My girls are now officially tweens. Along with the usual angst about middle school and friends there seems to be a new obsession – fashion. One of my girls has morphed into a walking fashion encyclopedia over the last year, pouring over Lucky, Elle, Vogue and any other fashion mags she can get.
And then she goes online.
My daughter can build a Back to School wardrobe wish list that would shame the editors of Teen Vogue in about 10 minutes. But, just because she can build it doesn’t mean the money to buy will follow. And that’s where teaching her about value and need vs. want come in. My daughters have generous grandparents and they have built up a nice little piggy bank of cash, but online shopping is something else. It doesn’t have that sting of handing over carefully saved paper bills, and it requires mom and dad’s credit cards. And I’m not alone – almost all parents surveyed have made an online purchase for their child, and over 70% of 6-15 year olds have asked their parents to make an online purchase for them, according to a PlayScience Survey. Not exactly the best scenario for teaching the value of money. That’s where Virtual Piggy comes in.
Last month KidzVuz co-hosted a brunch to introduce a group of select bloggers to Virtual Piggy, a site dedicated to teaching kids how to be financially literate – and give their parents the tools to help them achieve that goal. (Full Disclosure: we were compensated for co-hosting the brunch) I first met the Virtual Piggy team at the Digital Kids Summit last spring and was really intrigued with the idea that parents could have a site that would allow their kids to save, plan and purchase online, while learning about what it really means to be an active consumer. I have found that teaching my own daughters the value of money when it’s just a simple click of a button is harder than ever. So, I was genuinely interested in seeing how Virtual Piggy could make the now ethereal reality of online money seems real to kids.
This video explains Virtual Piggy and how it works:
And here’s the quick run down:
- Set up a Virtual Piggy account, with a payment source and mailing address.
- Add a profile for each child, setting a monthly allowance and spending controls.
- Your child can now checkout with Virtual Piggy at approved stores, using only their username and password.
- You get final approval on purchases, and can monitor their spending, requests and wish list.
So, for my daughters Claire’s is a HUGELY popular store. And for my fashionista daughter accessories have become a go-to option to change-up outfits instead of purchasing more clothes. I am constantly channeling Tim Gunn in the morning and telling her to “Make it Work!” instead of giving in to her request for another shirt or skirt or pair of shoes that would make her life complete. Claire’s is one of the approved vendors for Virtual Piggy. YAY!
So, after setting up my daughter’s Virtual Piggy account – having her hand over her cold hard cash to me in return for my funding her VP account on my credit card – she can then shop at Claire’s within the limit we’ve agreed on. She has freedom to shop and feel grown-up and responsible for her spending, and I don’t get nagged. Even more importantly, now that it’s her own money she’s spending online she is MUCH more discriminating about what she buys. Suddenly all of the things that she needed are mere wants after all. And we’ve had many conversations about if something is worth it, if she should wait for a sale, or if maybe she and her sister will go in together and share items to make their money go farther. There’s a sense of empowerment there that Virtual Piggy has given them and that’s been very freeing for me.
Having the money talk for many parents can be hard. But, it’s better to have the talk in conjunction with tangible financial accounting and practice than to keep having it in the context of “no, you can’t have that” without explanation. Virtual Piggy has some great tools to talk to your kids about money, and for kids to explore on their own. I especially love the money quizzes for kids: Money Tips.
Check out Virtual Piggy and let me know what you think! And if you have any parenting money dilemmas or tips for raising money smart kids I’d love to hear them!