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Building a Personal Finance App: Cost, Advice, Strategy

Sit down on something soft and comfortable and grab a few snacks since the read is going to be long but useful. We’re here today to reveal the details of building the best personal finance app. If your aim is to build an app like Mint or Money Lover then you’re at the right place to be. Here we will consider a detailed project roadmap with the required costs of personal finance app development.

Why building personal finance app(financial apps) is a good opportunity?

The first thing we should cover is how many people use expense recording apps. The aim is to help you understand how creating an expense recording app can be of use. In 2015 money management apps market in the U.S. was estimated worth $24.5 million dollars and the number of users who are over 18 equaled to ~ 12,816,140 (according to the research by Askwonder). The following apps are considered as the leaders in the field:

Here’s another piece of stats which represents the most common mobile banking activities (as of 2016):

building-a-personal-finance-app-cost-advice-strategy-mobile-banking-stats

Source: Federal Reserve Board report on Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2016

The stats provided reveal the importance of why to create an app for personal finance. As we can see, they surely open up not just doors but gates of opportunities for the assets/finances-related industry.

Now, as we've figured the significance and the distribution scale of money management apps, why not:

building-a-personal-finance-app-cost-advice-strategy

What’s going on with the investing in mobile apps?

Before you start working on personal finance app development, it’s better to check if the idea of developing a certain mobile application is worth investing into. Check the numbers below.

Red Hat Mobile survey showed that in 2015 among the respondents polled nearly 52% said that their organizations had fully implemented mobile apps in their business, 37% had implemented apps partially and 11% had no apps.

building-a-personal-finance-app-cost-advice-strategy-investing-in-mobile-apps

Take into consideration that the percentage of apps fully implemented by the companies in 2013 was 7% only. Obviously, such a great 2-year jump forward shows that the number of app users is constantly increasing so does the number of mobile app investors on the app market arena. (This is a part where we try to show you the importance of having a developed app for your business :)

The winners

According to the research made by Frost and Sullivan , nearly 45 m consumers use their mobile devices for mobile banking and finances management on a daily basis.

As of 2016 :

  • 94 % of users check account balances or recent transactions,

  • 58 % of users transfer money between an individual’s own accounts,

  • 56 % of users use banking apps to receive an alert (e.g., a text message, push notification, or e-mail) from their bank.

Development of banking/financial app and its integration with the banking industry might significantly level up the branch. The advantages for the bank-investor who wants to implement mobile banking are the following:

- Bank’s customers are less depended on bank’s local branches. This means the bank will increase its efficiency;

- Seamless access to all the services bank provides;

- While most of the finance-related activities are mobile,it multiplies chances for the bank to implement new services and technologies;

- Banking app helps to concentrate not only on local business but expand bank’s opportunities

- To build new profitable relationships, with the help of own app, bank can integrate with other services and apps, like money management apps.

If you’re still asking yourself why invest in mobile apps, here are our pro-arguments.

#1 Taking into account that there are 2 b of smartphone users globally, think about developing an official app. It will help your clients get access to your product anytime and anywhere they want. Desktop is not the only way to make business nowadays.

#2 Simplified usability. Proper responsive design provides convenience in use and rapid functionality. As a result - more users of different age categories.

#3 Gathering larger audience. Not only youngsters prefer mobile apps usage (still they are the largest app-usage group). Using smartphone apps has become common among people of various age categories. Define your target audience and create a market strategy to draw more people to your product.

#4 More marketplaces. With the app development mainstream, new marketplaces are emerging and thus provide more ways to distribute your product.

#5 More income channels. Cross-platform development and distribution double the chances to obtain boosted conversion and get a better picture of your clients’ needs and preferences. Social Media power is tremendous nowadays. Add some social media elements to your app (i.e. add <3, share and comment buttons, provide users with opportunity to chat and lead discussions the way it’s established in popular social media).

Expense recording app, types

If you want to create an app for personal finance, you should know about its types. Depending on users needs, there are in general 2 kinds of personal money management apps:

- Manual entry apps;

- Apps to which you can connect your banking account (so-called ‘linked apps’).

We’re going to explain in more details what each of these app categories does and help you clarify what app you need exactly.

Manual entry apps

You install this kind of app, choose your incomes and expenses sources, enter how much you’re going to spend or earn on something and that’s it. Not a big deal, right? Consider, for instance, Perfi, open source React Native based app developed by our guys in JSSolutions.

