Learner Experience Design — How to Manage Money

Jan 26 — Intro

College is a time when a lot of young adults are starting to gain some freedom and control of their lives. Along with this new found freedom comes the task of managing your personal finances. This can be such an overwhelming task, especially if you don’t know where to start.

The internet is filled with sites telling you what how to manage your money, but are any of them really that helpful? I found many sites were packed with broad statements like “Save your money”, “Pay off your debt”, and “Have future goals”. While these things were all pretty obvious, they aren’t very helpful. Many sites and articles would grab your attention with a hopeful title but wouldn’t actually teach you how to do anything. In addition to these types of sites, there is software that is made to help you manage your finances, but can get expensive, and some others don’t actually teach you how to do anything. Another problem I discovered while I was researching was that many sites and applications don’t give people incentive to saving and managing money.

My goal for my further research and project is to learn what are the most important things to know and understand when managing money and finding an approach that helps young adults understand their own finances.

Jan 27 — Thinking and Blockbusting

There are two systems of thinking the fast (unconscious) and the slow (conscious). Fast thinking is effortless where as slow thinking takes some time and concentration, but we identify with it. Slow, unconscious thinking allows us to do things like create and use stereotypes. Stereotypes allow us to make quick responses and help us remember things.

There are many different types of blockbusting. One type of blockbusting is having a questioning attitude. As we grow, we lose are questioning attitude because we start to fear asking questions will make us look unintelligent. By maintaining a questioning attitude you can gain useful information. Another blockbusting activity is list making, which increase increase conceptual ideating. Another thing you can do is make sure you are addressing the core proplems. After you address core problems you will see that other problems might disappear.

Feb 5 — Mapping out my topic

This week while I was working on my project, I decided a good place to start was looking at my own finances. So I loaded YNAB, the app I use to manage my budget, and started looking for problems with their system. While I like the application I think it is too flexible for someone who doesn’t know much about budgeting and managing their money. I then made a chart looking at how finances are taught.

I started with what is wrong with how it is being taught now. Then I moved on to the steps of making and managing a budget, why managing you finances is important, and finally, some apps people can use to manage their finances. One of the first problems I encountered was that there is so much reading to sift through and there isn’t usually a straightforward answer or solution. On top of that, most articles and books are filled with jargon which frustrates readers even more.

I then looked into the steps it takes to set up and manage a budget. First, I realized its important to know how you’re spending your money. Is it on necessities like groceries, rent, or bills, or is it being spent on things like bars, clothes, or other unnecessary things? Then its time to set up your budget, starting by looking at different categories like rent, bills, loans, groceries, clothes, etc and how much money should be designated to each. After the budget is set, people have to follow it and log their income, purchases and other expenses. Managing and updating your budget seems to be difficult because its hard to get people to understand why it is important.

Finally I looked at apps, like Mint and YNAB, and looked over how they handled managing money. Mint is great because it logs your purchases when you hook it up to your bank, but its too rigid and categorizes things for you. This works for some, but I think its more important for someone to fully understand their spending and budget. One problem I had with both Mint and YNAB was that there wasn’t a good way of showing your spending or savings visually. It is all numbers which doesn’t always give people the best sense of how much they are actually saving or spending.

One thing I would like to explore is how to help make savings and spending more visual. I have been looking into how young children are taught about money for basic ideas and principals that could possibly be carried over for young adults.

Feb 15 — Where do I look at my finances?

This past week during we discussed different types gaps in learning. Then it was time to take what we talked about and apply it to my own topic. The two main gaps when discussing my topic are, “where do I go to look at my money?” and “how do I divide/split up my money?” Both of these gaps can be classified as insufficient knowledge from previous experiences. Once these gaps were identified it was time to start thinking of how to address them.

I started by trying to address where to look at your finances. I used to think that looking at my posted and available balances of my bank accounts was enough. I quickly learned I was wrong. Bank accounts aren’t automatically updated with every purchase you make and if you rely on them solely you can get in over your head by spending more than what you have. There are other sources like Mint and YNAB which allow you to start a budget and track your spending. Even though these are great alternatives to just looking at your bank account, they still have room to improve. These applications, and others like them are still all based solely on numbers with little to no visualization.

Feb 15 — How do I divide my budget?

The next thing I began to address was why someone should divide up their money into a budget. First off, its important to remember that each month you have fixed fees that are roughly the same each month (rent, utilities, phone bills, etc) and then there is flexible spending for day-to-day expenses (groceries, coffee, restaurants, bars, etc). When it comes to deciding how to divide your money, or even why you should, you need to think about after how much money you’ll have after you’ve paid for all of your necessary expenses. How much money you’ll have to spend on your morning coffee after you’ve paid your rent and utilities. How much money you’ll have left to go grab a drink with friends after you’ve purchased groceries for the week. I’ve realized that for young people who don’t know how or why to budget, it’s important to relate it to things that are a part of their daily or weekly life. For example, “I can get four cups of coffee this week, or I can go out to dinner one night,” or “I can go out for drinks two nights a week for the next two weeks, or I can buy myself a new shirt.” Putting these things in perspective will help group financial decisions and allow young adults to make smarter decisions with their money.

