Category Archives for Money Saving Tips

My interview with the creators of Seedly, your personal finance assistant

Last week I wrote about a new personal finance app called Seedly that I’ve started using to track my expenses. It’s one of a kind in Singapore in the sense that it is able to extract transaction information from your bank accounts in the 5 major banks in Singapore and allocate them into expense and income categories.

The process is a bit tedious as I need to manually log in to my bank account using Seedly each time I do a download, it’s a small price to pay considering I no longer have to manually enter my expenses each time I use my credit card or pay for something online. To me, that’s Seedly’s main differentiation between popular personal finance software like YNAB.

After posting my article, a reader also questioned how good Seedly’s security is, given the fact that I am passing sensitive information like login details to my bank account through the app. I thought it’s a good idea to field this question to the team at Seedly and hear what they have to say.

I sent a quick email to the team at Seedly to request for an interview and I’m surprised that Kenneth Lou, Co-founder of Seedly got back to me within the hour agreeing to the interview. I guess that’s the difference between engaging a start-up and a multinational company. We agreed to do an email interview due to our busy work schedules.

Tell me about Seedly and why the company was started

It started from my co-founder’s CTO Tee Ming personal pain with budgeting having lived in US for a year and living as a student-working adult. He subsequently built the first version of Seedly on web, and won a hackathon for it. When I met him in the US and after that heading back to Singapore, we started to raise a first round of funding for Seedly and started in our last semester here at NUS 🙂 We found that such a product could potentially have a huge appeal here, together with a mix of fintech movement coming from MAS side.

Especially, we felt that there are tons of financial products and advice out there, but we never really know what is relevant for us, and it often takes alot of time to research. So we decided how we can short-circuit the process with a personal finance assistant role.

Can you introduce yourself and your team?

We are a team of 5 now comprising of 2 software engineers and 1 UIUX and 1 growth and 1 biz development. A small team now but we feel strongly about the product and idea, as at the end of the day, we are building this for people just like us 🙂 Solving our own problems as we negotiate adult-hood heading towards understanding how can we best deal with our own personal finances.

seedly-team

Can you describe the idea of Seedly as if I knew nothing about it or the market?

Your everyday personal finance app that helps you save time and spend smarter. View all your accounts in one place by importing bank transactions, and generate insights from our Seedly platform* coming soon.

Can you tell me about your ideal user for Seedly?

Fresh graduate, planning to get married or just married, planning for a house, with basic debt like student loan, or home loan to pay for. He or she is looking to get a basic view of their finances but do not want to open up excel sheets or use complicated financial modelling tools for their own basic finances.

What problems do Seedly intend to solve?

As described above. too much information and products, too little relevance to me… (as a user) Helping users make the right financial decisions from expenses, savings and in the future, investments.

Giving Seedly access to personal banking accounts seems rather risky. What security measures have your team implemented on Seedly to prevent any unauthorized access or transactions from happening?

We totally understand the concerns and I believe rightfully so. On our end we take security as top priority being users ourselves and understanding that financial data is highly private.

Here are some of the security steps we adopt:

  • We have only read-only access to user accounts and its basically for reading transactions and importing them
  • We do not store banking credentials in view of MAS rules
  • We also adopt the highest standard of asymmetric encryption when handling the import of transactions via a secure channel
  • The credentials and one-time password become invalid after the import occurs
  • Lastly, we have very little identifiable information to end users (only name and email)

There is a full list here to highlight them.

Again, we fully understand and are also working with the banks to work around a deeper integration for real-time transactions and etc.

Can you give us some insider tips on what’s coming up next for Seedly?

Something along the lines of giving useful recommendations potentially.. 🙂 something that is smarter and not just any other manual-tracking apps (there are honestly too many of them out there *laugh*)

Tee Ming, and I are both really bent on creating a CAR not a faster-HORSE, as it goes back to the saying of how FORD Motor Company started 🙂

What action do you want the reader to take after reading this interview?

Try out Seedly, and let us know what you are really thinking… what are pressing concerns that you have from day-to-day. Oh yes, and share this with any of your friends who may be interested as well in something really basic.

A big thanks to Kenneth for taking the time to do this interview. I know you’re super busy and running a start-up does mean that you need to do everything yourself.

This is my first interview article and I’d love to hear your comments on how I can improve. At the same time, if you have any question for Kenneth, please feel free to leave them in the comment box below.

Automate your expense tracking with Seedly

I would like to consider myself a Millennial. An old one.

I love automation and I want to automate most of my everyday tasks as much as possible. That includes expense tracking. My current process involves manually logging my spendings as they happen. Then, I update my Google Spreadsheet with my total expenses at the end of the month.

