Tweaks to Debt Shuffling

Gosh! Who would have thought debt shuffling would be such a hot topic? Thank you all for the wonderful feedback. We love to hear how to make BillMonk better, and are writing to tell you that we listened to your comments and did just that.

With the new changes, everything on the site will look the same, but the final results from each shuffle should be closer to what you expect.

To explain what we did, let’s talk about the different things you can optimize for when you’re shuffling debts:

  1. The number of checks left to write after the shuffle (you want this number of be low).
  2. Who the remaining checks need to be written to (it’s easier write checks to people you see often).
  3. The dollar amount of the checks you have to write (smaller is better).

When we launched, we optimized for (1) and (2). We thought the convenience of settling up with people you see the most would be worth it even if the amounts of those checks were a little larger.

Thanks to your feedback, though, we’ve learned that (3) is more important than (2), so we’ve updated BillMonk to settle debts the way you like.

If you’re happy with the debt shuffles you’ve already created, then by all means stick with them! But if you tried it and didn’t like the numbers you saw, delete your existing shuffles and give it another shot.


25 Responses to “Tweaks to Debt Shuffling”

  1. Chuck Vose Says:

    Good work all. I haven’t tried it out yet but it sounds like you’ve done a pretty good job judging by the lack of comments. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Kyle Says:

    Like I said in my email, good job on the quick response and changes, I like the new way much better. I apologize if I came across a bit strong in the previous blog post ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Kyle Says:

    I suspect you’re going to ban me from the comments section soon. Someone else just ran a debt shuffle with a different set of friends than my one test earlier, someone who owed me $9 went to owing me $200. While this is much improved from the $2,000 that was moving around in the previous algorithm, I still don’t think this feature is one that I’ll be using all that often. Kudos to getting it working though, I do like the site and the work you guys put in to it.

    I’ll keep paying attention to the blog and when you provide the dropdown to remove redundant debt that exists in a cycle of users, I’ll be in here to comment again I’m sure ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Luke Hoersten Says:

    I owed a friend, Immanuel, $3.18 and another friend, Phil, owed me $3.18. They are also both friends on BillMonk. I thought doing a graph reduce would just make a new “owe” edge between them and remove me (the middle man) from the graph completely. This did not happen though so we tried making it so Phil also owed Immanuel $.05 but again, that did not work.

    If I owe a friend and a friend owes me the same amount, and they are also both friends, couldn’t the graph reduce just remove me from the graph?

  5. Josh Haberman (BillMonk) Says:

    Hey Luke,

    We made the decision not to create new “owe” edges, because we thought it would be confusing if you suddenly owed money to someone you never owed before. On the other hand, once you created the 5 cent debt, it should have done what you expected. I just tried this as your account (but did not save), and it did the right thing. Try again, and make sure to put all three people in the shuffle!


  6. Robin Says:

    Great new feature. I like it a lot (although not all my colleagues agree with me :p). However, to reduce the number of transactions in a whole group to the absolute minimum I now have to ask all my colleagues to try a shuffle until nobody can shuffle anything anymore. It would be a very nice addition if, within a group, everything can be shuffled until no more shuffles are possible without the hassle of everybody going through the flow once or multiple times.

  7. Kristoffer Lawson Says:

    Robin, I’m not sure if BillMonk has become stagnated recently, but our own service, does exactly what you want. In fact, it does it all the time inside so-called pools (groups of friends). It’s my honest belief that pools are a much easier concept and way to deal with this, instead of debt shuffling.

    Plus we do a pretty good job with foreign currencies and currency exchange, and have a real mobile application for offline use … ;->

  8. Karthik Says:

    Internal error! We were unable to save this transaction. Please contact us.

    I get this error when i try to shuffle debt or create a new shared bill. Once I get this error it won’t let me complete the transaction for couple of days… and the error disappears. And then one fine day it starts appearing. what’s going on here? It’s really fursturating when you can’t submit a bill right when you wanted to.. and you forget to put the bill in. isn’t that the whole point?

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  10. Autarkic Says:

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Autarkic.

  11. twobrain Says:

    billmonk servers are soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo slowwwwwwww

  12. Kumar Says:

    I think the previous way of shuffling debt was much better. It would be great if I could tweak the shuffling a bit – I know that it will be far more convenient to give/take money from somebody.

    I suggest, that we can do one (or many of the following):

    1) Give an option to use one of the multiple ways to shuffle.
    2) Shuffle in multiple ways and show how things will look like in each of the shuffle and let me choose one.
    3) Allow me to tweak the shuffling by letting me specify that I am most comfortable dealing with this guy.

  13. Jamie Tissot Says:

    Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

  14. Larry Fields Says:

    Great info as well! Im sure this information would be very useful for a forex or futures brokerage firm.

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