Evaluation Scotland Wales

evaluation

Managing My Money for the Just About Managing

Evidence type: Evaluation i

Description of the programme

[This is an extract from the Executive Summary of the evaluation report. Further amendments may be made to this Summary, pending review by the Evidence Hub partner]

This project aims to design and test whether a radically simple, practical, scalable financial education tool, delivered pro-actively through organisations that have an existing relationship with working-age adults who are Just About Managing, could reach and nudge them to live a little within their means, building resilience and preventing them from falling into future financial difficulties. The tool focuses on budgeting, drawing on findings from behavioural research to promote small changes to everyday spending decisions, that build resilience and help participants make the most of their money.

The study

The evaluation uses a mixed-methods impact assessment. The quantitative evaluation is structured around six controlled field trials, each with a different delivery partner organisation, testing the causal impact of the tool in multiple real-world settings to provide more confident, generalisable findings as to whether it works and who it works for. The trials use both survey data on behaviour and outcomes across budgeting, spending, and saving, and objective data on participants savings balances. The qualitative analysis uses in-depth interviews and focus groups to develop deeper insight into how and why the tool does or doesn’t work, and any wider impacts it might have. The results from both methods are combined, considering what themes emerge and what implications these have for financial capability policy and practice, as well as future financial capability research.

Key findings

Our theory of change is that the tool will cause participants to increase their use of budgeting, make better, active spending decisions, and in doing so have more money left at the end of the month and increase their resilience savings. Our results support this, finding strong evidence that the tool can improve budgeting, spending and saving behaviour for those Just About Managing. The details of specific impacts and their magnitudes are not consistent across all trials, however, and the impacts on savings seem primarily driven by those with pre-existing savings. There was little evidence of impact on broader financial variables, such as missed payments or confidence, or that specific forms of intervention were distinctly more effective than others.

Demographic data suggest the tool works for most JAMs, primarily within the Squeezed segment but also for JAMs within the Struggling or Cushioned segments, though not for those with deep-seated spending biases or those on exceedingly low incomes. It may be most impactful when delivered through in-person methods, though light touch methods appear to be almost as effective.

The findings support themes from existing behaviour change research, on the importance of targeting interventions at changing specific behaviours, being short and practical, focusing on small changes, using teachable moments, and the benefits of social elements. We also find engagement emerges as a key factor which warrants greater attention in research and design.

Points to consider

  • The main limitations related to the relatively short timescale of the project. More time would enable us to collect longer-term data, measure and analyse changes in regular savings behaviour, investigating more-nuanced results using more-complex analytical techniques, collect larger data samples, structure more trials with objective data, and be able to more closely integrate and combine the quantitative and qualitative results.
  • The methodology has proven valid, though responses to surveys were very difficult to generate, leaving some of our survey-based trials with less statistical power than we had hoped.

Key info

Client group
Programme delivered by
Open University and Coventry University
Year of publication
2019
Country/Countries
England
Contact information

william.brambley@open.ac.uk