread sheet for free.


They've done a bunch of updates to the importing in the last year so it might work better with your institution now. They support Oauth for the bank creds too for those that support it, which is great.

It's still not great. You have to reauth accounts all the time, and I'm constantly getting the little wrench icon telling me they can't pull transactions right now. I've not found a single alternative that will give me a solid overview of all my various accounts as an api that I can build my OWN dashboard off of, otherwise I'd use that. YNAB still gets my money, but reluctantly until then.

How secure is linking your bank account with YNAB?

They use Plaid [0] under the hood. As long as you trust it, it's safe.

[0] https://plaid.com/


so a bit more secure than mint then?

Plaid doesn’t seem very secure reading this thread https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25753935

Importing greatly depends how well your bank/credit card plays ball. Most banks don't have any incentive to participate and newer security features like 2fa have made it harder/impossible. I do have one bank that grants application tokens for read-only access. The setup UX wasn't awesome, but I wish that was standard.

Unfortunately, I doubt YNAB can just ask people to move banks. Honestly, that, a web interface, and how speedy ACH payments are processed are kind of my highest priorities and would switch banks just for that. But those are all hard to impossible to assess without opening an account. I had a credit union get very confused when I asked if they had a demo of their web UI before I opened an account. I imagine I was the first to ask.


They can't ask people to move banks, but TBH I stopped using my credit cards from a certain provider because YNAB wouldn't sync (which drove me to look into other cards and ultimately get a better one that, by chance, would sync).

I've tried YNAB multiple times but would inevitably miss entering a transaction and then it would be a pain reconciling my bank accounts with YNAB. Without tracking the transactions I couldn't accurately use YNAB to determine how much was left in the budget. Having an envelope like system built into a bank would be extremely useful.

I'm pretty certain I've saved more than $86 in my first year of using YNAB for what it's worth. Ymmv of course.

I was forced to ditch Simple after their ridiculous application policies wouldn't allow my spouse to create an account for us to have a joint account. Since doing so, I've signed up for YouNeedABudget (YNAB) [1], and couldn't be happier. Simple was a great service and I'm sad it is calling quits, but I've outgrown it.

[1] https://www.youneedabudget.com/


They used to have pay-once app. Now you have to pay $12 a month and you are stuck in ecosystem that has your data and require payments forever. That is too steep, especially outside of USA. I'll kill my first unnecessary expense by not buying it.

Crazy. I somehow got locked in to $45/yr pricing. I really like YNAB but I don't know if I like it for twice the price I'm currently paying..

I’m actually still using the pay-once app. There are hardly any functional changes between that app and the new web-based app.

Other than getting transactions automatically imported, which at least for me is the difference between using it and not using it.

Yeah that doesn’t seem to be working for any of the banks over here (in The Netherlands) anyway.

Where are you running it? The MacOSX one stopped working on newer MacOSX versions.

Linux, with wine.

+1,000,000 for YNAB. It finally taught me that I don’t need to search for a bank with all the money management features I want, I just use YNAB to manage my money and I hardly care what bank account it sits in, it’s all “spent” in YNAB.

I’m a long time (2012) Simple customer and I went with them originally due to their new take on banking and the promise of an API (which they backtracked on). The envelope-type system they built with goals/expenses was nice but looks like a toy compared to YNAB. Now I can pick a new bank that doesn’t need to have any clever savings tools and just use it to hold my money.


I'm still trying to decide between Personal Capital vs. YNAB...

Personal Capital's budgeting tool is quite weak. It's not comparable with YNAB. I would describe Personal Capital more as an investment tracking tool. The most amazing future is that it looks into holdings of the ETFs and mutual funds to figure out your exposure.

Tried both, found YNAB far better for budgeting.

I use Robinhood's banking feature for this (I don't use them as a brokerage, though). It lets me do direct deposit and automatic withrdrawals from a single account, while earning savings account interest. The interest isn't significant at the moment, but it was nice for a few months, before COVID. I use Mint and Personal Capital for monitoring my budget, rather than earmarking funds.

I do this. I've moved everything from my bank into RH because its far easier to play around with money to both deposit and withdraw. I'm seeing similar trends among my college friends.

I'm also going to do everything through my brokerage from now on. I realized I didn't use any of the budgeting or goal features anyways.

I was using the goals in the beginning, but the rates just kept going down.


You're getting 0.3% APY, which is pretty useless. I would instead try some of the banks that promise you higher APY rn. There are some offering 2-3%

No one is offerring 2%-3% when the fed rate is at zero. You're about a year behind relity.

https://www.hmbradley.com/ currently does, with the caveat that you have to save at least 20% of your direct deposits.

Interesting. Seems like you could work around the caveat by splitting your paycheck's direct deposit allocation between your checking account bank and HM Bradley, so that from their perspective you're saving 100% of your direct deposit.

Can already do this with normal bank account churning and make way more than 3%

Exactly what I’m doing! Uh... I hope they don’t catch on.

That's pretty cool, although I generally just want enough in my account to cover my monthly expenses, plus buffer. I want the excess going into investments. I don't want my balance growing from quarter to quarter. It looks like you get 0% if you keep a stable balance.

Wait what's the catch? It's insured and still able to give so much interest? Even CDs don't give anywhere close

People who make enough money to save 20% of their deposits probably aren’t going to bother with some convoluted system to earn a maximum of $3000 interest annually. You could make more with AMEX points.

You make amex points if you spend money. I barely spend anything I make (and whatever I spend mostly can't be on cards) so for people like me this will be ideal. Given the pandemic and wfh boom I doubt I'm alone. I'm also extremely averse to every speculative investment bin right now, so if someone guarantees coverage for 3% inflation I'll happily give them my money.

Here's a big one:

> We do not pay interest on account balances above $100,000

https://www.hmbradley.com/apys


That just means people with six figure savings won't use the service, it's still not clear how that helps them achieve profitability with such high interest rates

“Only” covers first 100k, has a bunch of other rules that make it impracticable

Really dissapointed in HN nowadays. Downvoted to hell and people telling me im wrong without doing any of their own research.

Maybe you could edit your comment now that multiple other commenters have shown that you're wrong? There are multiple companies offering 2-3% rn.


TMobile's bank is offering 4% on the first $3000 and 1% on anything after that and they treat it like a checking account with their own debit card.

