Digitizing the Real World: Virtual Cookie Jars

In my previous post, I discussed a framework for thinking up new products based on Relating to Offline Experiences. The following is an application of that framework:

A low-tech method of saving money is the cookie jar, or envelope, system in which you take multiple jars and label each one: Car, Down Payment, Vacation, Christmas, Clothes, etc. Then you save a designated amount of money in each jar, building up the money over time so you can pay for your vacation directly from the Vacation jar as opposed to putting it on credit, taking money from savings, or trying to fit the vacation into the monthly budget. This system has been repopularized in recent years in the book Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T Harv Eker. However, if one wants to use this system but prefers to keep their money in a bank for security and interest, then they would have to open, and manage, multiple savings accounts. And each would have to be setup to auto-deposit the specified amount of money from their checking account each month.

It would be much easier to manage if I could have one savings account and break it into as many virtual ‘cookie jars’ as needed. I could use a form similar to the following to setup transfers to my cookie savings account:

Add Funds to Cookie Jars

And then when I want to withdraw for Christmas shopping and a Winter Ski Vacation, I would do so with a form like this:

This savings account functionality would allow users to save money like they do without banks and software. The concept is simple for users to understand and see the value. Major banks like Wachovia, Wells Fargo, Chase, Bank of America, etc could allow this very easily by building an interface like above and a very simple database structure. This functionality would differentiate them from the other banks offering the same paltry 1.24% interest right now. They have already demonstrated that they have the desire and capability to innovate savings accounts with programs like Way2Save. Why not allow people to have one savings account at their bank with all of their cookie jars rather than having to open multiple accounts at multiple banks to satisfy their needs?

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