Every time I make a purchase, half a dozen apps clamour to tell me what I just bought and how much I spent on it. I am not sure where they think I was throughout the transaction.
“You just spent £5 in Pret!” notifies my challenger bank. My money management app will inevitably ping – sometime later, might I add – to tell me the same thing, but with a patronisingly judgemental emoji, explaining I’ve spent well over my iced coffee budget for the year.
My savings app, connected to my challenger bank through the magic of open banking, also decides to get in on the notification game – for reasons unclear. Perhaps just to reassure me it knows what’s going on.
All of these FinTechs are incredibly proud of their ability to explain exactly what, where, when and how I spend. At first, this was an exciting gimmick – how does it know? But now, it seems pretty futile to tell someone who just left a café holding a coffee that they just bought a coffee. Especially when even my Main Bank, the big old dinosaur, can now do the same thing.
The purpose of all this, presumably, is to equip people with the information they need to do better with their money. It’s supposed to empower us with as much knowledge as possible.
But I was born in 1996. My first bank account had an easily accessible webpage showing a list of everything that went in and out, as did my PayPal account. Within a year I had “mobile banking” where it was even easier to see all my transactions on an app.
I have never lived a life where I didn’t have all this information at my fingertips, and – as an educated, middle class white woman who grew up on a budget with fairly financially savvy parents – I’ve always felt pretty confident and secure about it.
My generation (a “cusp” between Millennial and “zee”) now takes it for granted that we know exactly what’s happening with our money at any given time, should we choose to be interested. So what’s next? What actually is useful and helpful for the twentysomething and their (virtual) wallet?
For me, knowing what I am spending doesn’t massively change my behaviour in the way I might hope. It doesn’t take an app to tell me that Uber Eats was my biggest spending category in May. I was there. I Uber ate.
One thing I have found useful so far is Plum, a savings app that secretly rounds up my transactions and squirrels my money away in separate account without me noticing. I also use Moneybox to manage my LISA and a 45 day savings account. This makes it incredibly easy to put moneyinto my savings, but I know I’ll be penalised for getting it out. As someone who will spend everything that’s in their current account, but no more, these suit me down to the ground.
Another feature I would find useful is being able to go through my subscriptions – something people my age sign up to with gusto and forget about after the free trial period – and cancel all those I am not using. So far, I’ve seen apps like Emma promise this feature, but fail to deliver anything especially seamless or suggest anything I wasn’t aware of.
The question, for those of us who have budgeting and saving down – or feel we can go no further – is now how we make more with our money, and that will inevitably involve investing some of it. I know apps like Plum and Revolut offer this feature, but so far I’ve only bought a small amount of gold – which I again find useful because this is kept separate to my “spending” money.
I will have to investigate some wealth options next, and see if these make me feel any more empowered than I have since I opened my first account.