New startup aims to ‘Trim’ the fat from your monthly spending

Making sense of your personal finance is a lot like flossing — it’s tedious, it’s not what you might call “fun”, but it needs to be done. Otherwise, things start to get messy in a hurry. There are dozens of tools and apps aimed at improving our (occasionally tenuous) grasps of our own finances, but there’s a new service that hopes to simplify the way we interact with our money. It’s called Trim.

The concept behind Trim is dead-simple: sign up, connect your credit card, and Trim will sift through your transaction data to find recurring payments and help you cancel any you decide you don’t want. 

The idea came about when Trim co-founder Daniel Petkevich, who considers himself a pretty financially responsible person, found recurring payments that he wasn’t aware of on his statement, including a renter’s insurance policy for an apartment he no longer lived in. The realization that money was slipping through the cracks every month virtually unnoticed led he and co-founder Thomas Smyth to starting Trim. 

It’s Smyth who likens the practice of getting one’s financials in order to flossing. It’s as unglamorous as it is necessary, but Trim makes at least one aspect of personal finance management a little less painful in less time than it takes to floss (probably — I don’t really know your life or how long it takes you to floss, but it took me all of one minute to get underway).

Once you connect your credit card, Trim’s algorithm sifts through your transaction data to find subscriptions — things you’d expect, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and maybe a few that you’ve forgotten you’re paying for or haven’t gotten around to cancelling. 

I know what you’re thinking: is this safe? 

Petkevich breaks it down for me and the short answer is: totally, with the help of Plaid, an API designed to securely handle bank data. Plaid’s raison d’être is to allow developers to access financial data securely, without risk to banks and customers. To connect your credit card to Trim, you simply login to your bank through Plaid and an encrypted read-only token is sent back to Trim. 

While Trim can help you cancel subscriptions you don’t want, it can’t access your accounts directly. No need to worry about attacks on Trim’s servers, either. They’re protected with Amazon Web Services (also used by NASA and the DoD) and 256-bit SSL encryption. Oh, and even if someone was feeling extra motivated and did manage to find a way into the servers, there wouldn’t be anything to steal — Trim doesn’t store your username or password or any other sensitive data. 

“Through these integrations with the banks, they only give read-only access tokens,” says Smyth, “so there’s literally no way for anything to go wrong or weirdly with your account.” 

After Trim’s algorithm has had a chance to parse your transaction data, you’ll get a text detailing your subscriptions, from Spotify to the Wall Street Journal. 

For those diligent folks who keep careful track of monthly statements and expenses, these probably won’t come as a surprise, but it’s certainly helpful to have a monthly breakdown of just how much you’re dropping in subscriptions every month. Those who tend to be a little less detail-oriented with monthly transactions, however, may find something rotten in the state of Denmark.  

Whether it’s LinkedIn Premium charges, a Wall Street Journal subscription, or the notoriously difficult to cancel gym memberships, Trim is good at weeding out the invisible financial skeletons in one’s closet. And while the average person saves about $15 per month ($180 per year) with the service, the current all-time high for unearthed monthly subscriptions is a baffling 95 for a single customer.

Trim is totally free, and Smyth says that they want to keep it that way. Right now, Trim is backed by private venture capitalists and while they may one day consider adding a premium tier that includes more in-depth analysis and financial coaching, he says that because Trim’s service is essentially software that doesn’t cost anything to run, it doesn’t seem quite right to charge people in order to help them save money. Ideally, there will always be a free version — and they mean really, truly free.

“Personal finance is something you can always put off until another day, and we want to make it something you can today just by making it as simple as possible,” says Smyth. “I do think it’s really, really important for us to just spend a minute doing something to get our financial lives a little more in-order, and that’s where we want to help.” 

Plaid launches with $2.8M and an API for financial data

Plaid, a startup seeking to give developers access to financial data has raised $2.8 million. With services like Plaid we could see the emergence of a new breed of Quicken-like products or new connected devices.