As you file your taxes and get into spring cleaning mode, you might feel inspired to organize your personal finances. One way to make that process more tolerable, and potentially even fun? Code a budgeting tool that you’ll actually want to use.
There’s no shortage of mobile apps and online banking tools available to help you keep track of your spending or put aside money. Typically, these kinds of applications have cross integrations with financial providers that enable them to pull data from your bank account into the app, explains Ben Stone, Senior Curriculum Developer at Codecademy. “No individual — unless they’re really motivated — is going to build one of those integrations, because it’s a lot of work and that might not be worth it,” Ben says.
However, it could be worthwhile to make a budgeting product that’s custom to you and your financial situation. Or maybe it could be a great portfolio project for you. Luckily, Ben says there are some practical ways you can use code to better understand your spending habits or establish a budget without bank integrations. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
Design a webpage
Then, you could use PostgreSQL to design an elegant database to store your financial data for your budget. Though “not sensitive financial data,” Ben adds, because you don’t want that information out in the open. (If you’re building a website from scratch, the easiest way to password-protect a website would be using a tool like .htaccess or .htpsswd, Ben says.) But you could include fixed expenses, like how much you pay in rent each month. If you want to play around coding a budget site without publishing anything, Codecademy Pro learners can use workspaces, an IDE for writing and running public or private code.
Visualize your expenses
Though you might only use Microsoft Excel on tedious work projects, it’s “a super powerful spreadsheet tool” that has lots of potential uses in your personal life, Ben says.
For example, say you want to break down your fixed expenses to see how much you’re spending on different categories each month. You can import existing data (from a text file or even a PDF) into Microsoft Excel or input it manually, and then create a composition chart that classifies your recurring monthly expenses (like mortgage or rent, health insurance, car payment, or streaming subscription fees). From there, you can generate a color-coded pie chart to visualize how your expenses are distributed in each category, Ben suggests.
This strategy could be particularly useful if you’re following the popular “50-30-20” budget technique, which recommends that you spend 50% of your income on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings and paying off debt. You can calculate what those chunks would be based on your monthly take-home pay by creating formulas, and then analyze how close you came to the target using a pie chart.
Our pro course Analyze Data with Microsoft Excel will walk you through exactly how to make these kinds of charts in Excel, plus introduce you to more complex ways to manipulate data, like making pivot tables.
Spruce up your Google Sheet
Build a mobile app
Viewing a spreadsheet on a mobile device isn’t the best user experience, so you might want to build something that you can quickly access when you’re out, Ben says. For example, if you’re using a zero-based budget, where every dollar you earn is allocated to a specific expense, you could create an app that you can reference to keep track of how much you’re permitted to spend in each category. (There is a very popular app called You Need A Budget that you could use as inspiration. So if you’re building your own, think about: How would you improve the user experience, or design something to fit your individual needs better?)
To build an app, you’ll need to know a mobile application programming language, like Swift for iOS, Kotlin for Android, or React Native for something that works on mobile and web, Ben says. If you already know your way around Swift and want to learn how to get hired as a mobile app developer, you can dive into our new skill path Pass the Technical Interview with Swift. Who knows? Maybe your unique budget app idea could lay the foundation for a new career and help you make more money at the same time.