It was going to be a total no brainer to move nearly all banking to them until I realized they block all automated financial tracking software. No budgeting with YNAB makes it a non starter for a checking account, but luckily YNAB can note transfers in automatically by looking at other accounts. When treated strictly as a basic savings its fine if my total cash on hand is missing the occasional interest payment.


> How APY works and what it means for you: As a T-Mobile MONEY customer you earn 4.00% annual percentage yield (APY) on balances up to and including $3,000 in your Checking Account per month when: 1) you are enrolled in a qualifying T-Mobile postpaid wireless plan; 2) you have registered for perks with your T-Mobile ID; and 3) at least $200 in qualifying deposits have posted to your Checking Account before the last business day of the month.

So it's a neat little discount on your T-Mobile bill.


That’s a bank account bonus not a real interest rate. I made 20% APR in 90 days for churning a PNC account by that logic, does that mean I can in turn make 20% on arbitrary deposits on a regular basis?

Sure there are, you just have to meet some requirements like direct deposit and minimum number of debit transactions.

Who's offering 2-3%?

IIRC, Yotta Savings (https://www.withyotta.com/) is in this range. HN did the math on Yotta a few months back:

- founder's comments (claims ~3%): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23786893

- the math (~3.4%): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23781247

Note that it's likely to go down to get in line with other HYSAs over time (and it's fairly easy for them to change the winning probabilities to hit any interest rate). Currently they're just burning VC cash to get users...

Prizepool (https://getprizepool.com/) is another player in this space, unsure where they're at though (I know we could do the math, I just haven't).


The APY on Yotta has already decreased, it's currently around 1.6%.

I basically use it as an interest checking account for the purpose of paying monthly expenses. It's a very simple system that requires zero babysitting and produces better yield than a real checking account.

I could chase higher yield with my emergency fund than where I currently keep it, at Alliant Credit Union (0.55% APY), but it's not worth the effort. No one does significant better without also having gimmicks.


I don't know of anyone offering 2% right now, but for historic purposes here is an article about some great rates above 2% over a year ago: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/11/savings-accounts-besides-all...

Well, since the stock market only goes up [0], just put all your money in TSLA and you'll do better than 2% </s>

[0]: https://twitter.com/stoolpresidente/status/12685424540867502...


TSLA goes up and down a lot... scalping trades on that has been very profitable this year.

Varo Bank offers 2.8% on up to $10k in your savings account if you get direct deposit and use your card 5x/mo. Not the rich features of Simple, YNAB, or even Virtual Wallet...but when they earn next to nothing for interest, that's how those features get paid for (they need your cheap deposits).

https://www.varomoney.com/savings-account/


Try Ally Bank for this. I use it in a similar way. They used to let you create a bunch of accounts but they now have "buckets" in their accounts. I find it pretty useful either way.

Only for savings, which is neat but not as useful.

Interesting, I never noticed buckets were a savings only feature. I've got a checking and a savings account there. To spend money I transfer to checking. There are federal transfer limits on savings accounts though, which could get in the way for some people.

Simple was savings only until pretty recently too so I’m not sure it’d be a deal breaker for most.

That's incorrect. Simple was checking only until recently. (been a simple customer for about 7 years)

Simple's Safe-to-Spend® feature was ahead of its time and today is still a really unique feature among digital banks (standalone budgeting apps notwithstanding). I wonder if a challenger bank could buy that IP from BBVA.

It really is excellent. I’m finding with YNAB, I would micro manage every detail of my money. With safe to spend, I can carve out the major expenses like rent and debt payments automatically. Basically every recurring payment and savings goal. Then you know exactly how much extra you have for miscellaneous expenses. It’s a lot less work, and has basically been on autopilot for a while. I’m worried now that micromanaging a budget would be more stressful and time-intensive.

You could do this easily with YNAB as well but only budgeting for the things you list and throwing everything else into a 'spending money' category.

But you'd be missing out on a lot of features that YNAB offers if you did this.


Being an online bank is largely unprofitable. You still have to operate the backend of a normal bank (which is costly) and you don't have the physical locations to enable the trust you need to get enough customers.

A couple of days ago, I opened a YNAB account to test it out and had the same reasoning: why can't my bank do all of that envelope budgeting stuff?

there's no money for them in doing that, they want you to borrow money (via credit card or other) and pay them back hopefully with interest that's how they make money

Lazy people prefer having one bank for everything. Savings, mortgage, credit card, investments. The way you get all that business is by having better pricing and/or a more polished app than the competition. If people want envelope budgeting (and I don't claim to know whether that's the case) then you should probably implement it.

The money in it is that it makes you more likely to deposit with that bank which gives them the reserves to legally lend out money, like in credit cards, which is how they make money.

A consumer bank is dependent on its deposit base.


I always thought the money was in the float for them. The more money they convince you not to spend and just hold onto in your account, the more float they have to make money off.

Just as a heads up, you can email support after your free trial and ask for an extension. They'll pretty much always give it to you. If you're a student, you can send in your student ID and get a year free. YNAB changed my life.

would love if you shared how it changed your life, I'm always skeptical about these types of things that I end up abandoning after a short time. thanks!

Not parent, but my wife and I have been using YNAB for over 5 years, even before they moved to a web app. It’s changed our lives:

- We never fight about money because we have already planned for the next month together.

- We each get equal amount of no questions asked personal money that the other person cannot criticize how it’s spent.

- When we first started using YNAB we realized we were living off credit card float, and spending money we didn’t have until we got the months paycheck. We thought we were doing great just because we would pay our credit card off each month. But we were actually 100% relying on our future paychecks to survive.

- My wife lost her job 2 years ago and was out of work for a month due to COVID. The budget gave us an objective view rather than an emotional one. In both cases, we didn’t need to even rely on our emergency fund because of flexible budgeting.

- We are able to maximize credit card rewards without being concerned with spending too much.

- We are able to easily track our cash equivalent net worth.

Most of these things are not YNAB specific, but the software makes things so much easier.


Thank you I will have try this out and go in with a positive mindset that it's a structured and objective system and I can't honestly say where my money is going today which is causing me to spend money frivolously on things I don't really need.

Honestly I might just make an Excel spreadsheet and track monthly credit card billing statements and total income/month and net profit after debits (bills, living expenses, etc.)

