We wanted to rise to the challenge of educating 14-25-year-olds about finances and how best to track their spending.

What it does

Red to Black allows a user to track their spending, giving them detailed breakdowns of their main categories of expenditure. Built as a web app, it links to a backend MySQL database and pulls data about the user's weekly spending habits and informs the user about how much of their allocated weekly budget is remaining, and how to limit their spending.

How we built it

Starting out with a Python/Flask backend, we quickly moved to PHP for the backend, building a restful API which communicates with the web app. We designed a UI from scratch to look modern and appealing to young adults, and we strongly believe that the intuitive UI is a major selling point of our service. The web app is built on a few JavaScript libraries, most notably jQuery, progressbar.js and rangeslider.js. The design is built from scratch, coded by hand in CSS and HTML.

Challenges we ran into

We had difficulties integrating the web app with the database when attempting to use a Python solution. After spending many hours fiddling with Python, we gave up and used a PHP approach. This worked much more smoothly with MySQL and allowed us to easily send data from the database in a JSON format to the web app, which then parses and displays the data in an elegant manner.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • Building a lightweight web front-end without Bootstrap et al.
  • Successfully coordinating multiple people writing to the same codebase with limited collisions.
  • Addressing a truly deep-rooted problem that unnecessarily complicates and interferes with many peoples' lives.

What we learned

  • To be careful when using new technologies for the first time. A fair amount of time was wasted going down a rabbit hole that ended up being fruitless. In the end, older approaches that we had more experience in proved to be a far better match to the problem at hand, as well as being easier to develop.
  • Personal finance is full of small items that seem small – small enough that it isn't worth writing down repeatedly – but which matter greatly when accumulated.

What's next for Red to Black

We want to grow the service and integrate it to live banking systems (e.g. Monzo, Starling Bank, etc.). We want to make the service more appealing to users, and more direct - perhaps by serving push notifications to the user when they approach their weekly spending limit.

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