Very simple budgeting apps and ideas
February 25, 2017 4:53 AM   Subscribe

My adult brother has learning disabilities and a spending problem. He has now his first real job at thirty+ and I think this is a good time to make a new attempt at budgeting. he thinks that knowing how much things have cost is the same as having a budget, and now I just found out that he has spent about 400 euro on Overwatch skins (in game micropurchases).

I think an app might help but am open to any ideas of how to go about this in a sensible way. Internet banking here isn't great. He is pretty good about "following rules" but very defensive about attempts to curb his purchasing or get rid of stuff he has acquired. He is a nerd and enjoys cosplay (with encouragement) but it's a bottomless pit. He lives rent free and most other costs free thanks to my mom. We spoke a little last night about how I understand that there's a part of him that really needs to have "100%" in the game, but imagine what he could do with that money if he only bought skins for his main-characters for example. He doesn't really have the ability to make his cosplay stuff, so no real savings available there. He also prefers to do new outfits each time, so very little reuse, including of helmets worth hundreds of dollars.

Possible motivators for him are: possible travel to conventions, I have said I will bring him to ComicCon when he has the money for it. Other motivators can be his appearance and his cat. I don't want to motivate him with fear, but he really doesn't seem to consider that at some point his financial situation is going to change very radically and getting a grip on his spending now will make that easier. So, and and all advice, apps, thoughts etc, for us, please go!
posted by Iteki to Work & Money (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The app itself isn't fully functional but once the budget is set up on a desktop, YNAB is really simple to use and understand. You can easily see how much money you have left in each category and you can input transactions as you make them to see how much money you have in real time.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 5:54 AM on February 25, 2017

imagine what he could do with that money if he only bought skins for his main-characters for example

I have a partner with a grown son who is disabled and has similar issues. The first step will be determining if this is something he wants to do, at all. If he's not interested in budgeting, for example, it may be easier to work within the way he views money: if he knows how much things cost (and he has the money) then he can spend that money.

For my SOs son, he has a debit card (with no overdraft protection) that his disability payments are put on. He can't overspend it because there's literally no more money on it. This money is allocated weekly, not monthly. He can use it for whatever he wants. If you want to encourage your brother to save for ComicCon, for example, you may want to teach him the concept of saving more than the concept of budgeting. "OK you got $200 from work, let's put $50 of that into the ComicCon fund, $50 in to the household expenses fund, $10 into the cat food fund and the other $90 is for you" Ultimately if he wants to spend his spare money on in-game skins, that's his choice. I'd start with a few simple categories and look into the envelope model. Other people do this sort of thing with a white board so it's very visual and always there. Does he have any support structure for getting helpwith his learning disability?

I asked a question about some simple money tracker apps. Some have budgeting built in. I have been using Toshi finance, but the others there might be useful.

he really doesn't seem to consider that at some point his financial situation is going to change very radically

Why is this the case? Is there a specific thing that will happen within a short period of time or is this just you being concerned about his future independence?
posted by jessamyn at 6:07 AM on February 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Does your brother have access to a therapist? By getting a job, he is "stepping out" of care but it would be prudent to seek a stepping down care and support or companion assistant who can meet with your brother biweekly or monthly and help him manage his space and personal budget. It might be good to find out if the local authorities will pay for this. Your brother may recognise how important a companion will be to help him retain his independent living. You can find classes which can train you and other family members in a day to be telecompanions, and able to help your brother in co-managing his money without being disrespectful to his decisions.
posted by parmanparman at 7:15 AM on February 25, 2017

My oldest has a long list of disabilities and is specifically bad with numbers. For more than a year, I gave him cash to do our grocery shopping with. That helped him tremendously. It made money much more real and concrete. Before that, a debit card would have been too abstract for him. He can now use a debit card responsibly, because he can comprehend the numbers involved in a way that is meaningful to him.

I would suggest that he shop with cash for a while.
posted by Michele in California at 9:32 AM on February 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

I don't know what specific products are available in your country but I'd see if you can steer him toward using something like prepaid reloadable debit cards with a hard spending limit, perhaps more than one card if you think that having separate virtual "envelopes" would help him from accidentally spending money on one thing (e.g. in-game purchases) that he originally planned to use for something else (e.g. cosplay paraphernalia). For longer-term savings goals, come up with a strategy so that some of his earnings get shuttled away into a separate fund as soon as his paycheck hits the main account.

This is a tough issue. My brother also has Aspergers and it has been a 30 year battle between him and my local-to-him family to keep him on budget. I think it is particularly difficult for families to tackle alone because it's easy for the targets of our attempts to help to misinterpret it as criticism, scorn, and or attempting to take away their independence. I would look into whether there are any support organizations for adults with intellectual disabilities that offer money management courses or even more comprehensive money management services/support for disabled adults--these will be important resources as you start to think about his long-term future when, as you allude to, he can no longer rely on your mother to both provide financially for his basic needs and to provide guidance/emergency bailout if he messes up his finances. Whatever solutions you come up with, it needs to be collaboratively planned, and the things that may seem obvious to most of us may not be good options depending on how he operates. I think it's more important to figure out the right system that addresses his specific stumbling blocks, that it is to emphasize the rewards for succeeding.
posted by drlith at 10:26 AM on February 25, 2017

Like Michele in California said, shopping in cash. Bonus edition:

Envelope budgeting: Every week, he withdraws what he can spend for the week based on his paycheck. He then divides the money into envelopes (food, household, entertainment, cat, etc.) and that's what he can spend. He stops using credit and debit cards*. If he wants to buy game stuff, he has to go to the store and buy a steam gift card with cash from his entertainment envelope. He can make as many envelopes as he want. Maybe instead of having one entertainment, he has gaming, cosplay, and movies.

This works especially well for people who need to see and feel their money. Additionally, he doesn't have to refer to an app everytime he makes a purchase. Apps and budgeting programs tend to involve a lot of data entry. They're a lot of work in the beginning and the payoff is pretty delayed.

*Acceptable credit card use would be paying all of the bills at the beginning of the month with a card and immediately paying the balance. Only then can he make his envelopes. He leaves the card at home, not in his wallet.
I also agree with jessamyn about saving. He should be putting money aside with each paycheck. This can be automatically transferred to a different account every month. (Is it better for him not to see the money at all or is it better for him to put the money into an envelope and take it back to the bank to be put in a savings account?)
posted by meemzi at 10:37 AM on February 25, 2017

I like (app). It's pretty simple, especially if it was set up for him. It subtracts your necessities and anything long term you want to save up for and then shows you how much money you have left to spend per day. Anything you don't gets rolled over to the next day. Every time you buy something you tap the minus button and pop it in. Makes it very easy to know if you have the money or should wait till Friday or whatever.
posted by jrobin276 at 11:26 AM on February 25, 2017

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