Budget Planner Assessment Report Recommendations and FCAC Response
Budget Planner Tool Assessment Report (PDF), Behavioural Economics in Action at Rotman (BEAR)
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Cat no. FC5-82/2023E-PDF
© His Majesty the King in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of Finance Canada, March, 2023.
Aussi disponible en français sous le titre : Recommandations du Rapport du bilan du Planificateur budgétaire et réponse de l'ACFC
FCAC should keep the Budget Planner, fine-tune it, and consolidate it. Six optimizations are recommended below. These optimizations are based on user interviews conducted by the authors of the assessment report. Optimizations proposed by the FCAC project team are being addressed internally.
The guided tour should save all filled-out categories once tool usage begins following the tour. The current version deletes all filled out categories once official tool usage begins, which turns away some users.
Rationale: The guided tour was not meant to be an opportunity for users to enter data and their ability to do so was due to a bug in the tool.
Planned action(s): FCAC will adjust the Budget Planner to prevent data entry during the guided tour so that users can focus on learning about the tool instead of creating their budget, and then move on to creating their budget once the tour is complete.
The question-mark tips and eyeball icon hints should be more salient. Users reported the eyeball icon and hints embedded in the tool were often ignored.
Planned action(s): FCAC will make the hint and tip icons more salient.
When a user creates a new budget, default amounts should be provided for each category (e.g., housing, food) that the user could adjust to meet their needs.
Rationale: During FCAC’s initial testing phase, some users wanted pre-filled categories, while some did not. Further, those who wanted pre-filled categories often meant that they wanted the categories to be filled with information from their bank account (i.e., via screen scraping, in the absence of a Canadian Open Banking framework). Screen scraping is not recommended by FCAC because it requires users share their banking username and password, which could break their electronic access agreement with their bank and put them at risk. The suggestion, however, has merit, and will be revisited when Open Banking regulations have been created in Canada. It’s important to note that the tool already provides guidelines for each category that are based on average Canadian statistics. These general guidelines help users determine whether they are in an acceptable range.
Planned action(s): This change will not be implemented but will be revisited when Canadian Open Banking regulations have been developed.
Users should have the ability to delete or rename expense categories.
Rationale: Expense categories cannot be renamed or deleted because the existing categories feed into calculations that are used for statistical purposes. We do agree, however, that budgets should not include categories that are irrelevant for users.
Planned action(s): FCAC will investigate possible changes that would enable users to hide categories they don’t want to see in their results section. Further, they can already remove categories in the current version by providing accurate answers during creation phase of the budget. For example, if users report they do not own a home, categories related to home ownership will be removed.
The deleted and hidden categories should remain deleted or hidden when the budget is exported into an Excel format. Currently, the irrelevant categories are carried over to the Excel spreadsheet and are filled with zeroes.
Planned action(s): FCAC will make changes to the export function so that deleted or hidden categories are not included in the exported Excel file.
The Budget Planner should provide follow-through options such as email notifications and internet browser bookmarking.
Rationale: Email notifications would require the creation of user accounts, which is currently out of scope for the Budget Planner.
Planned action(s): FCAC will consider this suggestion for future versions of the Budget Planner.
FCAC should refine the strategic objective of its Budget Planner. One potential avenue is to position the FCAC Budget Planner as a “gateway” or “steppingstone” for non-budgeters into a world of better and more prudent financial management. Instead of making the current tool sticky, an alternative strategy for FCAC might be to not necessarily increase usage (or repeat usage) of the tool, but to set Canadians on the path of budgeting and hence more prudent decision making.
Planned action(s): FCAC will refine and define the strategic and long-term objective(s) of the Budget Planner.
To promote beneficial budgeting habits, the FCAC should change how users can re-access the Budget Planner and insert behavioural nudges into the budget creation and budget tracking process.
Planned action(s): This recommendation is related to Optimization 1.6, which is currently out of scope but will be considered for future versions of the Budget Planner.
The Budget Planner Assessment Report includes two optimizations related to this recommendation.
The inclusion of small pop-ups during budget creation (e.g., suggesting modifications like making a budget on a weekly basis instead of a monthly basis) could be a small step towards better budgeting behaviours.
Planned action(s): The Budget Planner uses pop-ups in the form of tips that appear when users hover over select fields. More pops-up could be integrated in the tool to encourage users and motivate them through the budgeting process. FCAC will explore new tips and motivational encouragement that can be added to the tool.
The Budget Planner could nudge users by providing rewards for consistent user engagement.
Planned action(s): The Budget Planner provides rewards in the form of badges. Rewards related to consistent user engagement are not currently in scope but will be considered if the FCAC changes the way users access their budgeting information, for example, if they can access their budget with a username and password. FCAC will look into refreshing the badges and add more nudges in to the tool.
To avoid information overload, FCAC should streamline the onboarding process. According to the Budget Planner Assessment Report, one of the most cited weaknesses of the Budget Planner was the overwhelming amount of choice that was provided, particularly in the stage where users were required to input their financial information. Specifically, interviewees found that many of the suggested income and expense categories that were pre-generated by the tool were not relevant to their specific needs.
Rationale: Categories cannot be renamed or deleted because the existing categories feed into calculations that are used for statistical purposes. We do agree, however, that budgets should not include categories that are irrelevant for users.
Planned action(s): As was noted in Optimization 1.4, FCAC will investigate possible changes that would enable users to hide categories they don’t want to see in their results section.
To increase public awareness of the Budget Planner, FCAC should partner with major Canadian banking institutions to promote usage of the planner.
Planned action(s): FCAC is conducting a widget pilot during which organizations can embed our tool onto their website. These organizations currently include Desjardins, ICICI bank, Saskatoon Industry Education Council, ACEF de la péninsule, Haventree Bank, and Parents partenaires en éducation. Further, FCAC’s Public Affairs Branch promoted the widget during 2022.
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