Mint Dashboard Redesign

I have been a user of the personal finance site mint.com for many years. They have a very clean and tasteful design that allows the user gain insights into their spending habits. I have spent more than my fair share of time pouring over the bar charts and circle graphs that the site provides, but my number one wish for their dashboard is a redesign of the the budgets widget.

Overview of the budget widget

The budget widget is an overview of your spending. The “Total” for the budget is the first item on the widget. Each of the budget categories are listed on the left, a bar graph of the spending is in the middle, the total of budgeted spending is displayed in the “BUDGET” column, and the amount of under/over spending is in the “OVER?” column. There is also a line that shows how many days have passed for the current month so that one can determine the pace of their spending.

Budgets September

 
100%
0%
Budget Over?
Total
$1,358.16
$2,000 $641.84 LEFT
Home
$542.17
$550 $7.83 LEFT
Food & Dining
$176.33
$450 $273.67 LEFT
Cash & ATM
$80.00
$250 $170.00 LEFT
Shopping
$299.85
$250 $49.85
Auto & Transport
$128.31
$200 $71.69 LEFT
Bills & Utilities
$32.14
$125 $92.86
Groceries
$79.49
$125 $45.55 LEFT
Gas & Fuel
$53.69
$125 $71.04 LEFT
Restaurants
$27.87
$125 $97.13 LEFT
Mobile Phone
$0
$100 $100.00 LEFT
Auto Insurance
$48.35
$50 $3.65 LEFT
Everything Else
$59.31
$150 $90.69 LEFT

So What’s the Problem?

The problem I see with the widget is that the “Total” bar graph line answers the important question “How much do I have left to spend?”, but it fails to answer a different important question. “How much discretionary income do I have left to spend?” The budget lumps all of one’s spending together as one, where there is really two different types of spending.

The Two Different Types of Spending

Fixed Spending

Spending can be broken down further into fixed and discretionary spending. Fixed spending consists of bills that recur on a monthly or annual basis and generally do not vary month to month like a home mortgage and car insurance or fluctuate within a certain range such as electricity or gas in their corresponding seasons. These bills are relatively large single payments. The highlights below denote the categories that fall under fixed spending:

Budgets September

 
100%
0%
Budget Over?
Total
$1,358.16
$2,000 $641.84 LEFT
Home
$542.17
$550 $7.83 LEFT
Food & Dining
$176.33
$450 $273.67 LEFT
Cash & ATM
$80.00
$250 $170.00 LEFT
Shopping
$299.85
$250 $49.85
Auto & Transport
$128.31
$200 $71.69 LEFT
Bills & Utilities
$32.14
$125 $92.86
Groceries
$79.49
$125 $45.55 LEFT
Gas & Fuel
$53.69
$125 $71.04 LEFT
Restaurants
$27.87
$125 $97.13 LEFT
Mobile Phone
$0
$100 $100.00 LEFT
Auto Insurance
$48.35
$50 $3.65 LEFT
Everything Else
$59.31
$150 $90.69 LEFT

Discretionary Spending

Discretionary spending is different from fixed spending because they are generally smaller purchases that happen through the month and the user has the ability to spend more or less on these purchases according to their needs and desires. A user may desire eating expensive meals and walking in order to save transportation expenses during one month and the next month they would choose to cook cheaper meals at home so that they can spend extra money on gas for a trip they have planned for the end of the month. The highlights below denote the categories that fall under discretionary spending:

Budgets September

 
100%
0%
Budget Over?
Total
$1,358.16
$2,000 $641.84 LEFT
Home
$542.17
$550 $7.83 LEFT
Food & Dining
$176.33
$450 $273.67 LEFT
Cash & ATM
$80.00
$250 $170.00 LEFT
Shopping
$299.85
$250 $49.85
Auto & Transport
$128.31
$200 $71.69 LEFT
Bills & Utilities
$32.14
$125 $92.86
Groceries
$79.49
$125 $45.55 LEFT
Gas & Fuel
$53.69
$125 $71.04 LEFT
Restaurants
$27.87
$125 $97.13 LEFT
Mobile Phone
$0
$100 $100.00 LEFT
Auto Insurance
$48.35
$50 $3.65 LEFT
Everything Else
$59.31
$150 $90.69 LEFT

Back to the Problem

The problem is that the “Total” graph line and the line that shows the days past in the month can be very easily distorted due to the various once a month fixed spending items. For example if your mortgage is due at the beginning or end of the month, the “Total” line jumps far ahead or behind the days past line and the user then has to add up all of the fixed spending that still is yet to come in their head.

The Solution

My solution would be to keep all the items in the widget and include user customizable sub sections that could be used to categorize fixed and discretionary spending. Each of the sub sections would have their own “Total” spending graph line that users could quickly see the pace of their spending and make informed decisions about what they can or cannot afford.

Budgets September

 
100%
0%
Budget Over?
Total
$1,358.16
$2,000 $641.84 LEFT
Discretionary
$743.80
$1300 $556.20 LEFT
Food & Dining
$176.33
$450 $273.67 LEFT
Cash & ATM
$80.00
$250 $170.00 LEFT
Shopping
$299.85
$250 $49.85
Auto & Transport
$128.31
$200 $71.69 LEFT
Groceries
$79.49
$125 $45.55 LEFT
Gas & Fuel
$53.69
$125 $71.04 LEFT
Restaurants
$27.87
$125 $97.13 LEFT
Everything Else
$59.31
$150 $90.69 LEFT
Fixed
$622.66
$825 $202.34 LEFT
Home
$542.17
$550 $7.83 LEFT
Bills & Utilities
$32.14
$125 $92.86
Mobile Phone
$0
$100 $100.00 LEFT
Auto Insurance
$48.35
$50 $3.65 LEFT