Think this would work like YNAB to a degree until I'm fully invested in budgeting?


I have tried a few of these budgeting applications. Unless you have a large amount of bank accounts in different banks, investments with asset managers etc, it is just as easy to process it in Excel. I just download my monthly bank transactions and import them into an Excel flat file. Each item I tag against an expense hierarchy. Then I run a simple pivot table to compare spend over time. It’s not as fast, but it’s free, very flexible and I’m not bound by predetermined rules.

Do you each have a YNAB account, or share one?

We share one account and one budget.

It's hard for them to do it and that is one of the reasons BBVA bought simple. Did it work? No, now they sell it.

Banks are too busy updating their legacy systems to process their batches. They are barely catching up with mobile applications and to show transactions in real time there so they do not have resources to implement this type of things.

Of course it is a matter of priority buy that is how it works now and traditional banks still have the power to drive the industry.


Some banks do (monzo and revolut)

I miss monzo so much :(

I moved out of the UK and sadly never found a real alternative.

I had a simple workflow that made me happy:

I had two budgets, one for fixed spenses such as rent and phone, another for everything else (food, taxi, entertainment, whatever). I'd divide my "everything else" budget by 30 and tell monzo to move everyday that amount into the credit card account.

So basically... A daily budget. It was something like 20-30 pounds per day. I wanted something more expensive than usual? I'd "save" for a few days.

It's not the most efficient budgeting, but it was so much fun.


I think Monzo is making moves to expand into the US. There's a waitlist (you might be bumped up if you were a UK customer?). I got one but didn't end up using it very often.

They were, but then they hit funding issues in spring 2020 and appear to be scaling back their US expansion.

https://techcrunch.com/2020/04/09/monzo-to-shutter-las-vegas...


I'm in Singapore, probably faster to wait for an asian neo-bank to appear than for Monzo to get here

The other way around. They deny you if you're a UK customer.

A few questions: -Why do you need to actually move the money around? -What happens if you overspend in an envelope? -Do you actually have different accounts/routing numbers for the envelopes?

I hope this answers your questions:

1. I want to move the money around so I don't spend it and I know I have enough to pay my bills. I don't want to see $1,000 and think "I'm going to spend that". Similarly, I don't want to see a charge come through for a bunch of bills that I don't have enough money for.

2. In Simple's app, if you overspend in an expense or goal, it takes it out of your "safe-to-spend" amount (think: your total spending money). It notifies you that you "overspent" so you can move money around in your little envelopes to fix it.

3. In Simple's case, you have one literal checking and up to two literal savings accounts. The expense/goal "envelopes" are virtual buckets in the checking account, not actual accounts with account/routing numbers. In the past, I've used many literal checking/savings accounts for this purpose.


I still don't get how it's different in practice than something like the budget feature in Mint?

Basically it's pre-allocating the money instead of just watching what you spend and bucketing it as you go. But unless it's actually going to overdraft the account or decline your card somehow when a bucket is empty instead of taking it from the total amount, those are equivalent.


I think the main difference is in the quality of the experience. Their mobile app is a joy to use, and the integration with the actual banking side of things is reliable and instantaneous.

Instead of a separate budgeting app and banking app, you can tweak your budgets from the same place that you deposit checks and transfer money to other banks.


Does the Mint budget feature include rollover for money not spent?

I think so, but I leave it off to try and start from a clean slate and save a the leftover instead if possible. But you can also change the dates of charges, so you can move stuff to next month or the previous month if there was room left over which I find convenient for spreading out big purchases.

Having rollover is a defining aspect of envelope budgeting. I put aside $150/mo for house repairs. I may have multiple repairs a year, or go almost 2 years without repairs. Rollover makes it easy to make sense of this madness. Multiply this by M for M other categories where spending is not regular.

> But you can also change the dates of charges, so you can move stuff to next month or the previous month if there was room left over which I find convenient for spreading out big purchases.

I do not want to alter the actual record of charges - that would cause lots of other problems. And I don't want to manually babysit this. I want to be able to get a balance of my account with all the money set aside subtracted out (regardless of whether it was spent or not).

Envelope budgeting is an incredibly simple algorithm, and I find it quite disheartening that most open source financial software does not support it. YNAB has shown how helpful it is to many, many people. I think Ledger and hledger are the only open source applications I know where one can do this.


Geez people are really religious about this stuff. I don't get why I got downvoted just trying to answer someone's questions about features in a software product and explaining how I use them.

If this is what works for you then great. You've convinced me that home/car repairs in particular should rollover, I'm going to start doing that in my budget. All I was saying is that by default I don't want things like food or shopping budgets to roll over, since I don't want to spend money I don't need to just because it was in the budget. It's just what works for me.


What of you do most transactions with a credit card. (I use a credit card for almost everything for the points, and pay it off in full every month.)

Can it categorize specific CC transactions, and pull the money out of that envelope when you pay your CC bill?


Mentally, moving the money into different envelopes keeps you from spending money you don't have. Behind the scenes, I think they only use one bank account with one account number, but it helps you mentally keep track of where things should be.

You can specify daily transfers to slowly fill up an emergency fund or vacation. The beauty is when your car breaks down, you might have a repair fund that you can deduct from and you don't see your main balance drop.

But it's all just lipstick on a bank. When I used them, I think it was Bancorp, but they moved to a spanish bank when I hopped off.


No, the money is tagged differently but is all in the same account.

For people who have no self control without resorting to playing tricks on themselves I guess. I can't empathize at all, all I need is a spreadsheet at most, but I guess it works for some people.

I can't empathize with your lack of empathy. All I need is to try to put myself in someone's else shoes to feel empathy, going through what they're going through is not required.

I understand it like I understand some people are allergic to fish, but I can't directly empathize with them either because I've never had an allergic reaction. You knew what I meant.

I know what you meant, and you meant contempt.

> For people who have no self control without resorting to playing tricks on themselves I guess


I struggled with money for a long time before a bunch of “tricks” helped get my life in order. There are a lot of things that affect this in psych literature, including growing up poor and several mental disorders. Congrats that your particular circumstances never made this an issue for you.

Bragging about your lack of empathy doesn’t make you a badass, it just makes you sound like a dick.


I’m great with money and I used to use a spreadsheet but Simple is so much nicer because it’s highly automated.

