Interviewing Customers About Budgeting


This is a recap of what I did in week 2 of my Better Budgets project. I didn’t get as many customer interviews done in week 2 as in week 1, but I still managed to do a few. A few trends are starting to emerge from these discussions.


The first thing I’ve noticed is that my friends are all really responsible with managing their household finances, but are very humble about it. Very often, the person I’m talking to will start out by saying that they really don’t do a very good job of keeping track of their budget, but then they describe several awesome ways that they manage to keep control over their spending. So, if my goal here was to dig deep into the real problems underlying why people don’t save more for retirement, I didn’t get very far.

Of course, even though these are close friends and relatives that I’m talking to, they might not actually be completely honest with me. Imagine that – people painting a rosy picture while reality is they might be covering up a huge pile of bad habits. It also might be that I start off the conversations in a way that leads them in that direction. Not being a seasoned market researcher, there may be a bit of each of these types of bias coloring the data.

Another possibility is that people may have an impression that there is a “right” way to keep track of your household finances, which must involve putting lots of effort into tracking expenses on spreadsheets or Quickbooks, etc. Since they are doing these activities, they feel guilty about it and assume they aren’t very good at it.

Whatever the case is, I do feel like there were some valuable insights about positive behaviors. Maybe these can be incorporated into a solution of some sort:

  1. Automate your fixed expenses so that you can focus your attention on just the variable expenses.
  2. It’s not necessary to track your expenses continually. You just need to do it for a little while to get an idea of what your typical expenses are.
  3. Be careful with your big-ticket ongoing expenses like mortgage or rent, car payments and student debt.
  4. There is some desire for a solution that helps people know how much they can safely spend on a day-to-day basis.

I should do more interviews, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to hit my target for the month of June. From a functional standpoint, one obstacle I keep running up against is that I only have certain times of day that are really optimal for me to do an interview but these don’t match up with the times that my prospective interviewees are available to talk. I hate to sound like I’m making excuses for not making more progress, but at this moment, I have a little baby girl whose needs must take first precedence over working on this project. I’m soldiering on, but the timetable will need to be adjusted for sure.

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