Financial Diaries

How We Started

Financial Diaries were started by Stuart Rutherford of SafeSave and David Hulme at the University of Manchester. They believed a great deal of information about the lives of the poor was being missed by only relying on snapshot interview research methods. For more than a year, they interviewed hundreds of households every two weeks and recorded their most minute financial transactions. Financial Diaries provide a rich and detailed understanding of the financial behavior and needs of low-income households. Rutherford and Hulme tested  Financial Diaries in Bangladesh in 2000, followed by a sample in India in 2001. Daryl Collins, BFA’s Managing Director, implemented a much larger sample in 2003 for South Africa while she was a member of the Finance faculty at the University of Cape Town.

Where We Are

BFA has since implemented Financial Diaries projects in ten countries: India, Kenya, Mexico, Mozambique, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and the United States. BFA’s proprietary Financial Diaries database application is key to collecting quality high-frequency data. Within the portfolio of  Financial Diaries countries, we have expanded the application by supporting local researchers to implement data collection and assisting with data analysis. In so doing, Financial Diaries is not only more cost-effective to undertake, but it also leaves more knowledgeable local researchers to expand their work. Learn more about our financial diaries work.

The Financial Database Application

Building from the original Financial Diaries database created in Access in 2004, BFA has constructed a copyrighted relational database that makes the collection of high frequency, small volume data possible. It also generates diary questions and basic reports. BFA promotes the use of this database application, along with training manuals, to local researchers, effectively lowering the price of data collection and empowering local researchers to provide insights into a wide range of environments. By linking the database application to the i2i data platform, BFA has also enabled a broad sharing of compiled data.

Photo Credit: i2i

What Did We Learn about Gender Gap from Financial Diaries?

The Financial Diaries are deep and systematic studies into the financial lives of low-income families, providing us with a unique view of the detailed financial behaviors of respondents. Through A Buck Short, a report by BFA, with sponsor Omidyar Network, our consultants Caitlin Sanford (former) and Julie Zollman took a deeper look at the experiences of the Financial Diaries women from India, Kenya, and Mexico. This study illuminates the reality that serving women, and especially low-income women, requires us to think more intentionally about women’s financial lives; particularly financial service providers that aim to reach the female market.