It’s a well made, convenient tool. Insulting people because they use tools is idiotic.


This is no different than a spreadsheet or a personal accounting system, it's just opinionated and made easy for people to implement. I could see why some people would like it. I can also see where it's extra for many people.

That's how it happens to people. They believe they are right and it's others who have no self control. How do you know you have more self control than these people? Can you confirm it?

Does Stripe treasury actually enable people to build independent banks?

My understanding was that it was a way of enabling companies to offer bank like functionality to their existing users. For instance Uber could give drivers an "Uber" bank account.

Not that you could build your own bank on top of it...but perhaps I'm mistaken.


No, you're right, you can't build your B2C "bank" on it. Other services exist for that (e.g. https://www.solarisbank.com)

I think what he's saying is to just have a service that emulates what he described simplebank doing for him with Stripe Treasury and the banks that support it.

I've thoroughly enjoyed using Capital One's online banking for pretty much this. I have ~20 different savings accounts that I use for budgeting envelopes (you can have up to 25, I think) and each has their own routing/account numbers so you can set up services to pull directly from them and I set up automation to put $X in them from a "main" income account every 2 weeks, so I don't have to manually move money from account to account unless it's for something out of the ordinary. It effectively lets me set up envelope accounts that get automatically filled each month and automatically withdrawn from as charges happen, which is quite nice (and sounds similar to what Simple was doing?).

Dunno if it helps as a straight-up Simple replacement, but it works well for me so I thought I'd give them a shout out.


What are your “envelopes”/accounts and what do you actually do with them?

For example if you have a groceries envelope. How does that change anything for you? Would you buy more or less food at some point? Would you rebalance it at the end of the year? Is there some calculation of I are too spent too much this week so we’re making food?

I ask because I have a reasonable I does what I spend money on and it’s not really any surprise. My mortgage is x, if I owned on a car it would be y, if I’m out I buy food for the week, etc.


Most of the accounts are for things that have a mostly-fixed price per month (e.g. utilities/insurance/investing that might cost more/less month-to-month, but average out to $X, which gets automatically put in them each month), or things that build up each month and get spent whenever (e.g. gifts/travel budgets that I put $X into each month, then pull from as-needed whenever it's someone's birthday or the $ is high enough to go on a trip). Plus a couple annually-withdrawn accounts for subscriptions (staggered for things that renew on different months, so I don't withdraw too many times in a single month), e.g. spotify, xbox live, notebook.ai, etc.

For the more fluid day-to-day stuff that I might make "withdrawals" from multiple times a month (like groceries and random spending), I usually stick to using checking accounts (which you only get 3 of on CO, unfortunately), but yeah, I have $X put in each month and look at how much is left to get a gauge on how much to spend or not (which does make me spend more/less on food/whatever at some points).

I rebalance every few months and look at whether I'm averaging more/less than I expect on each account and adjust the automatic deposits into each account accordingly, so it's mostly just a way to visualize a budget day-to-day while also making it easy to go back and see actual spending numbers month-to-month (which I also track with spreadsheets, but that's another conversation!).


So you have a separate account for your rent, for your utilities, for your insurance, etc?

If these are all roughly fixed costs, I have trouble understanding what you're gaining from this rather than having them all in one account, except additional headaches.


Automatically filling those envelopes (setting aside that money) prevents you from accidentally spending that money and getting yourself in a bind when it comes due. It's just a digital version of physical envelopes, which people also use to make sure they don't overspend.

If you look in your spending account and you have $80 left for the month, you're gonna budget around that, buy cheaper meals, hold off on purchases, etc. If you look in a singular account and it's a few thousand (covering your rent, insurance, utilities, etc that'll all get withdrawn on some day), you're a lot more likely to accidentally overspend and overdraft.

If you set your money aside for expected expenses when you get it, it makes it a bit easier to know exactly how much you have left over and can actually spend (or save, or invest, etc) that month.


Sure, but you could have a single account called "bills."

What I'm struggling with is why anyone would want accounts called "Rent", "Utilities", "Insurance", etc.


>Sure, but you could have a single account called "bills."

Ah, I specifically don't because:

1) Capital One gives you 25 savings accounts, but only 3 checking accounts, and

2) There's a federal limit of 6 withdrawals per month from savings accounts, and

3) I already use my 3 allotted checking accounts for unpredictable day-to-day purchases (an account for my spending budget, an account for my wife's spending budget, and a shared account for family/house expenses like groceries/gas).

I sometimes bundle together some things like subscriptions so 2-3 expenses can pull from the same account sometimes, but there are the occasional problems where a service or product will charge more than once per month (unexpectedly) and I don't want to risk exceeding 6 withdrawals/month and getting an account shut down. Seems easier to just separate everything out so you don't have to think/worry about it.

And separate accounts remind me of what the funds in each are for (and seeing each one filled is reassuring to know that there was enough money to transfer into each envelope without any issues -- if you see a 0 in an account early in the month, you have time to figure out how to pay for that thing, instead of getting surprised when it comes due and a shared account can't cover it). That seems useful enough -- seems like no downsides and nothing but improvements over having a single account that mixes everything.

I'd probably do things the same way even if CO offered 25 checking accounts, although it might make sense to consolidate a few of the smaller recurring expenses into slightly fewer, more high-level accounts to make things easier at-a-glance.


For example: I have 21 expenses in Simple. They're as small as "Spotify: $16.25/mo" and "1Password: $60/year". As large as mortgage, kid stuff, groceries, annual car registration, car insurance, etc. Plus about 8 savings goals.

Ok. I get that... but you know Spotify is $16.25/mo. Recurring. Every year you know exactly how much it will be. So I guess I just don’t really get it what that envelope is doing. Maybe making sure you don’t get double charged or price change?

But... car Insurance I do get. If you get billed every six months getting that big bill out of nowhere does kind of suck.


Have you tried privacy? (https://privacy.com) seems to be pretty similar to the enveloping you’re talking about.

Privacy would be an addition on top of the envelope, where only one card can access the envelope. But Simple's UI hid the total value of everything (+ the envelope).

Privacy is a proxy, not the destination.


Yep! I use Privacy with almost all of my online transactions and have my Simple account setup as the funding source. That way I don’t give out my debit card number.

UPDATE:

Qube Money and Envel.ai seem to be the most similar competitors after searching for a bit.

