Budgeting with Monzo, Al Rayan Bank and a spreadsheet

I wrote a few months back about how I do my budgeting. My general approach is to have regular monthly payments (utilities, Netflix and the like) managed through my current account. I then have a separate easy access saving account for non-monthly payments such as home insurance, dentist, haircuts and depreciation. I was using Marcus (by Goldman Sachs) but have recently changed to Al Rayan Bank. In this post, I’ll quickly cover what I like about Monzo and Al Rayan Bank, plus a brief overview of the spreadsheet I use.

Monzo

Monzo is great for day-to-day spending such as groceries, transport and direct debits. The new “challenger banks” make you realise how poor high street banks are, especially when it comes to their apps. Here are the top Monzo features I couldn’t live without now:

  • Instant notifications: I have notifications switched off on nearly all my apps. I see the smartphone zombies (“smombies”) on my daily commute and don’t want to be ‘that person’. However, I’m happy to know immediately when money is going in and out of my account! Being able to see up to the second transactions is useful in itself and also a valuable security measure. Two years ago, identity thieves took over my Nationwide account (Nationwide’s security is terrible!). It wasn’t until £30K of purchases (including two cars) that I received a phone call from Nationwide’s security team!
  • Sharing expenses: everyone hates it when you’re with a bunch of friends and the restaurant bill arrives. Who should pay, how should we split it? Assuming your friends also have Monzo, splitting bills is effortless.
  • Charts of how you spend your money: every purchase you make is classified into a category (which you can change). This makes keeping track of how you spend your money super easy.
  • Notifications when suppliers increase prices: you’ll be notified when a supplier charges more compared to the previous month, which is a great reminder to switch.

Things I don’t like: they seem to be quite blase with privacy. Many of the features don’t work without contact sharing enabled. Monzo don’t understand that people in your phone contacts aren’t all people you want listed in your payee list. Also, I don’t want someone knowing my bank details and last name who I vaguely know.

Al Rayan Bank

Most saving rates are terrible and Monzo is no exception, they did have a rate of 1.5%, however, you needed to pay for the Monzo Plus account (which has since been scrapped). This isn’t a problem though, it just means having a 2nd bank account. I was using Marcus as my easy access savings account with a savings rate of 1.45% (at time of writing) but this is trumped by Al Rayan’s 1.6% (*this rate has since been removed for new applicants!). This isn’t the only reason I’ve changed to Al Rayan Bank though. Marcus’s online banking is rubbish, you can’t do anything! The only feature available is to transfer money back to your linked bank account. Al Rayan Bank’s menu (shown below on the left) shows options you’d expect from an online bank.

Things to do with Al Rayan (left) and Marcus (right)

You can set-up regular and one-off payments with Al Rayan (hardly an advanced feature). Without this, I needed to transfer money from my Marcus savings account to Monzo and then make the payment. I’m extremely security conscious after the appalling security breach I mentioned with Nationwide Building Society. Al Rayan seems to have given this appropriate attention with 2-factor authentication enabled on most features.

* Al Rayan Bank pulls 1.6% everyday saver rate: https://www.alrayanbank.co.uk/savings/instant-access-savings/everyday-saver/

Spreadsheet

I never used to like spreadsheets much, but over the years they have definitely grown on me. The advent of (free) Google Sheets has certainly helped with this. I won’t go into all the weeds of my budgeting worksheet, however, the “dashboard” worksheet below encapsulates most of it:

A couple of notes on my spreadsheet:

  • Everything in the “Expenses (monthly)” column is managed from my Monzo account.
  • Everything in the “Expenses (non-monthly)”, “Depreciation” and “Income” columns are saved with and paid from Al Rayan Bank.

That’s everything, but if you have any questions on my budgeting approach or would like to see more details on my spreadsheet then please let me know below. Thanks for reading.

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