Benji: The Budgeting and Donating Tool

Now more than ever people are conscious and concerned with their finances. In 2018 Bankrate conducted a survey that showed that at least 17% of Americans have some type of budgeting application on their smartphone and in 2019 1/3 of American Millennials have a financial budgeting application, specifically Mint or Digit. Although Millennials are becoming more cognizant of their finances and looking to use a budgeting application, the current applications on the market are tailored to users that do not need explicit guidance or support to maintain budgets and spending habits. Benji is a new application that is targeted for users who need external help and motivation in order to stay within the boundaries of their budget. 

Benji is a free application that prompts users to register and connect to their bank account. While the user fills out their initial survey that learns how the user views their spending habits as well as their basic information, Benji looks over the users spending habits and calculates the users average weekly spending. Once the survey is complete, Benji will provide the average calculation and ask the user to review and verify that any required monthly costs (i.e. rent, bills, loans, etc.) are not included in the budget. Then Benji will ask the user to share their budget goal and timeline for accomplishing the goal to determine if it is a feasible goal. Next, Benji will provide a weekly allocated budget for the user to be able to spend on their nonessentials. Whereas most budget applications would stop here, Benji goes further to provide incentives for the user to reduce their spending and stay within their calculated budget. At the end of each week the money that is not spent in their budget, 20% of that remaining sum will be donated by Benji to a charity or cause in the name of the user. Not only does the user save money, but because of their frugal spending, they will be able to give to a cause of their choice with Benji’s money. 

Benji is specifically designed to help with the user’s mentality to save money. Using the principles of Robert Cialdini, Benji applies the reciprocity, social proof, and commitment to consistency social influences. Through Benji, users may join social groups working towards helping a cause that may be spearheaded by a celebrity, influencer, family member, or friend. Joining one of these groups will cause the user to feel the desire to keep their spending at a minimum so that they are contributing to the cause and are monitored by their peers. By also joining a group the user will feel that they agreed to help contribute to an organization so they do not want to not fulfil their agreement especially when others have been able to have donations made in their name. Even if the user has not joined a group, they will feel that since Benji has helped them save money and is working to help a cause or organization, then they need to save in order to have Benji work towards its goal of aiding those in need. 

In addition to Cialdini’s social influence, BJ Fogg’s theory of motivation and availability can be applied. Following the motivation and ability complex can prompt the user to fully engage and continue using a product. Benji uses hope/fear and acceptance/rejection as motivation, time, money, effort, and routine as ability, and app notifications as prompts. Through the motivation of fear of not meeting their goal and wanting to be accepted by their charitable group and anyone they are helping through their saving behavior, users will work to match their intended goal. Additionally, Benji provides the availability that allows the user ease. Through the little time they need to use on the app, the app being free, little effort since the app in on the user’s smartphone, and checking in and tracking the expenditures of the users promoting a routine that can be specified for a daily or weekly check-in, the availability of Benji to perform well in their desire to save money. Customizable notifications (depending on how often the user wants to be prompted) will act as prompts either signals encouraging highly motivated users to continue to engage or as sparks to encourage less motivated users to commit more to the process.

Is Benji too good to be true? Download now to find out.

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  1. Originality

    Practicality

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    Want it to be real

    neat design, integrate /w banking?
    I enjoy the idea of this, particularly the simple design. I also wonder whether this is a separate app or better integrated into a banking app. In the UK plenty of “challenger banks” (Monzo, revolut, N26) do very similar stuff and have cool data tools that are fully integrated with your card(s) – this might be something for you to look at if you want to take this further.
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  2. Comment #1
    I think this is a great idea and would incentivize a lot more college students to keep track of their spending! One thing to consider is the user’s sense of safety/security: I’m assuming that people will have to connect all their bank accounts and credit cards in order for the app to track their spending and make sure they’re staying within their budget. I’m not entirely sure how the app is going to fund their donations (since they’re coming from the company, not the users’ budgets), but introducing ads or selling user data might end up demotivating users to use the app. It might also be interesting to add a penalty for not staying within budget: maybe $10 would get donated to a charity if they go over by a certain amount?
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  3. Originality