Here's an article on Qube Money's website: https://blog.qubemoney.com/leaving-simple-bank-heres-why-qub...

In that article, there's a link to a Google Sheet that someone on Reddit created comparing alternatives: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/u/2/d/1Etr8dGtviSRpdAjR...


I recommend PNC's Virtual Wallet actually. It's not quite as nice as what you're describing here, but the main interface is a calendar which shows upcoming bill payments, scheduled ACH transfers, checks you've written, and your paycheck. It uses that to calculate a free balance before your next paycheck. It also has tools to schedule automatic transfers between accounts (checking/spend, reserve, and savings).

Their landing page for the product is absolutely awful: https://www.pnc.com/en/personal-banking/virtual-wallet-overv...

You can see screenshots of at least the mobile version on the play store though: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pnc.ecomme...


I've tried PNC, it is an absolute disaster in terms of website, app, fees, timeliness, etc. I have absolutely no idea why anyone would open an account with them.

What I had heard was that they had excellent customer support, but then they accidentally locked up my entire checking account for weeks and claimed they couldn't do anything, I just had to wait - until I literally contacted the CEO. I have, of course, since closed my account there.


Outside of rent and automated savings I actually just use good old envelopes for all of my other purchases.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0721TMDCL/

The annoying part is going to the bank once a month to get the cash and then making sure you have the right denominations to easily distribute to each envelope. It took a few months for me to get used to it but my spending went way down.


I haven’t been a PNC customer in years but as I recall, their “Virtual Wallet” account allowed for similar functionality (not using an envelope concept, but by allocating/reserving money to various recurring expenses so you’d see an adjusted balance after factoring in those upcoming payments). I’m sure the service has changed in the past 5+ years since I used it, but it may be worth checking out. The only reason I left PNC was because I moved to a region where they didn’t have any physical branches.

> When a charge comes in for that expense

Do you categorize the expense or is it automatically categorized to the correct spending envelope?

---

Treasury is B2B focused at the moment but there must be another way to do this...


You can make sure that a recurring transaction is always categorized to the same category and then that the money is taken from that “envelop” based on the category.

So my rent payment will always get automatically categorized to rent, and then all transactions in the rent category automatically pull from a specific “envelop”.

Envelops are just a UI/helpful budgeting thing; it’s not an actually different account.


Agreed. I've been using envelope budgeting since college and I simply can't fathom why most people don't do it. Actually, I can fathom it: it's because no one has been willing to keep this incredible feature in an easy-to-use product and support that product long enough for people to see the value.

In college I used gnucash for this and even wrote a (now very old and somewhat embarrassing) article about it (https://organicdesign.nz/A_day_in_the_life_of_a_dollar).

After I got a bit tired of gnucash's relatively baroque interface I moved over to https://www.mvelopes.com, but I found it expensive, slow, and just not to my taste (it might be better now, this was still over a decade ago).

Next, I noticed this newfangled site called Mint.com. I liked it right away and even had a phone conversation with its founder about the envelope budgeting idea. He said he really liked it and would look into it but then of course Mint got acquired by Intuit and we all know what Intuit does to creative product ideas. I still use Mint to track net worth and cash flow but every time I open it I sigh at what could have been.

Some years ago I heard about Simple and was incredibly excited that an actual BANK finally grokked what was so obviously awesome about this idea. I signed up right away and for a few months enjoyed budgeting bliss. But I knew it was likely to end in corporate takeover sadness and so I avoided moving my accounts to it. This is a decision I regretted having to make, and regret being right about.

Some years ago I got the bug again and spoke to some startups who were trying to democratize the "connect to your bank API" space, which would let folks like me just make a tool ourselves and maybe productize it without having to look for VC funding just to afford the stupid license fees for bank connectivity. I had a few good conversations but no one else seemed anywhere near as excited about it as I was.

Fast forward to today: I work at a FAANG company doing interesting stuff and have pretty much abandoned my dream of doing finances this way. I've tried gnucash again. I've tried spreadsheets. I've tried custom personal programs. None of them are really good.

You REALLY want your bank to do this.

What you want is to tie this to your debit and credit cards and have them all pool from the same "virtual subaccounts".

What you want is to be able to have your credit card be declined if you go over budget (with an option to override).

What you want is to create a tree of accounts in under a second using your smartphone without having to fill out forms.

But you won't get it, it seems.

Product idea: A bank. With a a nice API. That's it. I'll take my startup idea equity now.


I'm not so sure you want your bank to do this, because there is no easy aggregate view if you have multiple banks and/or other accounts to track. I have I think 6 currently with no way to merge (curse of bouncing between countries).

Gnucash is as baroque as you say, but the only one of your options above that actually works and solves this problem (aggregate view) reasonably, of course that can't help you with things like virtual CC limit above. Still, it's much nicer than doing double entry with spreadsheets.


I haven't used GnuCash in many years, but when I did, it did not support envelope budgeting.

The way I found to do it is to use the account tree feature to have "virtual subaccounts" under real accounts. That way you'd have something like:

- Checking - Food - Housing - Entertainment - Emergency Reserve

Your paycheck would go into checking and then you'd "fund" those subaccounts from the top level account. Then, when you reconcile your statements (I did it every day by going online), you "spend" out of the subaccounts.


This is doable, but still a bit of a pain:

I pay using different accounts (bank accounts or credit cards). Groceries, in particular, I pay with both checks and cards. Admittedly, this is still a problem with many envelope budgeting SW, but they usually have ways to mitigate this.

The other problem: Say I have two checking accounts A and B, and I pay for groceries with A and car expenses with B. One month I overspend car stuff and my envelope for B is in the negative, and I don't have enough emergency reserve. I take money out of my grocery envelope under A to bring the car envelope in B back to 0.

Now if I did this in GnuCash, it will show a wrong balance in one of my checking accounts (unless I physically transferred money between the two accounts).

Your setup will work if you tend to spend everything from one account. I am curious, though: If you do it this way, doesn't it make reconciling a bit of a pain? Let me explain:

When I go to do groceries, I usually have multiple categories I am purchasing (example below):

1. Groceries = $60

2. Supplies = $30

3. Miscellaneous (catch-all) = $10

I pay with a check of $100. How do you represent this in GnuCash? Will you list 3 separate transactions coming out of each virtual subaccount? If so, do you then not reconcile with your bank statement? Or does GnuCash let you mark it all as one transaction under Checking to make reconciliation easy?

