Saving Money

We Ate The Web, 2016

How two friends quickly tested the idea of a button to save money and learned of a monetization path.

Table of Contents

  1. Background
  2. Planning
  3. Designing
  4. Impact
  5. Challenges
  6. Learnings
  7. Closing


The internet is filled with convenient and user friendly interactions that encourage you to spend money: one-click purchasing, recommendation engines, wish-lists, registries, SMS purchasing, etc. There are loads of buttons that help you spend money. However, there are very few buttons to help you save. Piggy brings the save button to the forefront, and helps people develop better money-saving habits one day at a time.

A friend and I got into a discussion about how difficult it is to save money. Our conversation shifted to complaining about how our culture is a spending culture, and we are pushed to spend but not to save. In our personal lives spending occurs daily, while saving occurs bi-weekly or monthly. We are very good at spending because we practice it daily, but the opposite is true of saving. As a result, the act of spending feels easy and seamless, while saving money feels like a chore and takes effort.

Moreover, we both didn't have confidence in our ability to save. We felt that our spending habits were bad. We recalled that when we did have _extra_ cash, we usually ended up spending it on socializing or superfluous things.

Problem Statement

I want to save money, but my current saving habits and lack of extra cash make it very difficult to save money.


Our next step was to do some customer discovery and see if other shared in this pain. Before we started to dig into solutions, we wanted to see if other people had a similar relationship with money and/or related to our problem statement. We created a short list of questions to ask people. We started with gathering qualitative data from 5 in-person interviews.


  • Most people desired to save more money.
  • Most people spend money every day.
  • Most people did have spendable income.
  • Half of the people said they did not have good saving habits.
  • Some people said they didn't budget.
  • Few people said they spend "too much".
  • Few people said they are often encouraged by others to save money.
  • Few people saved directly out of their paycheck

We thought these responses validated that people wanted to save money, but their saving habits were bad. However, we feel that our assumption that the lack of extra cash led added to the difficulty of saving was invalidated. We observed from multiple in-person interviews that extra cash wasn't viewed as money they _should save_, rather there was a perception that the extra cash could be spent. After the surveys and the interviews, we modified our problem statement:

Modified Problem Statement

I have extra money that I want to save, but I have bad saving habits.

At this point we felt confident that people resonated with our problem statement, and decided it was time for an abbreviated design sprint.


Almost right away we had an interesting finding. While getting background and looking at our competition, we noticed that most existing tools were directed at helping people get context around their money. They "helped" people save by offering up budgets or attempting to automate the saving process.

Looking at our competition was eye opening. It didn't seem that anyone had actively focused on developing a persons saving habit. Rather, existing tools aimed to help people save money by monitoring spending habits. We kept this top of mind as we went through the sprint.

As we diverged we continually found ourselves digging into the belief that: People's saving habits will be improved if we engage them in saving daily.

As we continued to sketch out solutions, we refined that statement further: Providing a person with daily encouragement and reminders to save their left over spending cash will help develop better saving habits.

From here we developed a user journey to help guide us through building our prototype. As we refined a potential solution, we surfaced many assumptions about our users that we needed to test.

Base Assumptions

  • People will use one account for all daily spending.
  • People want to be reminded to save money daily.
  • People want the option to save.
  • People will save out of spending cash, and that is separate than bills.

Next we set out to build a prototype to test with users. Based off the outcome from the sprint, we started to build a prototype to test that our solution was a viable solution and addressed our riskiest assumptions:

Riskiest Assumptions

  • People wouldn't pay for this service
  • People will use one account for all daily spending.
  • People want to be reminded to save money daily.
  • People want the option to save.
  • People will save out of spending cash, and that is separate than bills.


We ran 7 user tests with our "target market"; people who made $80K+, currently _wanted_ to save money, and felt that they had bad saving habits. We weren't entirely confident that this was our target market, but that was the group we had gotten the most positive feedback from.

The user tests were a great success. Not only did we uncover some (now seemingly obvious) interface and experience problems, but we got a lot of positive feedback and validation that being prompted to save money felt empowering, and that it felt different from other tools. About half of the group users asked to be notified when the application was to be released without being prompted.


Before we started to develop the MVP Piggy application, we spiked on the engineering side of things. We quickly ran into some difficult technical hurdles. The immediate problem we faced was facilitating the transferring of funds from a checking account to a savings account. We were able to find a means to do so, but at a high cost. The best solution we found would cost each user $10 per month.

With a cost that high, we didn't believe that our complete solution would be viable. Five options we were considering:


  1. Don't have a save button, rather remind and suggest an amount save.
  2. Partner with a bank to get free access to the API to facilitate money transfers free of charge.
  3. Find a better/free solution to facilitate money transferring.
  4. Create a better/free solution to facilitate money transferring.
  5. Get users to pay

We wanted to pursue the third option, while considering the first option to be our MVP. We felt that although you couldn't save money using the application, the daily reminders and encouragement would still be usefull. Our end goal is to provide the means to directly save money without any charge to the customer, so option 5 is out of the picture for now. But before we could take this path we went in search of a buyer.


The most interesting learning to my was finding the buyer. Free products are never free. If a product is free, than the user is the product. With that in mind we started to look into how the helping a person save money was monetizable. Through some of my partner's connections, we were able to sit down with people from American Express and Citi Bank. What we learned was obvious in hindsight. Banks pay a great deal of money to get an individual to open a checking or savings account. If we could use this app to guide people to opening an account, it was an acquisition play for the banks. Moreover, the more money a person has in their account, the more the bank can leverage that money. It's a win-win for the user and the bank.


The development of the Piggy application has addressed the challenge of saving money in a spending-centric culture. By actively engaging users in daily saving habits through reminders and encouragement, Piggy sets itself apart from existing tools focused on monitoring spending. User testing validated its effectiveness, receiving positive feedback. Challenges related to technical hurdles and high costs for fund transfers prompted exploration of alternative options, including partnerships with banks. The journey also revealed the potential for Piggy to serve as an acquisition tool for financial institutions. Overall, Piggy offers a practical solution to improve saving habits and benefits both users and banks.