Feb 18 — How can you utilize memory?

Memory is such an important part of learning and in order to make some of my concepts stick, I’ll need to take advantage of it. The three things I want people to remember are the three main categories when it comes to budgeting: monthly expenses (fixed spending), day-to-day spending (flex spending), and savings. I think that if people remember these three aspects to budgeting it will make managing their own finances less daunting.

Feb 23 — Motivation and Engagement

This week in class we discussed motivation and how to engage learners. Our reading discussed Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Happiness Hypothesis, and how he refers to the brain being like a rider and an elephant. Dirksen sums up this theory by saying, “Basically, he is talking about the idea that there are two separate parts of your brain that are in control-the conscious verbal thinking brain[the rider] and the automatic, emotional, visceral brain [the elephant].” The rider tells you useful things that will have long term benefits and the elephant is attracted to “shiny things”, things at are novel, pleasurable, comfortable , or familiar.

There are so many ways to engage learners like telling stories, shiny things, surprises, social learning, making them feel capable, and creating flexible goals. Stories allow you to make the learner the hero and makes someone feel something so it sticks with the learner. Shiny things can be visuals, tactile, rewards, and humor. Surprises can be used when something doesn’t make sense and can catch the learner’s attention. Social learning allows for group learning and can provide confirmation. Making learners feel capable and having flexible goals allow learners to not become overwhelmed and have an experience tailored to their needs.

February 28 — Speed dating

Savings as motivation

At the beginning of the year you set up a monthly budget with a goal of saving enough money to buy a new computer. Each month you set aside a percentage of your income. Every time you open your application you see a visual representation of how much more you have saved and how much more you need to reach your goal. When you finally reach your goal, you receive a notification congratulating you.

Debt Free

When you set up your budget you were given the option to receive notifications on your mobile device to help you track your purchases. By tracking your purchases made with both credit and debit cards you were able to stay within your spending limits for this month. At the end of the month you were able to pay your credit card bill in full. You were able to avoid debt from accumulating and have one less thing to worry about for next month.

A more personal Experience

When you first enter the application/site you are asked a series of questions establishing your previous knowledge, what you need help with, etc. You said you needed help understanding the basics of budgeting and maintaining a budget. You are presented with different video tutorials and a walkthrough of the app to help setup your budget. You are also given a series of goals for tracking your budget to help you remember to update your income and expenses. At the end of the month you have successfully created and maintained your budget and gained a better understanding of how they work.

March 24–5min Presentations

5 min presentations.
need to reign in project to be more manageable.
focus on first pass through the cycle.
focus on the learning aspects.
narrow down to most important parts.

March 31 — Looking at other products

So far I have been looking at several different applications and video styles for visual inspiration as well as inspiration for an easier to use budgeting system. Here are some of the applications I have been looking at:

April 1 — Determining an Approach

While working on reigning in my project I decided to focus on two main methods: the Envelope Method and the 50/20/30 Method. The Envelope Method is a way of budgeting cash. You create separate envelopes, one for each category, and fill each with their allotted amount of cash. Then when you go shopping, you only use cash from your designated envelope. The 50/20/30 Method is a system for creating your budgets. 50% of your monthly income goes towards necessities like rent, utilities, groceries, and any subscription services with fixed costs (like Netflix, Spotify, etc). These two methods will be great for teaching young adults how to budget. They leave a lot of opportunities for visual learning and are simple and easy to grasp.

April 7— First Iterations

For my first iterations I focused in on visualizing the envelope system and making the amounts of money more concrete. I ran into issues with visualizing the abstract money as cash. How do you lay out the cash to make it quick and easy to understand? How do you make the application less sterile/corporate and friendly? I also began testing how to show visual cues through color on the envelopes.

April 12 — Second Iterations

For my second iterations I looked at how to visualize money and make it a little less complicated. I wanted to create a system that was less complicated and a little friendlier.

I was still running into issues with making the system inviting.

April 21 — Third Iterations

For my third iterations I worked on creating visuals for the each of the categories. I also began looking at how to bring more color into the designs.

Final Iterations

For my final iterations, I worked on bringing in more color, shortening the amount of text on each screen, and how to simplify the experience. I also worked on creating a series of questions that a user must answer to help create a more personalized experience. By creating a tailored experience the user gets a more personal experience. I also wanted to focus on the visual side of this learning experience. I wanted to make the abstract more concrete by using visuals to so users could make connections to previous experiences at a glance. I also wanted to force the user to reflect on their prior experiences. Reflection is a key part of the learning cycle and is a key part of managing your finances and making smart financial decisions. By reflecting on your previous experiences, you can find patterns in your spending, notice habits, and can make smarter decisions for your future.

Envelopes is an application aimed not only at easing the experience of budgeting, but also aimed at teaching young adults why they are budgeting and how to create a simple budget in the future. For my final products I chose to focus on the on boarding process and initial learning experiences.

Revisiting this project — Nov 2016

I decided to revisit this project and rework the final deliverables.

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