Birch News

We just made a small, but powerful step in making personal finance shareable

Alex Cohen Alex Cohen  | 

Today, we're launching a new feature that gives you the option to share parts of your spending. But it goes way beyond that.

The Backstory

At Birch, we've always had the preconception that at some point, someone would figure out a way to make personal finance shareable. After all, our lives have already become so much more interconnected via social platforms; we share what we're eating for lunch, where we're traveling, which venues we're checking into and which life memories we choose to share - things that I think were much more private prior to having a digital version of ourselves.

But even with all the above, there are still limits with how much of our private lives we actively expose to the public, even if that public audience only consists of first and second degree connections. Ultimately, artificial sharing boundaries exist and they vary from person to person. Admitting to your friends that you’re struggling or reluctant to show how much you make is natural: some things should stay private. What we want to do most we is provide people the tools that make sharing discretionary spending easily accessible and spark a conversation about what too many chipotle burritos looks like.

How we approached this at Birch

Some finance apps have already started to be shareable… to an extent. For example — Venmo has a feed of your friends recent P2P payments but lack the amounts that are actually being paid. Other personal finance apps are working to show you a comparison of your spending and habits to others — a step in the right direction.
As a personal finance platform, we have continually asked ourselves what elements of our spending were the most shareable as we built every new feature. And for a long time we didn’t have the answer (we still may not) — we had just always come to the conclusion that there wasn’t anything in Birch that we thought people would inherently be comfortable sharing.
Last week, by accident, I stumbled upon something in our app that led to the simple, but powerful feature we’re rolling out today. On December 1 we had sent out our first ever monthly spending email for November, and that’s when I saw that I had spent $70 at Starbucks just last month. Now, I tend to think that I’m financially responsible, but sometimes it’s hard to visualize how quickly the small expenses add up. That morning I took a screenshot of my top merchants, shared it to my social networks and I surprisingly received much different responses than I had expected.

The majority of people who commented said something like “I need this” or “I bet my spending at Starbucks is even more than yours.” The other comments were friends poking fun at how much I excessively spend on coffee. But for those that hinted at the idea they really weren’t sure what to make of their spending, I encouraged them to sign up and see for themselves. What’s not pictured here are the dozens of signups we had that day from just my close network. A lightbulb went off. What if we could make it this easy to share your top visited merchants for everyone?

Multiply your monthly starbs amount by 6 and you'll get mine. I have a problem. - A concerned coffee addict

Based on the responses from my friends + my willingness to share the list of places where I shopped at most last month, we came up with an idea: to give people the option to share their top merchants as well, from directly inside the Birch app.

Here's what we did

Today, I'm excited to announce a small, but powerful new feature - sharing your top merchants with your social networks. Hover over one of your top merchants in the trends section of the web app and you'll see both Facebook and Twitter icons appear. It looks like this:

One click generates a Facebook or Twitter post for you to share with your friends.

Personalize the post with whatever you'd like to say, and send it off into the wild for all your friends to see. You'd be surprised at the conversations your post will generate and how much people are willing to talk about their spending once you break the ice.

Why we're doing this

By giving people full control over which of their purchases they feel comfortable sharing, in addition to an easily accessible share button, we think people will feel more inclined to open up about certain aspects of their personal spending.

We really want to create a community of savvy spenders that don't see spending as being a taboo topic. At Birch, we encourage you to be smart about every dollar spent and we will help you get the most value at the same time. From our experience, people are smarter together.

For us, this really is just a small experiment to see how people respond to something they wouldn't normally see in a platform that is interconnected with your spending. Although I won't go into details just yet, we have a few more ideas for how we can build off of this idea and incorporate more shareable components where each is just a piece to a much larger puzzle.

If you find this interesting and would like to help out, I encourage you to sign up at https://birchfinance.com and share one of your top merchants. Make sure to tag me so i can judge you on your Starbucks purchases 😊

Alex Cohen

Alex Cohen

I run Birch by day and watch cat videos by night

Gainesville, FL