I Paid $5 to Get Personalized Money Advice by Text. Here’s What I Got

A woman checks her cell phone as she runs on the treadmill.
Lisa Rowan signed up for Trim Concierge in hopes it could reduce her cell phone bill. The company was instead able to reduce her internet bill by $54 per year. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
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Editor’s note 11/7/18: Trim is phasing out the Concierge product in favor of a similar feature focused on paying down debt called Debt Payoff coaching. Once you sign up, you can get to coaching by clicking on “Debt” in your account. Debt Payoff coaching costs $10 per month.

I first signed up for Trim because I didn’t want to negotiate my cell phone bill.

I knew I was paying too much, but dialing up customer service and telling them about it wasn’t exactly a task I was looking forward to.

The company says it saves you money by automating as much of your finances as possible. It’ll send you alerts about your budget. It’ll cancel subscriptions. And it’ll negotiate your bills for you. In some cases, it’ll do it directly via text message.

Calling? Not my favorite. But texting? As easy as choosing the perfect emoji.

Trim wasn’t able to reduce my phone bill, but it was able to reduce my internet bill by $54 per year — well worth the 33% portion of that savings I paid in exchange for the negotiation skills.

When I learned Trim was introducing a personal finance advice service, Trim Concierge, I had to try it. Could a personal finance nerd like me learn anything new?

How Trim Concierge Helps You Manage Your Money By Text Message

I got started by logging into my Trim account and answering simple yes/no questions about my money. Did I have student loan debt? (Yes.) Did I have a high-yield savings account? (Maybe? I wasn’t sure.) How many months of expenses did my emergency fund cover, if I had one? (Not enough.)

I agreed to pay $5 each month for the service, from a “pay what’s fair” sliding scale that starts all the way at $0. It only took about 10 minutes to answer the initial questionnaire, and I received a notification that someone would get in touch with me in 24 hours.

The same day, I got a text from Jennifer, my concierge. Because I had indicated in the survey that one of my primary goals was to build my emergency savings, she said we’d work on setting a goal, determine a high-yield savings option and figure out auto-transfer amounts.

Jennifer, who said she’s based in Phoenix, recommended a high-yield savings account with a 1.82% APY. The list of options she shared with me wasn’t compiled by Trim, and it was nice to get my concierge’s personal opinion on what was available out there. I was storing parts of my emergency fund in three different accounts, with the highest interest rate at 1%.

Moving all my cash over to my new savings account was a comedy of errors over the course of a week, including a double transfer mistake on my part that wiped my checking account clean.

But after the transfer dust settled, it was easier than ever to see that I’m more than halfway to my emergency savings goal — and now I’m earning more interest than ever for that entire amount.

Jennifer and I texted a few more times to make sure I had a steady schedule of auto-transfers set up for my new account.

Then, she said she’d check in with me in a few weeks.

Do You Want to Get Money Advice by Text Message?

A woman checks the text messages on her phone while working out.
Rowan looks at a text message exchange she had with Jennifer, her Trim Concierge adviser. The service cost Rowan $5 a month. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

My concierge and I communicated solely by text message. While it was convenient to have her messages and notes of encouragement beamed to the palm of my hand, there was something missing from my overall experience.

When I received a text to discuss an action step, I needed to then use my computer to complete it. Sure, my banks all have apps, but rather than bop around among them while trying to move money or open a new account, I’d rather sit down and get it all done on a screen that’s larger than 5 inches.

My computer is where I get stuff done, including tracking my financial progress.

My phone is where I share funny Instagram posts with my friends and text guys I matched with on Tinder. It felt strange to receive text messages from a financial guide while I was running on the treadmill after work.

I’d rather interact through a web-based dashboard or even by email.

At that same time, maybe that’s the point — it’s hard to ignore a text on your phone, and the urgency to take steps for my financial future definitely came through.

For now, I’ll be keeping my subscription to Trim Concierge, even if it’s mostly for the moral support as I build my emergency fund.

Lisa Rowan is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.