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Mar 22, 2022

'Modern Money' with Dan Barton of Billi

'Modern Money' with Dan Barton of Billi
Annalisa Gertz

In our first instalment of ‘Modern Money’, a new series where we chat about money management with members of the Billi team, our community and influential people in the financial world, we’ll be sitting down with Billi’s co-founder and COO, Dan Barton.

Dan is a born problem solver who has built successful businesses across multiple industries from real estate to media to finance. Today, we’re pulling back the financial curtain, and getting an inside look on all things related to big purchases, excel spreadsheets, and piggy banks.

Q: Hi Dan - let’s get right into it. What is your most used credit card?

A: The AmEx Cobalt card because of the points I get back on groceries and food, which is one of my biggest expenses. I also like that the fee is billed monthly, instead of annually because this helps with cashflow planning.

Although, my one gripe with American Express is that it is not accepted everywhere, so I use my TD Visa Aeroplan Infinite as a backup.

Q: Do you pay off your credit card debt in full every month?

A: I try to. Since I have quite a few credit cards, I’ve got a system where I set up all my balances to be paid from my line of credit at the start of each month. Then I pay my line of credit once a month – this makes it easier to manage, knowing that I’ll be covering off everything and ensures that I don’t miss important payment dates, as they’re all different.

If I’m unable to pay off the balance of a credit card one month, it’s an indicator that I might be overspending and will need to assess if there was something unexpected that we needed to pull from our savings.

Q: How many banks are you an account holder at?

A: We have credit cards with six different institutions to maximize points and rewards, and personal accounts set up with three banks. Tangerine is my bank for everyday use and Scotiabank is for my mortgage.

Q: What attracts you to opening an account with one bank over another?

A: I love Tangerine because you can open multiple savings accounts. When money comes in, they take a percentage and put it in all the different savings accounts – investments, donations, personal spending, and education.

Q: That’s a lot of accounts. Do you use any apps to manage your spending across all accounts?

A: An excel spreadsheet is my most useful tool because I can bring together everything that is not effectively managed through the other tools. I have various tabs to track different categories, such as assets, liabilities, and crypto. This is partly where the inspiration for Billi came from, as there are no tools on the market right now that allow you bring all of these accounts under the same roof.

One thing I like to do is get a snapshot of where I’m at on the first of every month as far as total cash assets, liabilities, and credit card statements. Where am I at this month and how did it compare to last month? I like to track this over time.

Q: When you look at the snapshot of your accounts, would you say you’re more of a spender or a saver?

A: I am a spender who wants to be a saver, which is why I set up the automation with Tangerine.

Q: What was the last big item you purchased?

A: I just bought a full new set of appliances – fridge, dishwasher, and fancy new gas stove.

Q: Would you rather spend money on experiences or things?

A: Experiences. Actually, I say that, but I just bought all these appliances. Cooking is an experience, right?

I think it’s tricky during the pandemic, because to me, an experience is going on a trip, but I can’t remember the last time I did that. But I do remember the nice bike I just bought – so does my partner.

In my early 20’s, I definitely would have said ‘experiences’. I cashed out all my investments to go travel around Australia because I thought it was a once in a lifetime opportunity!  

Q: I would have done the same thing! What was the last item you regretted purchasing?

A: Probably something that I ordered on Amazon. I have too many Amazon regrets.

Q: Don’t we all. How far ahead do you like to plan financially?

A: Not far. Maybe a couple months. Part of my financial planning for the future is my long-term investments and insurance, which I have for my children.  

Q: Do you also have an emergency fund for your children?  

A: Sort of. Currently, a percentage of my income is automated to go to the Tangerine savings accounts, so it isn’t necessarily an emergency fund, but we have specific savings accounts for specific spending in the future, as well as investment accounts that we never withdraw from.

Q: Did your family talk about money growing up?

A: Yes, we did. My family has always been entrepreneurial, so there were conversations about how to make money, but not so much about how to manage money. I had to learn that the hard way.

Q: Do you talk to your children about money?

A: Yes. They’re both young, but they got piggy banks for Christmas because they’ve started doing chores to earn money. They’re each saving up to buy something right now. One of my daughter’s counts up everything in her piggy bank five times a day to see how much closer she is to getting the doll that she has her eye on.

Q: Do you carry cash?

A: I just counted my daughter’s piggy bank. She has enough for her doll, so I’ll keep the cash and buy it on Amazon. Now I’ve got some change to pay my kids to do their chores!

Q: What do you want your money to do for you that it hasn’t done yet?

A: Create more passive income. That's always the goal, isn’t it?

Q: If someone gave you $100,000 today, what would you do with it?

A: Pay off my debt. And then try and invest it properly to create that passive income. Or I would split it up into the savings accounts that I mentioned earlier so each account would get a bump... especially my personal spending account. I’d have to at least buy one cool thing.

Q: I don’t know how you’d beat the fancy new gas stove.

A: Good point!

Q: What gap do you personally hope Billi will fill when it comes to managing your finances?

A: Billi will allow me to have a better pulse of my money on-the-go and have a monthly snapshot of my cash position that I currently track via my excel spreadsheet. Ideally, it replaces that spreadsheet and helps automate the process.

Follow Dan on Twitter where he navigates the world of NFTs, trains for another marathon and shares his favourite plant-based recipes.


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