Practical, mobile budgeting help

RICHARD MEADOWS
Last updated 14:55 26/09/2012

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Westpac has launched a mobile budgeting app for New Zealanders in an attempt to address the country's woeful budgeting skills.

The bank conducted a survey of 750 Kiwis and found that only 22 per cent had received budget advice or training.

Thirty-eight per cent didn't have time, found it too hard, or found it too boring to maintain a household budget, and 45 per cent either didn't know how or couldn't stick to it.

Almost a third of those surveyed were having financial difficulties on a weekly basis.

The findings have caused the bank to renew its call to make financial literacy a compulsory subject in the school curriculum.

"Kiwis need help with budgeting," said Westpac general manager strategy, product and innovation Callum Wilson.

The Budget Planner iPhone app would be available to anyone, not just Westpac customers, as part of the bank's "broader commitment" to financial education, he said.

Users can either plug in their personal income and spending data, or customise a pre-filled template based on typical household information from Statistics New Zealand.

They can then fiddle around with spending across various categories to see how much they can save over the course of a week, month or year.

"Whether the goals are big, like saving for a house deposit or car or those nice extras like the mid-winter holiday or new wardrobe, it all starts with establishing and maintaining a budget," Wilson said.

"We encourage Kiwis to use it and put some structure around their financial goal setting."

Wilson hoped the user-friendly mobile interface would help convert some of those living from pay day to pay day.

"It's very graphical, it has slider bars etc to move the numbers around- it's not like typing into a boring spreadsheet," he said.

"This is about trying to make it quick and simple to set up, and also make it a little less boring."

Wilson said a smartphone app seemed like the best way to provide some practical help, as the world was becoming increasingly mobile.

The bank's own mobile uptake has grown by more than 500 per cent over the last six months, with monthly transactions and logins now exceeding 1.2 million.

Budget Planner is available on iPhone only, but Wilson said it might be adapted to other platforms in the future depending on the response.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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