As I browse the MrMoneyMustache forum, I see how fellow MMMs in America use SaaS online services such as Mint and Personal Capital to track their expenses. It’s the perfect solution because they can connect to their bank accounts and extract their transactional data. All that data gets categorised into the different expenses and income categories and even displays the information in meaningful charts.

Sadly, Personal Capital and Mint does not work in Singapore so for the past 2 years, I’ve been tracking my expenses manually with apps and Google Spreadsheets.

Last month, I discovered Seedly, a Singapore-based fintech startup founded in early 2016 that aims to acts as a personal finance assistant to give you your overview balances, monthly cashflow and categorizes of all your expenses by syncing up to the 5 major banks in Singapore.

how-seedly-works

This could be the solution to automate my expense tracking process!

Well, sort of.

In its infancy, the Seedly app does what it promises but is rather basic with only 10 categories for expenses (no, you can’t add any manually). I’d really love to have a few more categories for other expenses.

That said, it’s really awesome that I can sync all the transactions in my bank accounts using the app without keying in the expenses each time I use my credit card.

Seedly is not without its disadvantages though. It doesn’t allow me to track my cash expenses so I’m still manually logging my expenses in another expense tracking app every time I’m paying for something with cash. I hope the Seedly team is doing something about this.

Update: The latest Seedly app update allows manually logging of expenses so I’ve started using Seedly as my expense tracker for cash expenses now.

Here are 3 reasons why you should download Seedly.

  1. The app is made in Singapore. Support local startups!
  2. There’s really no other app like Seedly in Singapore.
  3. Expense tracking is much easier when you automate most of the work.

For the next 3 months, I’m going to try using Seedly to record all my banking transactions and my current expense tracking app for cash transactions and share about my experience in another article.

Give Seedly a try and let me know what you think in the comments below.

I saved money by NOT recontracting my mobile plan

Singaporeans typically recontract their mobile phone plans every 1.5-2 years for a new mobile phone. It’s the norm because mobile phones either don’t last that long, or the user experience gets really bad after a few Android/iOS updates.

Not a great way to save money if you asked me.

The last time I signed a contract with my local telco was at least 6 years ago when they were still offering 12 GB data plans on 3G network. Since then, I have always bought mobile phones at full price (or slightly discounted rates through friends) to replace damaged ones directly from mobile phone dealers.

If you look at the costs of our mobile plans over the years, they are getting more and more expensive for the value they bring. Offering discounts for mobile phones to lock you in a 2-year contract with telcos is a good gimmick that secures telcos with recurring revenue bya one-off discount.

Here’s how my mobile phone’s consumption is like for the past 6 months.

Month Local Incoming Local Outgoing Local SMS Local Data
May 93.5 mins 81.2 mins 9 messages 6.44 GB
June 19.4 mins 32.3 mins 0 messages 5.36 GB
July 22.6 mins 13.3 mins 8 messages 9 GB
August 46.3 mins 25 mins 2 messages 9.74 GB
September 42.2 mins 2.2 mins 2 messages 11.14 GB
October 42.2 mins 2.2 mins 6 messages 11.14 GB

You probably guessed it! I’m still using the 3G mobile plan with 12 GB data for costs me less than $29 per month.

Until my telco discontinues the 3G network like what they are doing to the 2G network right now, I doubt I would be changing my plan in the near future because the postpaid mobile plans based on my usage are 7-8 times of what I’m paying right now!

Telco Local Incoming Local Outgoing Local SMS Local Data Monthly Subscription
SingTel Free Unlimited Unlimited 12 GB $239
M1 Free Unlimited 5000 13 GB $228
Starhub Free Unlimited Unlimited 12 GB $220

I think there are more like-minded individuals who are no longer signing contracts for their mobile plans because all the telcos have started offering SIM only mobile plans over the past 2 years. Although SingTel is getting there with its 1-for-1 add-on deal, it’s still 60% more expensive than my current mobile plan.

Telco Local Incoming Local Outgoing Local SMS Local Data Monthly Subscription
SingTel Free 150 mins 500 13 GB $46.75
M1 Free 800 mins 2000 11 GB $75
Starhub Free Unlimited Unlimited 12 GB $110

The savings I get by choosing not to sign a new 2-year contract with my telco is more than sufficient to buy a new iPhone every year with enough change to spend on accessories. That said, I don’t buy a new mobile phone every year.

So the next time you intend to sign a new contract with your telco to get a new mobile phone on a discount, I hope you reconsider your decision because the new mobile plan may work out to be more expensive than you think!