Using Virtual Piggy to Raise Money Smart Kids

virtual piggy logo

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:

  1. Set up a Virtual Piggy account, with a payment source and mailing address.
  2. Add a profile for each child, setting a monthly allowance and spending controls.
  3. Your child can now checkout with Virtual Piggy at approved stores, using only their username and password.
  4. 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!

Getting My Artsy Girls to Play Sports (Hint: It’s about the outfit and gear)

My daughters never liked team sports.  At 4, when I enrolled them in a kiddie soccer class they turned the goal upside down and declared it a spaceship, climbed on in and then proceeded to create a story about going to the moon that captivated the other kids and made it impossible for the 24 year-old coach to interest any of the kids in dribbling the ball through cones.  Needless to say, the other parents were not fans of my girls.

I realized quickly that team sports were just not my girls’ thing.  But keeping them active is important and we didn’t give up on finding sports that they would like and do well in.

Land sports – not for them.  But, luckily water is their thing.  Swimming, skiing, skating – if it involves some sort of water they are into it.

If it involves a uniform, costume or awesome gear then they are REALLY into it!  So, I was excited to head over to the new #RookieUSA store on Columbus Avenue on the Upper West Side to check out all the fab clothes and shoes.  And while my girls are not land sport crazy, we are New Yorkers and we walk everywhere, so my girls live in sneakers – and having a giant selection is just what we need.  They also started tween spin this year and are in serious need of some cute workout shorts that won’t chafe.

I have also found that I need to canvas a new store without my daughters for the first visit – otherwise it’s a frenzy of “I need this.”  “I must have that.”  A little preparation goes a long way when guiding tween girls through a merchandise heaven.   And merch heaven it is…

I ended up getting these super soft and lightweight Nike shorts for my girls that are perfect for spinning, and a pair of fabulous purple Levis jeggings.  You can see the full photo spread on my Google + post

Purple and aqua – that’s how we roll in our house.

This is a seriously welcome addition to the Upper West Side – especially for the jeans and sneakers.  I have to add that the customer service was incredibly lovely too.  Not only did a saleswoman help me figure out the sizing (they really do need to post size charts for that Nike stuff) the cashier signed me for the rewards program and gave me the discount even though I couldn’t find my $20 coupon.  That really doesn’t happen in NYC.

Plus, it’s right next to Michaels – so after stocking up on sporty stuff I can feed my daughters’ artsy side with crafty goods galore, and then grab lunch at Whole Foods.  Perfect Upper West Side morning.

Check out RookieUSA on Twitter and Like them on Facebook so you can know when the online store launches!

Leave a comment below and tell me what sports your kid is into.  The first 5 commenters get a $20 Rookie USA gift card! 

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Rookie USA #CBias #SocialFabric

Fashion Friday: My Shoe Disintegrated, Really

I have no idea how this could happen but this shoe literally fell apart on me today while I was walking.  It just started to break into bits and pieces and eventually the whole heel section broke off.  They’re not new but they are Robert Clergerie.  You’d think they’d be built to last…


A Whiter Shade of Pale – A Very White Girl’s Guide to Summer Survival

I am white.  Not just check the box next to Caucasian white – but crayola crayon white.  And like every really white girl out there I have grappled with summer and the bare legs, bathing suit reality of being this pale for as long as I can remember.  When I look at a bikini I don’t think about the body baring aspect of it, I think that it will require way too much sunscreen and I am just not up for that job.  When you say beach I think sunburn.  When you say lounging by the pool I think they better have some damn big umbrellas.   Summer is a constant battle between me and the sun.

Every pale girl out there has at least one killer sunburn memory.  The one that required globs of Noxema cold cream, white, goopy and smelling faintly like bologna.  I have two.  The first one happened in Montauk.  Now, back in the 1970s and 80s sunscreen barely made it to SPF 15.  So I slathered on the pasty white Coppertone – “copper” tone is a total misnomer for us pale girls, nothing like lotion that made you look even whiter! – and headed to the beach with my family.  After coming out of the ocean I went for a bike ride.  Reapplying?  Not really part of the routine.  I ended up with a crimson burn on the front of both of my thighs and my forearms that felt simultaneously like fire and ice, the skin tightening against the muscle with every move, sensitive to even a breeze and leaving me unable to sleep.  My second unforgettable burn happened the summer between my Freshman and Sophomore years of high school when I was studying abroad in Spain.  Being the stupid teenager I was I decided a summer in Spain called for a bikini and though I thought I had covered every inch of myself in sunscreen I didn’t get the skin under my bikini top – and when you’re lying down “tanning” the sun has a way of finding the little nooks and crannies you forgot.  I ended up with a killer sunburn right under my breasts.  Yes, it was every bit as painful as you are imagining.

Here I am older and wiser.  I’ve lost my teenage bravura and self-denial that made me think somehow if I willed it to be so I could tan.  I tried the QT and went through my phase of being orange and slightly blotchy in the name of tanning.  Every year I listen to the beauty experts talk and read the silly women’s magazines that say the sun in unhealthy and be proud to be pale and then see them slather on fake tanner until they all look like tangerines.  Last year I had an appointment with a new dermatologist to get a full body mole and skin check.  She looked me over with that special light and told her assistant that my skin is what skin should look like.  My pasty white, never goes outside even in December without sunscreen on skin.  I almost passed out.  “Really?” I said, looking at her gorgeous dewy olive skin.  Yup, no sunspots, no damage, no funky moles, no premature wrinkling.  So, screw it, I am going to hide from the damn sun and be OK with that.  My daughters have my husband’s Mediterranean skin that actually turns bronze in the sun – seriously I think they start to glitter when their skin tans.   So I’ll be the pale mom watching my girls build in the sand and frolic in the water from underneath the shade of a big umbrella.