Ledger CLI has good support for "true" virtual accounts, so that the "real" accounts show the real world transactions (it will show up as one transaction from Checking to the Grocery Store), while simultaneously letting you split this into the 3 virtual budget accounts.


Gnucash allows split transactions, so your case is not a problem. So your check of $100 out of your checking account gets split into 3 different places, e.g. expense accounts.

Your actual representation of chequing accounts should really represent the bank account,so you shouldn't do what you describe (that lead to a wrong balance), your actual budgeting is done elsewhere.

If you weren't doing envelope budgeting, you might just mark things into expense accounts, so they keep a running track of what you've spent.

I haven't used it for a while so may get details a bit mixed, but the gist of it is right, If you want to do envelope style budgeting, you have a few possibilities. One is to do regular expense accounts but change your reporting period to say 1 month, and you use the report tools to see what is happening. In this way if you overspend in one, and underspend in another, it all rolls up into the same total. Another way would be more explicit, you would allocate a liability account 1st of each month for each "envelope" and then spend against that. You could freely transfer between these, and you can carry over etc. This would give you an up to date view easily. There are other schemes, depends what you want to make easy and what you make hard.

By the way I'm pretty sure I remember gnucash has a built in budget tool also, but I've never used it; might be close enough to what you want to be the least effort.


> Gnucash allows split transactions, so your case is not a problem. So your check of $100 out of your checking account gets split into 3 different places, e.g. expense accounts.

I'm aware of that, which is what I meant: If you do it this way, then you can't do envelope budgeting using subaccounts the way the original commenter said (and I agree with you that you should not do it this way).

Both the methods you propose involve significant work on my part, which to me means "Gnucash doesn't support it." For the first method:

> In this way if you overspend in one, and underspend in another, it all rolls up into the same total.

Arguably, this goes against envelope budgeting. The whole analogy is mirroring the physical world, where an envelope cannot go negative. In my envelopes, if one goes negative, then I need to move money from another envelope into it immediately. In your first scenario, since you're using real accounts, we should not do that (otherwise we lose real spending habits data).

Your second approach is closer, but it's a fair amount of work (or perhaps I misunderstood it). Using my example above, if I go to the store and spend $60 on groceries, $30 on supplies and $10 on misc, how do you propose I put that in Gnucash using those liability accounts?

There's always some way to hack it, but when you actually do it for a while, those hacks become tedious. As I said in another comment, the mechanics of envelope budgeting are easy to code, and I'd like the SW to handle those details for me.

I did play with the built-in budget tool. It's like the typical budget tool in most such SW: No carryover of excess budget - you have to manually track it and update it each month.


> Arguably, this goes against envelope budgeting.

Sort of. At least it would give you a monthly total of everything and a roll up of everything, but doesn't handle carry over cleanly. I was suggesting it as a way that works for lots of people but fair enough if it doesn't' fit close enough.

> Your second approach is closer, but it's a fair amount of work (or perhaps I misunderstood it)

It would look like this: Your salary comes in, and instead of matching that transaction to "income" you would split it against a bunch of "envelope" accounts, each however much you want per check. If you use liability accounts (e.g. like an accounts payable account) for this they will count "backwards". This is exactly analogous to envelopes, except that nothing (other than you) stops you from going negative. You can move funds between them whenever you want.

Then when you spent your $100 check you would split that transaction also, and apply the 60/30/10 each to its own account. These carry over of course, so if you don't spend it all this month you'll have extra next month, etc.


Where do you live where grocery stores accept checks?

> Where do you live where grocery stores accept checks?

Are you in Europe? I hear it's unusual there. In the US virtually every store will accept a check. There are still stores that will not take any card. And some stores that will take a a debit card but not a credit card. But they'll all pretty much take checks.


I lived in the US for 26 years and never witnessed anyone pay with a check at a grocery store or other similar retail establishment past the mid 2000s. I assumed they were no longer accepted?

Most people will pay with either cash or card because it's more convenient. But I haven't heard of anyone that refused a check, unless it's a rather large transaction and they're concerned a check will bounce. I myself used checks and not cards for a bunch of years.

Not out of the box, but easy enough to set up whatever scheme you would like. You can set up virtual asset accounts, or you can constrain things with liability accounts, etc.

Your gnu cash article doesn't contain any screenshots so I'm sure you've spared us the horrors of looking at it but I feel like I can't trust you. I'll have to suffer through this myself, just to make sure.

The original article did have a few screenshots, if I remember correctly. The original host of the article, however, is long gone.

Yes; this. I also have no idea how other people pay any bills without a system like this.

I hope this isn't crass, but many people 1) set up automatic billpay and then 2) get out of living paycheck-to-paycheck. That combination along with some financial restraint is enough to skip complicated budgeting systems.

> I hope this isn't crass

Eh, a little bit. I know for me, I was always afraid of using autopay because I get paid biweekly, so even if all my bills had the same due dates every month, payday was always different every month. Being able to tuck that money away made it less tempting to overspend.

As for getting out of living paycheck-to-paycheck, again, easier said than done. You're basically making the opposing higher minimum wage argument: "Get a better job if you want to make more than $8 an hour." "Get a better job if you want to have better control of your finances."

Plus there have been several studies showing that for many people, as their income goes up, they still have trouble saving because they unconsciously think that since they make more money, they have more money to spend. "Financial restraint" is easier said than done for many people, myself included. Simple's "Safe-to-Spend" has made a world of difference in my life and I'm honestly really concerned about how I'm going to keep it up when that goes away.


Let’s say your phone breaks. Can you afford to buy a replacement today? Where will that money come from? Or you’re out somewhere and see something you want, say an Aeron chair for $150, a great deal. Can you afford to get it? Safe-to-spend is how we had relied on knowing that we could buy something and all of our necessities would already be covered.

T-Mobile has phones as cheap as $150 (admittedly probably not great but still work), and quality phones as low as $400 or $500 for lower end or older iPhone/Pixel models. If you don't know if you can spend $150-$500 for a minor emergency, then you don't have an emergency fund which is easily the #1 priority for personal finances. Same for the Aeron - if you don't know if you can afford a $150 chair, you shouldn't buy it. The amount of the sale is irrelevant by the way - buying something you don't need that is 90% off is still a waste of money.