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    Benji Review
    I think this is a great idea, especially in this day and age when most people in the western world are paying with plastic. At least for me, when my payments are invisible they are harder to keep track of. I recently found out that my baking app provides graphs showing my spending habits. It was shocking. My guesses for how much I was spending on different categories of products were way off. I think your app does better than my banking app because while my banking app only shows my spending using vague categories, yours will specifically show purchases by product.
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  4. Original & practical
    This is a really awesome idea; I can definitely see it becoming a popular product among college students. My only concern is if the company is really donating out of pocket every time people exceed their budget, I’m wondering 1) how sustainable this is? 2) how will the company have enough on reserve to cover those donations (ie. How will the app make money?) Also, like Professor Altringer mentioned, I think you could enhance the social accountability component of this app by having your friends be able to see more of your donating/spending activity… but, overall, super well done!
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  5. Such a cool concept!
    Not only did I really enjoy your presentation, I can see how this would help influence behavior and make people more cognizant of their finances. I also like how this links to the user’s bank account, so they wouldn’t be able to cheat and just not log purchases/expenses. If you were to keep working with this idea, I think it could also be cool to add progress reminders — something along the lines of “Uh oh! Looks like your spending is on track to exceed your monthly budget. Cut down on your coffee purchases to get back on track.” That way it lets people know how they’re doing and gives them concrete, tailored recommendations to stay on track.
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  6. Really practical!
    I think this is a great idea to help people visualize their spending and make the numbers more meaningful instead of just being money that one spends. The ability to set goals is great and one thing to consider is that maybe the app can send notifications or reminders to people to watch out for monthly spending. I also love the donation feature which is sort of similar to AmazonSmile and it makes the experience of the app more rewarding.
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  7. Less Cognitive Cycles?
    Both the demographic and the behaviour that this app is targeting is especially necessary today – and the clarity of the aesthetic definitely helps to enhance its functionality. I was wondering if there could be some of the saving features that may be automated to reduce cognitive cycles? The app Acorns Invest (although geared more towards investing), automatically rounds up purchases (a cup of coffee from $1.85 to $2.00) to invest the remainder amount which allows users to feel as if they are getting a lot out of it without actually having to go through the steps of investing!
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  8. helpful & desirable
    I’m not familiar with this type of products, but your design definitely addresses the pain point for most of the potential users. Using budgeting tools can be painful sometimes, since it takes a lot of effort to manage spending especially on small things like coffee and uber. So setting a goal on overall spending is a nice solution, and the donating option is an excellent motivation which makes the process more enjoyable. One thing I would take into consideration is the negative feelings from people who control their spending for future usage. In this case, reminding them of donation might be a less desirable feature, and creates a new pain point.
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  9. Originality

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    Good idea!
    I think this idea is a good one in theory. I just wonder how many people will be motivated by giving to charity. I wish people would be, but I don’t think they are. I think the budgeting aspect is very appealing, and the presentation of having it tell you how to spend less money on certain things in order to contribute to a trip goal or something.
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  10. Nice Savings Feature
    I really appreciate the feature of being able to save up for certain events and goals. But I also wonder if this could be integrated with GICs or other savings tools. Having your money just sit in the bank for a goal that’s more long term is a waste because you could be earning interest! It would be cool if it also said when your GICs would come due or TFSAs (but this might be different in America than it is in Canada) and that you could allocate say one GIC to your graduation or a specific event and another GIC or TFSA to another goal.

    I also like the motivation of being able to donate to a charity! I think the ideas behind the app are great but the interface could use work being thought out more and made to look tidier. Also, the comment about it knowing you could have walked instead of taking the uber is cool but that means your location must be on and it might seem kind of spooky to some people to have this app monitoring your location, income, spending habits and possibly using data from other apps like Uber (because it would need that to get trip data that it can’t get from a bank account charge). It’s just something to think about if there could be a way for it to still function depending on a specific individual’s level of comfort with being monitored.

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  11. Benji
    I think this is an excellent concept and totally speaks to the issue of digital budgeting which is so prevalent amongst our age group. I think this would save the cognitive burden of anxiety related to finances and the digital market place. I think when it comes to budgeting, a recurring issue I hear amongst peers and certainly feel myself is that there is a certain amount of guessing throughout the month (expecting some charges to go through later, waiting for some income to come in) and that the most relieving thing is to know the complete picture–to that end I think incorporating other platforms people are using would be really helpful in the pursuit of this complete picture (I’m thinking venmo, robinhood).
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  12. Originality

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    maybe could push this idea harder
    I had used a similar app before such as Mint and at first, I thought it worked very well but later I gradually lost track of the app because budgeting is really time consuming and boring. Therefore, I think the true point is to make people motivated by using this app. Also, I am hesitant about the charity feature and I do not see the point of adding this.
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  13. Benji.
    I absolutely love this concept- the whole idea that through being financially savvy and careful with spending, you are able to give back to a larger cause. This is interesting because donating money to charities may feel inaccessible to people who may not have that extra pocket money to donate, so it’s great an application like this can almost “fulfill” this premise and allow all types of people to be philanthropic through their changed user behavior.

    I also love all the colors and visuals you guys used- Especially the gradients and bright primary color schemes. The emojis also feel like an appropriate choice since they are almost like a universal language.

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  14. Love this!
    I love this idea and wish I had an app that both helped me track my spending and incentivized me to save by donating if I saved! I wonder if Benji could also add a social feature–Facebook allows users to begin fundraisers around their birthdays for their chosen organizations and seeing our friends donate also motivates us to add what we can to these fundraisers. Maybe Benji can allow us to add friends, and when we reach a savings goal, the algorithm can search for friends who also reached their goals to make a larger group donation to a cause. While the app would have to make sure to secure everyone’s privacy, having some sort of live social feed may add even more incentive to save.
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  15. This is super cool!
    I love this idea and definitely need it!! You should take a look at Envel. It is a start-up by Harvard students that is the first AI Bank and it looks awesome! They haven’t released it yet but it is kind of along the lines of what you guys are thinking but it is an actual bank. They are really targeting students who want there budgeting simplified and fun. I don’t know if they incorporate a reward system at all like yours.
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