In July 2012, I was one of the lucky few who received a beta invite to Simple. Initially, I put some money into Simple and used it casually. Changing banks is a big commitment so I wanted to get familiar with an online bank. After months of testing, my wife and I went from a joint account at a brick and mortar bank to two Simple accounts.
Since my family is fairly typical when it comes to banking needs, I want to share our experience with the transition. From each experience, I'm going to share pros and cons to bullet point the move.
Going from a joint account to two separate accounts
Initially, this was a major adjustment. We had to ask questions like, "How do we pay each bill now?", "How do we stay on within our budgets?" and "How do we make sure we have enough in each account?"
We decided to use my account for paying the bulk of our bills like rent, phones, internet, etc. My wife uses her account exactly as she did before: for groceries, gas, going to eat with friends, and more. This helped us understand our needs as we transitioned.
- With our finances separated into two accounts, we spent money wisely. The distributed balance in each account made us rethink purchases. "Do I really need Jimmy Johns today? Or should I just pack my lunch to save some money?"
- The Simple app is fantastic. You can instantly see how much is in your account, how much is reserved for goals like "Trip to Michigan City", and how much is pending on transactions.
- Not having a joint account made money management more complicated.
- There is no instant transfer between Simple accounts (yet) so instantly giving my wife some extra money is not possible.
Budgets and goals
Simple has their own platform for saving and reserving money for things. Because our current bank doesn't offer anything like this we had to do plan this out.
Reserving money for goals
We knew we would be making a trip to Michigan City in February so we setup a "Trip to Michigan City" goal and immediately reserved $500 for it. This did two things:
- It removed $500 from our "Safe-to-Spend" amount.
- It allowed us to withdrawl the trip's transactions from this goal.
Personally, I think this is the bread and butter of Simple. I set aside some money for a goal and deducting transactions from it kept me updated on how much money was remaining. We even ended up having money left over so I put it right back into our "Safe-to-Spend" after the trip.
Staying on budget
Budgeting made things tricky. We use Dave Ramsey's budgeting tool to categorize our purchases. (I can't recommend Dave's insight enough for finances. You need to read Total Money Makeover).
Simple advices you to create goals for each budget category (gas, food, entertainment, etc). However, this made our banking more complicated than desired so we utilize hashtagging (Seriously. We are hashtagging transactions. The future!). We have saved search terms in the web app and named them by budget category. So any transaction with a memo of #foodbudget shows up in our saved search of "Food". This is a less restrictive approach to budgeting and it encourages us to create good transaction descriptions. In the past, my bank would just state that I spent $30.05 at Krogers, but now I tag it and specify what I bought. I may include, "Picked up a large cut of beef and other food items". Things like this help me revisit old purchases.
- Money is under tighter control and we know how and when to spend it.
- Saving for purchases makes us more conscious about good spending habits.
- The Simple web app is quick, reliable, and a wonderful way to view past purchases.
- The learning curve for spending and saving can increase based on how you manage your finances.
- Because budgeting can be different for everyone, you may go through some friction as you use Simple initially.
The support team
I can't praise the support team of Simple enough. These people have helped me get familiar with the system, eased my transition concerns, helped my wife with a direct deposit issue, and notified me about a bug fix on February 5th that I had placed last August. I frequently get answers to questions a couple hours after asking them. The team is polite, helpful, and love their jobs. They're just dang good people.
We are completely satisfied with using Simple and adjusting to a new banking lifestyle. The support team is incredible, the mobile and web applications are integrated beautifully, and our money is under tighter control.
Simple, in the current form, may not be for everyone. The team is hard at work adding functionality like linked accounts and until that day comes you may not fit into the workflow yet. But if you received an invite and you want to try it out I highly recommend it. You won't regret it.
Update: The great people at Simple provided me with five invites! First five comments get one!
Update 2: Out of invites! Thanks to everyone who read and the team at Simple for providing them.