I don't think you're arguing in good faith. Making a throwaway account just to talk down to other people mourning the loss of their financial planning tool is a pretty shitty thing to do.

I can see how that would be a useful system. My approach/mindset is totally different. Instead I maintain a 1 year emergency fund in my checking account. If something important breaks (e.g. phone), I know I can replace it. Every month or so, I look to make sure I’m not drawing down my account balance. If I am, I mentally calibrate to spend less money on takeout, clothes, etc. If instead my balance is going up, I skim off excess money into an investment account.

If you take control of your finances in other ways, this system just isn't necessary. Set up automatic bill pay, set up recurring deposits into savings and investment accounts, use credit cards with the best rewards to pay for things (set to be fully paid off automatically every month), and then spend within your means so you don't live paycheck to paycheck. I suppose that last one is the thing that envelope budgeting/mental accounting is attempting to solve, but the problem is that it isn't actually solving the root cause. Spending smarter or at least not spending frivolously can free you from managing 25 different spending categories every day/week/month.

Setting up automatic bill pay and recurring deposits reduces the time needed to manage your money (probably), but it doesn't really help with following a budget.

Probably a lot of us on HN can get by without a budget, because we are generally highly paid, so just keeping spending within reason is all it takes.

If you actually need to budget, then it would be nice to have tools to remind you that you've spent all your X money for the month/year, so either no more of that, or you need to adjust the budget.


That's fair, and I hope I don't come across as crass or overly privileged, but the problem is still _what_ you are spending the money on. I could make $250k/year, budget to spend every penny, and still live paycheck-to-paycheck. That is a recipe for disaster for when a real emergency arises. Having an emergency fund is the #1 goal for personal finance, and reduces the severity of a lot of other issues like slightly overspending in a category one month.

Two things:

- Monzo and Revolut are better products

- they discriminate against permanent residents who are not citizens (you can’t use their service)

So from my point of view: heh


Revolut is like dealing with a shady loan shark dude that hangs out in an amusement arcade. One day he tells you one story, you can't get hold of him for a while, he sends you texts promising fantastic things and big discounts, then you track him down and the story has changed.

Dear HN crowd, don't waste your time and money with the sharks at Revolut, and be doubly wary of working for them.


To elaborate, Monzo has this envelope feature by allowing you to create "pots" and then set "Pay from this pot" for any recurring payments. I have separate pots for rent/bills/car. It also has a "Salary sorter" that will split your salary into the pots when you get paid (you just have to approve it).

None of that is available in the USA yet, but something to look out for if there isn't currently a US alternative.


FWIW, I tried to sign up for Revolut in US and was not able to proceed because I'm a TN Visa holder, and they don't have an option to use foreign passport + I94 to verify status like every other bank I've signed up for does. Contacted support as well and they couldn't do anything about it.

Was a pretty disappointing experience for a supposedly forward-thinking bank.


it’s not really helpful to provide UK banks as an alternative to a US bank

Revolut is in the US https://blog.revolut.com/revolut-launch-united-states/

Monzo is launching in the US but got held up by the pandemic. https://monzo.com/usa/


Ahh, silly me. I actually knew this, but was still locked into "UK only".

Ally added buckets last year on their savings accounts which is the same kind of idea, just not quite as mature yet.

I take it you have to use debit to pay for everything for this feature to work well or can you integrate your credit card expenses too?

Cash is fungible, it doesn’t matter where you put it. You’re also forgoing 1.5% cash back by not using a credit card and paying it off in full every month.

There is already a good Simple alternative called Envel.ai I believe. Its based on the same envelope system (hence Envel..) and has a more advanced budgeting engine...

Check out Qube Money, they seem early stage but functioning. Once you sign up you can request to be in their Facebook beta testers group which is active.

Sofi money has something called "vaults" they just launched which may be the same thing. May be worth checking out.

I think there is a good simple alternative called Envel. Does the envelope budgeting but works a bit better I believe..

I believe Ally does this same thing?

Was this maybe a BBVA feature? Azlo did this as well and referred to them as envelopes.

sadly, they are also being shut down!

you can ask to split paycheck direct deposit into 10 different checking accounts, if you in US at least.

the parent literally typed that they used to do just this, didn't have to anymore thanks to Simple, and didn't want to go back.

I'm also a bummed Simple customer and they made it so easy to set up buckets for literally anything with zero overhead, which encouraged a ton of saving from me.


How long have you been a customer? Do you feel it's changed your habits to the point where you wouldn't need to rely on software to save (other than spreadsheets)? (I totally understand your point about the "zero overhead" - that is really appealing)

Not the person you're asking, but I've been a Simple user since 2016.

When I started, I was diligenty using the savings goals. I had a goal for a car, a house down payment, cell phone upgrade, etc.

Eventually as my account and goals grew, I found it to be stupid to leave so much uninvested. I just kept a mental note to keep my balance at around $15-20k, transferred everything else to my brokerage.


I don't know how many Simple employees are in this thread. I'm very sad to hear this news, and I'm sure you were too. Just want you to know that you all made a really meaningful difference in the lives of at least my wife and I. Before I switched to Simple, I had a really hard time budgeting for things/planning for expenses, and was frequently toeing the line of overdrawing my account. I was essentially financially illiterate.

Simple made it incredibly easy for me to get my shit together and start being proactive with my money, so there was really no excuse to not do so. Now, my wife and I are well on our way to an early payoff on our mortgage (~18 years early), paying off our vehicle loans early (~2 years early), having a pretty good safety net in the bank, and being otherwise debt free.

So if you haven't heard it above the sadness of losing Simple: thank you. Seriously, thank you. You really did something great and you should all be proud of what you've accomplished.


I'd like to add to this. I used simple for a couple years back when it was first released, and it helped immensely in getting out of debt and on the right track. I've since moved on to other banks (at the time there were no joint accounts or savings, and I needed both), but I had friends reach out to me today in a panic because I'd recommend they use it over the years.

It was an excellent tool that absolutely improved my life and the lives of others I know personally.

Well done.


I never used or heard of Simple. What do they do to make people manage their finances wiser?

They had a way to set money aside for goals. The money would be in your account but it would not show up in the available balance. So you could say, I want to buy this expensive thing, put in the amount you want to save towards it per month and the available balance would hide the money for you until you spent it.

