The story of expense.guide

More than 10 years ago I started working as a freelancer. The journey from that day to today contributed to the creation of the Expense Guide app, a personal finance management app.

Before we delve into the story, I’d like to share with you my philosophy about money. For me, money is a tool that temporarily stores relative value and gives you the possibility to exchange that value for something that you need or desire as part of your lifestyle. To make money, you have to create value for someone. I don’t perceive money as good, nor evil — it’s just an abstract thing that we, humans, believe in.

As a freelancer, I don’t have a fixed stream of income every month, so planning my (and my family’s) expenses can get a bit tricky. To fix this, I started writing down my spendings and estimating my future expenses. By doing that, I could foresee months ahead the approximate amount of money I would need to maintain my current lifestyle, and then act accordingly as a result.

I found out that, for me, it’s healthier to plan the future than to think about the past.

So, with that in mind, I created this app! It has a clean and minimal design, it’s easy to use, and it provides just enough info to help you manage your finances responsibly. No fancy graphs, no predefined categories or irrelevant details! Just a simple list of current & upcoming expenses, and 5 numbers of great importance in my book.

These 5 numbers are:

  • average monthly spending
  • average monthly unexpected spending
  • average future monthly spending
  • minimal safety net amount (for 6 months)
  • optimal safety net amount (for 12 months)

Using Elizabeth Warren’s 50/30/20 rule of thumb for budgeting, and allocating 50% of your income on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings — you could build your minimal safety net in 24 months and the optimal safety net in 48 months. Think about the peace of mind that will bring you!

And because I value privacy, and “keeping it simple” is a little mantra of mine, this also translates into this app as:

  • No income data required — besides being too personal, it would also imply for you to be truly diligent with tracking everything, in order to make sure the ‘available funds’ amounts is kept accurate at all times… and I want to make your life easier with this app, not stress you out!
  • No credit card transactions processed
  • No tracking
  • No ads — in-app ads annoy me, too!
  • No reminder emails — at least not for now! But I’m not completely rejecting the idea, in case there will be requests from users about this feature.
  • No decimal numbers — I believe that a personal finance app will never reflect 100% a person’s spendings down by every penny, so it’s safe to assume that we could simply enter a $15 amount (round up) for a $14.20 purchase.

If you made it this far, and the only question you have is:

“Well, I’m not a freelancer like you! Can I still get use out of this app?”… then, it’s perfect!

It means you’re ready to start planning your expenses — because, YES, Expense Guide is suitable for everyone, regardless if you have a fluctuating stream of income or a fixed & very predictable one.

So, let’s get to it! There’s no better day to start something than today… and no better moment than right now!

Go to the app page

Connecting the dots – 1pixel.solutions

Ten years ago I registered the 1pixelsolutions.com domain name. At that time I was planning that it will become the name of a web development agency.

Well, that never happened.

I could find many reasons why, but let’s face it: the main reason is ME.

Looking back I can connect the dots and understand why this happened (or did not happen).

As I see it now, being an agency it’s about volume, tens of projects, tens of clients etc. and that’s not me (at least not now and not in the last ten years).

I like mid/long-term projects, I like focusing on that project and working with people from other departments to get a glimpse of how everything gets connected to make it whole.

I hate useless stuff. I don’t feel comfortable working on something that I don’t believe in or think it will not be used because it really affects my motivation and focus.

All these and other subjective reasons led to this point.

So what’s next?

1pixel.solutions will become a label (a brand I think is a bit too early 🙂 ) for products/projects I will be building or co-found.

The goal is to create products that save you mainly time, time that you can spend doing real life stuff and not stare at a screen.

This means applications that automatize, simplify or solve everyday problems, challenges.

Let’s dig in.

P.S.

I’ve done a redesign for the website so that it reflects this new path https://1pixel.solutions

 

The story of activity.report

The itch

The ‘itch’ this application tries to scratch comes from a personal experience. For as long as I know I have been working as a freelancer (and I am loving it). I worked on projects that lasted for weeks to projects requiring almost a year, I have been paid a fixed rate per project and worked also for hourly rates.

But being a freelancer has its challenges and one of them is managing your finances because those invoices are rolling in no matter what.

The first ‘itch’ was to have a dashboard where I can see in real time how much income a project is generating.

Another challenge is the estimates (not only for freelancers but for everybody). Let’s face it, we as humans are bad at estimating. I think because we are optimistic and can’t really estimate what can go wrong. Estimating the best case scenario is easy, but estimating the worst case scenario well that’s …

So as a freelancer you have to accept that when you get paid per project and based on your estimate, you will most probably work more hours than you estimated.

The second ‘itch’ was to track the worked hours so I could compare the estimate ( guessed 🙂 ) with the reality and to be able to try to minimize the gap between them for the next project.

The question you all probably are asking is why build an app from scratch (the nth time tracking application) when there are so many of them available. That’s true, and I tried a number of them, but some were too complex, and I wanted simplicity, while some go beyond the privacy limit that I can accept.

Also, I had a need to be able to customize the generated PDF report (add a custom heading text, a custom intro text, a custom footer) and this was a feature that none of the tested apps were offering.

Beyond the above reasons I also like building web apps and when I have the possibility to work on an idea that would help me or others I’ll go for it.

I invite you to try it (https://activity.report), maybe it’s a flavor of time tracking application that you will like.

The technical ingredients for the app

Here are the services that I use to run this application

  • CloudFlare – DNS
  • Digital Ocean – Servers
  • Laravel Forge – Server management
  • Laravel Envoyer – Deployment
  • Pusher – Real-time update
  • Apache Cordova – For the mobile apps
  • PhoneGap – Mobile app compiling  service
  • Postmark – SMTP service
  • Bugsnag – Error reporting
  • Ottomatik – Backups
  • Forrest Admin – Admin backend interface
  • Laravel framework + Laravel Spark – Backend
  • Vue JS – Frontend