Technology can be a great way to teach little ones about money.
One of my biggest concerns as a parent is teaching my kids to manage money well. I feel like I owe so much to my own parents for helping guide me on a responsible path to financial literacy. They helped me open my own bank account as a teen and tried to convey the importance of saving and living within your means.
Because of the money smarts they imparted on me, I was able to make it through college without student loans, pay for half of my own wedding (while they footed the remainder of the bill), and eventually paid off $35,000 in debt while raising three kids.
The world I’m now raising those three kids in, however, is far different from the one of my youth. I find myself wondering: How do I teach my kids the value of a dollar if they hardly ever see one? With digital payment apps like Venmo, Apple Pay, and PayPal, combined with the ubiquity of debit and credit cards, putting cash into context for kids has never been more difficult.
The technology with which we manage our money is evolving at such a fast pace; it can seem daunting to keep up. However, that technology can actually be a great tool for teaching our kids about money in an increasingly digital world.
There are now apps for every age and stage of learning money management – from those first chore charts to embarking on college adventures. Here are four of the best apps, one for each age group:
PiggyBot – Starting in preschool, kids start to grasp the idea that money helps make their worlds go round. It’s how we buy groceries and how we buy toys. It’s the reason their parents have to work instead of spending all day with them. Just about everything costs money, and work is how we make money. When kids start to string these concepts together, it’s the perfect time to start a chore chart so they can start building a good work ethic while earning a little bit of their own spending cash.
PiggyBot (available for free in the iTunes store) is a virtual piggy bank that helps young kids manage their chore charts and keep track of money earned. Parents decide how to allocate chore money (or allowance) into spend-it, share-it, and save-it categories, and chores can be added manually to each child’s individual profile. Kids can set savings goals and view their progress as they work towards what they want. They can even add pictures alongside the price tag of their desired items to keep them feeling motivated.
The perks for parents? Instead of having to shell out cash at the end of each week, you can simply put money into the PiggyBot IOU account for each child, and deduct money when your kids spend it – or when they go to an ATM to cash out. Plus, it’s an easy way to get kids excited about their savings goals and earning money. (There’s a burst of confetti each time you get paid.)
Savings Spree –When kids get a little older, it’s time to introduce more advanced money concepts into their lives, but sitting down to teach kids about the impact of spending habits or the value of frugality doesn’t exactly make for a thrilling lesson — unless of course that lesson is turned into a game with all the bells and whistles to keep them engaged.
Savings Spree (available for $5.99 in the iTunes store) fits the bill perfectly for this age group. It’s an exciting, endlessly entertaining game that definitely doesn’t feel educational when you’re playing it. The game-show style host leads the player through six rounds that test their financial literacy and teach kids the real-world consequences of how they choose to spend, invest, and donate their money. As kids choose the work available to them in the game, they also learn a bit about entrepreneurial pursuits and the realities of the job market. The serious lessons this game conveys will definitely make a mark on your kids’ financial future.
iAllowance – Much like PiggyBot, iAllowance (available for $3.99 in the iTunes store) is an app that helps kids track and manage their chore charts, but the interface is definitely more geared toward tweens. Kids are able to see all their weekly chores at a glance, set a variety of savings goals, and track their balances across different categories. The rewards dashboard is an excellent addition. Parents can also add non-monetary rewards for chores (such as videogame/iPad time) along with kids’ cash-based goals.
This app is great for parents who are looking to up the responsibility factor with their tweens. Parents can set allowance amounts for categories like clothing, spending, donating, and investing, and kids can see when money is deposited and deducted, just like they would in a bank account. It gives tweens a good grasp of what it looks like to balance a checkbook without the fear of overdrafting, and there is plenty of room for personalization and increased responsibility as kids grow.
Toshl Finance – Once your teen has a job and bank account, it’s time to graduate to the big leagues. Toshl Finance is an app that can see teens from their first job into college — and beyond. It’s got all the basics of a budgeting app like Mint, but Toshl’s fun graphics make it extra easy for teens to tune in and see where their money is going. The bill reminders are likely to be a lifesaver as kids start to take over their own finances.
The best part about Toshl is that it makes planning for the future easy, which is something that teens definitely need a little help with. You can tag expenses and see your spending trends through the months (and years), easing the transition to a full-blown, grown-up budget.