Personal Finance made easy- Pluto money manager

An app that bridges the gap between students and good finance practices. A UX case study.

While in college, I was that spoiled kid who used to spend a lot on outings. My parents used to give me extra money whenever I ran out of it. There was really no cap on it. It was only later when I realized that this behavior would cost me a lot in my life. But we all like to be carefree while spending, don’t we? 👾
That is why when I got a chance to work on this problem statement, I pounced on it. It was:

Due to the lack of basic financial education, people are unaware of good banking practices, have poor spending habits, and have poor control over finances. Every year thousands of graduates get purchasing power without the basics. Look for a way to help college students build spending habits and monitor them as well to prepare them for a financially independent lifestyle.

My initial hypothesis and brain dump 🧠

Most of the college students in India are supported by their parents. This leads to unmonitored purchasing power or bad financial habits post-college. And in some cases, total dependence on parents about financial decisions. Due to a lack of personal finance management, most of them spend their money on luxuries.

Peer pressure and FOMO are the main reasons for unplanned expenses in the college.

Unplanned expenses lead to an early run out of money. This either leads to debts from friends or asking for extra money from parents.

Asking for money from parents is nothing wrong but lets them believe in unlimited money.

Such habits prove to be unhealthy for the pockets when post-college they achieve financial freedom.

Other trends like partying, no side income, the influence of social media are responsible too.

Let’s take a look at what my peers think about this:

Diving into the research 🔍

Before I could get to design, there were a lot of gaps that needed to be filled.

👆 I wanted to explore and learn the correct way to manage finances?

✌️ Why do some people do it so well while some keep struggling?

👌 I wanted to know do my peers feel this need to learn too? Are they unaware, ignorant, or demotivated?

So I dived into detailed research (desk and primary) for 3 weeks. Let’s look at some highlights:

This step was a turning point for this product. Primary research gave me insights into what people might actually need. The ideas based on this research were more realistic and precise compared to my initial thoughts.

Special mention: While exploring the market, I stumbled upon some fabulous games such as The Uber game and Shady sam. These games subtly created real-life situations for you to make decisions. They are so impressive that I’m dropping a link below for you to have some fun.

Identified problems and creation of HMW statements

  1. How might we give them the power of budgeting?
  2. How might we help the users understand the importance of goals?
  3. How might we encourage users to spend wisely?
  4. How might we promote earning side money while studying?
  5. How might we help them manage their allowance and side money together?
  6. How might we guide them through emergencies?
  7. How might we introduce them to the concept of investing?
  8. How might we ease the peer pressure in expenses?
  9. How might we encourage them to plan for the future?

Coming up with the solutions

Up to this point, I realized that this app needs to tickle the psychological aspect more than the visual or training. There are plenty of courses available to teach them personal finance. But I couldn’t restrict myself to designing another lesson for them. I realized that I had to guide the students in a way that they learn without even knowing.

The Design

Let’s take a look at some working prototypes

The research convinced me that everyone should save before leisure expenses. Hence I tried to help users in developing a habit of putting some money in their savings.
Apps UI guides the user towards this practice via pop-up quizzes and shows the status of all the categories in the budget. Bills: paid or unpaid. Wants and desires: overhead or in budget. Loan and debt: Clear or in debt/lent.
The app by default sends notifications to the users to clear their dues.

I designed the pluto wallet to help the users with their savings, earnings, and financial goals.

Pluto creates a virtual compartment in the app linked to a bank account. It doesn’t ask for bank details, it just puts some of your money virtually in the pluto wallet as savings or money for a goal.
When the user tries to pay through pluto wallet, it is paid from the linked bank account only but is reflected on the app that it was paid from savings.

Since from the very beginning, I knew that I would have to make this app feel like a big brother to the users, which they rush to for the correct path of finance.
Hence a lot was dependent on UX copy. I tried to communicate the importance of investing and the upcoming future responsibilities through Pluto wallet’s introduction page.

In the end, I created a virtual payment portal, that can record transaction details and saves the user from the trouble of updating thebudget.

Challenges

  1. Being unfamiliar with best financial practices, my biggest challenge was to learn them first. Only after detailed research, I was able to find the best solutions.
  2. Designing the onboarding: In the initial ideas and wireframes, I added various tutorial bits throughout the journey of the app. Later I realized that this type of onboarding is called “Quickstart” onboarding. But I learned that my app needs top featured and personalized onboarding. But combining them into a smooth onboarding journey was the most difficult part.
  3. Another challenge that I faced was to create an app that looks like an original product, not just a fancy design. Do share in the comments if I succeeded in my effort.

Future Scope

I found in the user reviews that some people if handled strictly by their parents, tend to expense lesser than the independent youngsters. But I found the opposite in my research. Since the research data is limited, this side of the coin is yet to be researched.

Another important trait that I discovered during my research was the impact of part-time jobs on students. I was able to collect data from students living in the countries that encourage part-time jobs from high school only. And I also talked to students of our country. The difference in confidence was clear. I tried to guide them through pluto two cents and stories. But I wish to explore more on how to improve financial awareness among students of our country.

In the design, I didn’t show other important features such as a calculator, bill scanner, and CSV downloader. These features are of utmost importance but there are plenty of apps available showing how they work. In this project, I wanted to focus on the features which are not very popular. For the UI design, I have not created button states which are equally important as any other feature.

During the research, I found the effect of rewards on the psychology of students. But I was unable to come up with an effective reward system in this small time. Hence, my further research includes creating an effective reward system.

Footnotes

As mentioned above, I divided the whole product into 6 main stages: Earning, Budgeting, Savings, Spending, Credit, and Investing. Based on these derived categories and the research, I compiled all the pain points of the users’ financial activities in this flow chart.

Flowchart depicting the financial activity of a student

Before moving to high fidelity UI design, I explored my ideas on paper. Then I went on into designing medium-fidelity wireframes. UX copy has been a slightly week point for me hence I experimented with text as well in the wireframes. Here are some of them:

Wireframes depicting onboarding, setting up budget and transaction history
Wireframes depicting payment journey, pluto wallet, and accounts

Now that you have come this far, I’m sure a lot of thoughts must be going in your head. Drop them in the comments.🙌

I’m Apoorva, I design solutions to ease your life. I’m a curious person who loves to observe and act on it. I share my thoughts on medium, LinkedIn, and Twitter. If you like them and want to discuss products, drop a hi! 👋

Also a HUGEEE shoutout to my mentor Arpita Dhir, who was just one call away to help me design this product.

For collaboration, reach out to me here.

Hi! I'm a engineer turned UX/UI Designer who gets joy in talking about solutions that make a difference.

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Apoorva Agrawal

Apoorva Agrawal

Hi! I'm a engineer turned UX/UI Designer who gets joy in talking about solutions that make a difference.

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