What is Perfi all about? (user’s point of view)

  • Intuitive interface with 5 major menu items. The less is more

  • Tracking of your incomes and expenses

  • Creating custom transactions with notes and details you need to know

  • Choosing among multiple transaction categories and ability to create your own category

  • Browse transactions trends, the dynamics of money spent and earned

  • Switching between transaction accounts like, card or cash

What Perfi is all about (under-the-hood point of view)

  • React Native-based app with Recompose utility belt and Redux state container used

  • It’s an open-source project , so you’re welcome to edit and enhance it

  • The app is Android/iOS based

money-management-app-perfi money-management-app-perfi

money-management-app-perfi money-management-app-perfi

There are no options to connect your banking account, so apps of this kind fit in perfectly when you just need to check and watch your transactions activity. No more, no less. Since you don’t have to provide here sensitive info, such as banking numbers and accounts, security for personal finance app of this type, is not a matter to worry about.

Linked apps

App of this kind requires you to have real-life financial accounts to connect automated monitoring and actions to your assets .

The plan is: you install the app, connect it to your accounts, like bank accounts, credit cards, loans, investments, etc. and watch or manage your transactions in one place. We can consider apps like Mint as semi-automated, since all you need to do, is to provide your finances-related data and then see and edit all the money management on board. This is the advantage linked apps have over the manual-entry ones.

The similar app’s system processes all the sensitive data and then displays it right on your screen. Plus, the apps, like Mint (leader in the market, by the way), provide you with live-mode notifications which inform you on each past and upcoming finances-related action. In fact, there is abundance of opportunities and options to check which make your financial life much easier.

mint-personal-finance-app

mint-personal-finance-app

mint-personal-finance-ap mint-personal-finance-app

Who apps like Mint are designed for?

  • Small-medium business owners who want transparent and safe ‘manageable-monitoring’ of their transactions

  • People who have lots of accounts and try to manage them all properly in one place without any hustle

Security for a personal finance app

Here’s another side of the moon using linked apps, though. The security part. The represented chart below states the main reasons why people don’t use mobile banking. Let’s take a look at the these stats anyway, especially the security concerns point:

mobile-banking-stats

Source: Federal Reserve Board report on Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2016

As we can see, people still feel unsafe when performing finance-related actions via mobile devices. As of 2016, smartphone users for the most part still considered mobile banking to be ‘somewhat safe’ (55%), ‘somewhat unsafe’ (29%) and ‘very unsafe’ (28%). The matter of security for personal finance app is crucial but that doesn’t stop the increase of mobile banking apps worldwide.

When developing an app like Mint what should it have to offer? (Short check-out list)

  • Unified checking system (to let you browse all of your finances-related actions in one place)

  • Slight integration with your banking accounts

  • Advanced transactions tracking

  • Bills check and pay system

  • Analytics for your earnings and spendings

  • Transactions categories management and creation

  • Notifications and alerts on each of your finances-related actions (like what bill is due to a specific date)

  • Investments tracking and analysis

  • Proper security measures

  • Cross-platform availability (mobile devices + desktop)

Challenges when building financial apps

When developing personal finance management app, brace yourself to see a pretty nice list of challenges. But in the end (if you’re still reading) we’re here to help you solve these, right?

Challenge #1. I want to create app for personal finance which will include options form both manual entry and linked apps, an all-in-one app.

Be careful for what you and moreover, your customers want. Seriously. First of all get to know your audience well and don’t rush for everything. Based on your who-your-audience-is analysis, determine which app is better for them to develop - manual or linked? Complex data hierarchies and organizations or a few buttons which do all the magic needed for a basic user instead? See if your customers want to manage their transactions sources on their own using simple interface or if they want a complete in-depth almost accountant-like report using complex finance-management app.

What type are your clients?

This?

mint-personal-finance-app

Or this?

money-management-app-perfi money-management-app-perfi

Challenge #2. I’ve got a top-class performance and functionality app, but the reach is too insignificant (or I can’t market my app properly)

Market analysis - this is what is going to help you. What to analyze:

  • Possible new entrants in the same field

  • Possible substitutes

  • Bargaining power of suppliers

  • Bargaining power of customers

  • Level of rivalry inside the industry

Think about how your app is one of its kind and how it is different from your competitors. Study your target audience needs and see if you’re lacking features which the customers in your field need so badly. Look for possible marketplaces and ad places to get enlisted, talk to your clients, study your competitors and state of things on market, and you’ll see a total boost up for your project.

Challenge #3. Is there a reason to develop such an app? I’ve noticed that people rarely track their finances at all...

Though they understand the opportunity. This obstacle for marketing a mobile app can be explained in many ways. Unintuitive interface, limited app options and functionality, high pricing (if there’s such), bugs, security concerns and the list goes on. The cure?

  • Choose the most suitable technology to create an app for personal finance;

  • Sweat over effective UX and interface (remember the less is more but don’t limit your users in actions);

  • Add elements of gamification, like animations, rewards, statuses, mini-games (if possible), fun loaders and other engaging actions users will remember and return to your app for.