That’s f’ing brilliant. Everyone is pretty good at stopping when out of money but if you can see it right there in a savings account the temptation to transfer can be strong.

This. 100%. The best I could do before switching to Simple was putting about half my paycheck in a savings account in another bank that I had no other accounts with and using that to pay my rent and maybe a few other bills. I was still always overdrawing my checking account at my main bank. I would occasionally have to go to the other bank, withdraw cash and drive over to the main bank to deposit it. Luckily, that bank didn't have any branches near where I worked, so I either had to wait 3 days for an online transfer or do my "shame banking" as my SO called it on my work from home day or Saturday morning. Simple's "Safe-to-Spend" is really a game changer for people like me.

It's refreshing to hear someone write well about some technology that has improved their lives. :)

Yeah. It just made me think how nice “software memorial services” could be for people to express gratitude for these endeavors.

I've used Simple since they became available on Android. At the time I had an account with Wells Fargo, but it was just a nightmare. I was working minimum wage, more or less paycheck to paycheck. I had been burned several times by those predatory overdraft fees, and they had started to introduce minimum balance fees.

Switching to Simple was a breath of fresh air. I didn't have to worry about any of those fees anymore. I could look at their tiny list of possible fees and know what to expect rather than having to deal with the nightmare of poor information that I had before. They saved me so much money, and helped me get out of the paycheck-to-paycheck spiral.

Like you the budgeting feature have been incredibly powerful for me too. Being able to hide away money without risking an overdraft or declined payment was a game changer.

Now I find myself in a very unfortunate position where I'm not even in the states so I'm not sure how I'm going to manage a switch to somebody else.


Chiming in as a happy Simple user too. Always thought their customer service was top notch.

Depending on your mortgage interest rate, have you considered continuing the 18 years and investing your extra cash in index funds? Market returns ~10% over 20 years, so if your mortgage is 6% or less it's in your best 'interest' to continue.

Financially this makes sense. But for me, I’m sitting in a house that’s paid off. If I lose my job (or have to quit for medical reasons) and I can’t get a new job, I’ve got shelter. I can live Indefinitely where I am right now just paying utilities and property tax. Granted there is the reality of things just break on houses and require $$$.

Maybe it isn’t the best strategy. But there’s a nice feeling to know that I’ll have my house even if something bad happens.

And by bad I mean less than societal collapse. All bets are off in that situation.


If you have the discipline to pay off a house you can easily create a stock portfolio. The only important advice is to stop staring at the charts for too long. If you are an investor you derive zero value from it. Your decision to sell should not be driven by the market. It should be driven by personal goals.

Totally agree. I was replying more about why I chose to pay off my house vs. sitting in a mortgage for X more years so that I can put more money into the market.

During the time I was paying off my house, I did put money into the market. I just prioritized money going towards the house. Now that the house is paid off, all that prior mortgage payment money is going into the market.


This is good advice. A 30 year mortgage is like 2.8% right now, after taxes maybe 1.8%. The stock market over any 18 year time period (after taxes) will return higher than 1.8%. Adding to that, liquidity - having money in the bank provides flexibility, having equity in the house is nearly inflexible.

It could be because I’m Australian or perhaps I’m just unfamiliar with mortgages - how does tax affect the effective loan rate?

As an Australian that's dealt with the US bank/tax systems:

* Mortgages in the US traditionally are 30 year fixed rate.

* Mortgages are deductible from federal income tax up to a certain value

* People in the US have trouble understanding things that Australians are used to, like: variable rate mortgages, fixed/variable rate mortgages, redraw accounts, lines of credit mortgages, which all Aussie lenders offer.

On the other hand, as an Aussie I was confused by:

* People still writing cheques (checks). Like, really? On paper and stuff? Haven't written a cheque in Australia since 2000 and the only time I see it is the "CHQ" button on an EFTPOS.

* Contactless credit cards are only just a thing and people don't have PINs, they still stick their card in, or swipe (?!?) and sign.

* There's no such thing as EFTPOS which goes direct to your account, there are Visa/MC debit cards that work in the field like credit cards, but you can overdraw and get fees charged.

* Discounts for cash are still a thing because the CC charge isn't available. People get things like cash back on their spend, but then pay more for the card in the first place.

* Everyone worries about their credit score that changes in magical ways depending on different weird spending rules that have incentives for taking on debt but only in certain patterns that they won't tell you.


Mortgage interest on your primary residence is tax deductible.

Assuming you itemize. For married couples, the standard exemption is $24k. Very few people well end up actually needing to itemize to deduct more than the standard exemption.

Market returns are not guaranteed, unlike a fixed mortgage rate.

Sure, but the return on paying off a 3.5% mortgage, after interest tax deduction is maybe 2.5% which adjusted for inflation is ~0 to 0.5%.

You can. Only deduct (married) if you pay more than 10-15k of interest a year? Or am I missing something (itemized deductions is now at 20k limit or so).

Edit: and since you need to pay taxes on dividends in bank accounts, you would need something like 3.5-4% interest to match the gains from prepaying the mortgage at 2.75%?


Interest would never match it.

But ignore the interest deduction. Even if you got a 4% return and paid long term capital gains you’d be ahead.


Inflation affects both in the same way and by the same amount. Ditto taxes, mostly. It's probably best and simplest to compare nominal returns.

Assume an inflation adjusted average return of 3% on your investment and a 20% long-term capital gains you end up with 2.4% return versus 0 to 1% for prepaying a mortgage.

The market does not return 10% of 20 years, you may be referring to some period of U.S. returns, and many experts do not expect it to return so well over the next 20 years.

Yeah, even though that 10% is net tax 8.5% (vs. the full 6%) it seems like one could refinance it down in future. Still, I don't think most payment terms are flexible enough to make them an indefinite loan (go interest-only).

Depending upon their tax situation, the loan rate may be effectively a little lower due to the tax deduction too, though. And, tbh, 6% is a really high mortgage now. Rates below 3% are common.

Yeah, when I last checked for a mortgage (4 mos ago), I was offered 2.8%

You can get 2.5% today with good credit. Rates just dropped again yesterday to a new all time low.

Mind-bending man. At this point, I should just intentionally pay PMI and sock the rest in the stock market.

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