Here is a selection of example users and how they use Flowing Pennies. Everyone is different and works in a slightly different way; maybe one of these examples will resonate with your financial workflow.
In one sense, this page is simply a selection of contrived examples; but in another sense, this page is a very high-level description of how Flowing Pennies works; this can be contrasted with the low-level description found on the life cycle of a transaction page.
Edgar hates working with personal finances. Sure, he aspires is to improve the knowledge of where his money is going... but when it comes right down to it, it’s a lot of work to maintain each and every transaction, so it’s easy to get behind by a day or two. And that makes it even harder to catch up.
So — in theory — he wants to track his finances, but that theory never matched up with reality until Edgar started using Flowing Pennies.
Edgar has three accounts that he tracks in Flowing Pennies: a checking account, a credit card account, and a savings account.
What Edgar does every month when each account’s statement arrives in the mail is that he creates one transaction in Flowing Pennies, that consolidates all monthly activity for that account. So in the end his Flowing Pennies document will have three entries per month: one entry per account.
Edgar has been doing this for several months, and he likes being able to get “finger on the pulse” of his finances, even if it’s a very low-granularity picture. But seeing the ebb and flow of his finances over the months has already been helpful, and by using Flowing Pennies in this high-level way, he is eager to start tracking more rigorously.
Trish doesn’t like to bother with personal finance details most of the time. She schedules one day a month (and it used to take a whole Saturday!) to catch up with her finances. With a checking account, a credit card, and a home-equity line of credit, she has to manage the flow between three accounts and still keep up with the bills.
Now Trish uses Flowing Pennies to help. In some ways she uses it a lot like Edgar does, but at a much more detailed level.
Trish only enters an account’s transactions into Flowing Pennies once a month, but instead of cramming a whole month’s activity into a single “transaction,” she does enter each individual transaction from her monthly statement (from each account). It still takes awhile to get her finances in order, but once they’re in Flowing Pennies she has been amazed at how clear the flow of her finances becomes.
Now, if her finances fluctuate from month to month, she can easily scan back to see what pops out as interesting.
Robert has two contradictory needs when he manages his family finances. He wants (and is willing!) to update his finances daily with that day’s expenditures (and deposits). So he’s OK with fine granularity when it comes to data entry.
But Robert wants a personal finance solution that presents him with a very simple and intuitive way to view the big picture of his family finances. He doesn’t care whether his lunch down at the cafe was paid for with his credit card, a check, or even his home-equity line of credit; he just wants to track how that lunch payment fits into his family finances.
Robert’s industriousness and willingness to enter transactions on the same day they happen — sometimes within hours or even minutes of making a purchase! — contrast sharply with his laziness when it comes to viewing and interpreting his finances.
But don’t call Robert an oxymoron. He reviews and watches the history of his family finances carefully, so anything that makes that viewing and analysis easier is something that saves Robert a few minutes a day, forever.
Robert uses Flowing Pennies’ “simple” view about 95% of the time.
Roberty typically “merges” all transactions from a month once they’re two or three months old. He’ll frequently “unmerge” them whenever he needs to take a closer look.
(There’s a dirty little secret here. This hypothetical user Robert is actually me, Bob, the designer and principal engineer of Flowing Pennies; so it’s no accident that Flowing Pennies happens to be a perfect match for Robert.)
Shannon uses Flowing Pennies very intensively. Not only does she enter her daily transactions every day, she also “pushes the envelope” by using Flowing Pennies as a personal-wealth watcher.
In addition to an interest-bearing checking account and a Mastercard account, Shannon is a homeowner well into a thirty-year mortgage, has a 401(k) account, and has another investment account.
Shannon has created six accounts in Flowing Pennies: two “normal” accounts for her checking account and her credit card account, one for her mortgage, one for her home value, one for her 401(k) account and a final one for her other investment account.
She updates her checking account and credit card account daily, and once a month she uses Flowing Pennies to update her mortgage, checks zillow to update her home value, and uses online tools to find the monthly balances for her investment accounts.
This is pushing the envelope beyond what Flowing Pennies was originally designed for, but Shannon doesn’t care: she likes to be able to glance at her Flowing Pennies document and know in an instant what her net worth is, right to the penny.