  • If you're thinking about linked personal finance app development, integrate it with finance-related services like banking accounts, billing system, taxes, loans payment systems, etc. to let your users manage all the assets in one place and feel total control over their money.

  • Enable notifications, like payments due dates, future events, personal app updates. Create polls within your app, make special offers and distribute fresh and interesting news. Try to conduct the overall idea why it’s important to track transactions.

Monetization ways when building personal finance app

Here comes the reward for your hard work if you keep up with this short business model list:

  • Implemented in-app purchases or freemium model

Grant users with the basic spectre of options available for free. Do not limit them, though. If you’re going to go Pro or Premium or any other paid version of the app, expand already existing options or add some brand new ones. Add new functionality for a paid version depending on who your customers are and what their needs are.

  • Cross-platform availability

Include this feature when building personal finance app. Make sure your personal finance management app is available via different channels, not only desktop but mobile devices too. Pay special attention to intuitiveness of interface and data (options) hierarchy on each device.

  • Integrations with 3rd party services/apps and other industries services (apps, commerce, banking)

Enable customers to use other 3rd party services which are close enough to your business activities. Provide them with options to connect to other apps, like Google apps, make some banking or commerce-related actions. This option is aimed to expand the functionality of your app and at the same time your audience.

  • Security measures

Secure your users well by various methods, like personal verifications, phone/ banking verifications, verification by email, tracking the customer’s phone/card location and sending encrypted data to your servers, for it’s only available for you and the customer, captcha...safety methods may vary or you can even figure out your own way to avoid any jeopardies.

  • Include social media features

To engage with the clients more make it possible for them to interact with you and other users, share their opinion, rate your efforts and services you provide.

Go-to-market strategy when building money management app

Reaching to clients is not always a piece of pie. It’s necessary to have a blueprint of your personal finance management app market strategy and think over the ways you’re going to deliver your product to users. Finding the possible and profitable ways is called go-to-market strategy, which basically includes 4 following stages:

  • Defining the value proposition

  • Exploring primary target market and audience, audience’s needs

  • Exploring and reviewing existing market channels

  • Creating a detailed map on interacting with each channel actively

Costs of personal finance app development


When counting up the costs of personal finance app development, include in your price-list the following:

  1. The development stage (which technology to choose, platform choice, desirable functionality)

  2. Design stage (design planning, responsive design, UI/UX design, A/B testing)

  3. Marketing stage (distribution and distribution strategy, advertising, market analysis)

In addition, you might be interested in what’s the difference between freelancer and outsourcing company when ‘web-developing’.

Tech to use

There are more than enough technologies for you to decide on your app’s ‘fundamentals’. What technology to use- it’s up to what you want your app to do.

We are going to explain you why we went with React Native to build a personal finance app, Perfi. The beauties of RN? First of all, the only 2 things you need are JavaScript and React Native components :) Then, hot reloading which displays the results instantly after any smallest alteration in code. Perfi is not a ‘clean React Native’ app version, as we’ve implemented there a ‘bell’ called, Recompose - utility belt and a ‘whistle’, which is Redux - a predictable state container.

Get to know how Using RN + Recompose + Redux provided our developers with flexible UI architecture to create Perfi.

Another cool perk RN has is that we can write the app in a native code (Objective-C, Java, Swift) (though Perfi was created as a RN-based product, we think the feature is quite handy) and then combine it with React Native if there’s a need to use several technologies and optimize performance.

Can personal finance apps use AI?

Remember we mentioned challenges you can face when creating a personal finance app? Especially the one, where people rarely track their finances? Using AI elements is partly a plan of how to draw more users to your app and 5-star reviews.

  • Include spendings categorization the aim of which is to sort out the costs spent for a specific need (i.e. you bought a couple of theatre tickets, as a result your spendings are listed under ‘Entertainment’ category). Another AI example is expenses analytics, which automatically updates and provides you with data visualization of your money spent on each need, category.

money-management-app-perfi money-management-app-perfi

  • What if everyone would choose your app since it advises on how to save more than spend? Let your app analyze customer’s actions based on their incomes and expenses data, provide them with suggestions where to get a certain need for a cheaper price. As an option, along with displaying possible places for your customers to stay/buy, enable your app to get the reviews of a certain place or product people would spend their money on.

  • Automatic receipt recognition. Apart from performing basic spectre of features needed, the lion’s share of apps nowadays requires access to camera, recorder, possibly, the list of contacts, photos, browser access, etc. One of such examples is automatic receipt recognition which requires triggering an action to use the camera. The app is scanning your receipt and automatically enlists it to expenses categories.

What’s the summary of this long-read?

In short: app development might be as long as this article, but in the end of the hard-working day, you get 3: clear strategy what to do next, happy clients and a valuable reward. It's important to arrange a proper workflow during the process of building personal finance app and know how to heal your clients’ pain points.