Wednesday, March 24, 2010

TOS Crew Review -- Family Mint

We all know that our country has hit a bit of a speed bump economically speaking. And, while we like to point fingers at this or that politician or political party or philosophy, we cannot ignore personal finances and the disaster that many individuals are facing at that level.

While many reasons exist for the increase in debt and decrease in savings across American homes, we can help save our kids some of that by talking about money and teaching them fiscal responsibility from a young age.

Maybe some of these statistics from a survey of US employees will reinforce this point:
  • 43% do not have a handle on their cash flow and spend more than they make each month.
  • 62% have not set up an emergency cash reserve.
  • 23% do not pay their bills on time each month.

About a year ago I talked about some of our techniques in teaching kids about money, but now we have another weapon in our arsenal, the Family Mint.

Product: Family Mint
Details: A free website geared toward organizing and teaching kids about finances. Offers places to compile and track their savings, spending, and giving. This is not a real bank account, just a place to record real money that exists elsewhere, all still under the control of the parent.
Price: FREE! (they do plan to introduce a Pro version sometime in the future that would have a subscription fee, but a basic plan will continue to be available free)

What we loved . . .
  • Easy to use. Jump on, set up a parent account and accounts for each child and you're off. Very little time needed to put it together. (aside from actually finding all the child's actual money to deposit into their account)
  • All virtual money. I find this a pro and a con (see below), but it is great not having money sitting around my kids rooms. The little ones would like to play with it, and the older ones wouldn't always leave it alone either. We can all see, just by logging in, how much money everybody has in each allocated category. It is visible without being in their hands.
  • Keeps real money from getting lost. My kids had a bad habit of losing their money. They used those great banks for splitting their money into saving, spending, and tithing, but then they liked to take it out to count it now and then. Invariably, some of it went missing. Keeping it all on the computer prevents those coins from ending up in the wash, under their bed, or down the ductwork.
  • Interest and allowance features. You can easily set up the program to automatically give your child an allowance at the end of each week. Our kids have to pay back some of the money if they did not complete their chores correctly without reminders, and we can easily go in and withdraw that money as needed. Interest is automatically deposited as well. We put our kids' money in our real bank account, and this way we can pass the interest right along to them without all the figuring. They get excited, too, seeing that few extra dollars of "free" money going into their account each month. Granted, it is moved right into their long term savings, but they appreciate it more now that they actually "see" it.
  • Teaches fiscal responsibility and literacy. It is very important to us that our kids gain an understanding of money and stewardship of all that God has blessed them with. This program gave us some fresh opportunities for conversations about this.
  • Encourages planning. When my kids just kept their money in a bank in their room, they could just grab it when they wanted it. Now, they need to take that extra step and ask for the money in advance (filling out the withdrawal in their account) so they have the actual money, and their account remains accurate.

Some considerations . . .

  • Virtual money. This is not a real bank account. It is a place to record real money that you (or your bank) hold for your child. They don't actually take your money or give you interest or any of those things. This is merely a recording tool for money that you already have. Also, since it is all in your hands your kids no longer keep money around, but you are the banker that they must come to to withdraw or deposit money. So, it is up to you and your child to make sure that the online record matches real life money.
  • You have to remember to log on to take care of things. I love having the automated allowance, but then I forget about it. I need to remind my kids to log on and split it off into their church money, savings and spending. It's not like a paycheck, where you get the actual money or a copy of a check to let you know money was deposited, you need to remember to get into the accounts each week and take care of the money that is there.
This program has a lot of great features and is easy to set up and use. It is a little more inconvenient that just using real money and piggy banks, but it has a lot of benefits as well. We have enjoyed using it in place of our former ways of money handling, and I would encourage you to check it out if you are hunting for some new tools in teaching your kids about money.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This web based membership was provided to me free of charge from Family Mint as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.

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