Here are a Few of My Favorite Pale Girl Survival Goods:

1 The EWG Sunscreen Guide is a MUST for you and your whole family.  I threw out all of our Neutrogena sunscreen after reading this guide.  Chemical free is the way to go, especially for kids. (and they have an awesome iphone app)  I like the Badger Brand (their stick is way better priced than California Baby).  Expensive, yes.  Chemical-Free, priceless.  And don’t forget to sunscreen your hands every day.  As my Derm says, your hands give away your age.

2. Big Straw Hat – No brainer.  Keeps sun off your face, keeps you cooler and looks really cute.  Here in NYC they sell them on the street and even The Gap had cute ones this year.

3Cover Ups – You know the drill, and yes, I think those little strapless ones are cute but you should cover your shoulders which are prime sunburn targets.  That’s just the Jewish mother in me.

4Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral Sunscreen Powder.  I LOVE this stuff.  It’s not waterproof so don’t use it if you’re swimming, but for running around the city, doing errands every day,  or for a sunscreen touch up at the beach or pool it’s the best.  Also good on husband’s bald spots or thinning hair.  Not that he has any.

5. Self-Tanner.  OK I do not think this stuff works for the truly pale but one of my friends swears by the Clarins self-tanner for pale girls.  If you’ve tried it let me know what you think.

6. Bronzers I am game for trying one of the bronzers that give you a superficial tan that washes off so it’s more of a when you’re going out at night with bare legs and don’t want your pasty white legs to give off more white light than the candles at your table kind of product.  I’m thinking of trying the Perfekt Body bronzer or the Lorac Tantalizer and I’ll report back if I do.

In the end though I think I’ve come to terms with my pale skin and I’ll just pretend I live in NYC in Henry James’ or Edith Wharton’s time when pale was the ideal.

Are you a super white girl with some summer survival tips?  Let me know!  I’m always looking for new ways to survive the summer sun while maintaining some sort of style.

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My Seven-Year Old Does Not Need a Bra, Thank You Very Much

My daughters hate labels.  I don’t mean they hate the “name” brands, I mean they actually hate the fabric labels inside of clothes.  They tend to itch and rub.  They also hate seams, appliqués and embroidery that can be felt on the inside.  In other words, I have to touch everything I buy for them from the inside out.  They inherited this from me no doubt since I have an aversion to all stiff and rough material and have the kind of skin that is easily irritated.  So now that my daughters have gone through yet another growth spurt I found myself heading out to replenish all the basics in their wardrobe with the simple requirement in my mind – no secret agitators allowed.

At first this directive seems simple enough: avoid the graphic laden clothing, stay away from shirring and smocking and hard sewn on images.  But while shopping in Old Navy I encountered something even more insidious, something I never expected in the little girls section – a shelf bra.  I picked up a cute little tank top and there it was, a slab of extra material with a strip of elastic across the ribcage.  All I could think was why?  Why on earth would a seven year old (or 5 or 6 year old since those had them too) need a shelf bra?

This new inclusion of a shelf bra wasn’t just confined to Old Navy.  I found the same thing at Justice clothing store.  Who are these people deciding that our little girls need something like this?  I could understand a lining on something white or pale pink that’s not made of the best fabric, but a shelf bra?  Just this week a British retailer pulled padded bikinis aimed at 7-year-old girls.  They were accused of promoting sexualization of children, but they defended the padding as saying it provided more modesty.  This of course is just ridiculous.

I don’t know if a shelf bra in a little girl’s tank top deserves the same kind of outrage as a blatantly padded bikini, but it seems to stem from the same inclination of a fashion industry that pushes tush-baring low riders and shelf bras for kindergarteners.  I thought all I had to do was look out for clothing that would rub my daughters’ skin the wrong way – instead I found clothes that rubbed me the wrong way for a whole different reason.  So, no I won’t buy the teenage clothes shrunk down to little kid size and buy into the aging up of little girls.  What’s next?  Thongs for six year-olds?  Oh yeah, they already tried that too

This post originally appeared at nycmomsblog

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The Momiform Makeover

MomMy daughters’ field trip seasons are in high gear.  Every week it seems we are trekking to another zoo, aquarium, wet land refuge or theater.  In my stay at home mom guilt-daze I feel compelled to go on each and every one of them.  Since I have twins this means that I am often piling into a school bus with my bag lunch in hand at least once a week.  And, my daughters seem to appreciate it.  They like the comfort of having me there, know that they can hit up a vending machine since I’m there with spare change, and they get to pick a partner instead of waiting to be chosen themselves.  But, last week one of my daughters upped the ante.  While I was getting dressed to go on a Lincoln Center field trip she came into my room eyed me up and down and made a face.  “Can’t you dress pretty today?” she asked.  When I stared at her in surprise she said, “You know, not fancy, but not jeans OK?”

The sad thing is I knew exactly what she meant, and she was right. They say that Einstein wore the same thing everyday so that he wouldn’t waste time thinking about such unimportant things like clothes.  As a stay at home mom I have fallen into the same rut for a similar reason – its just easier not to think about it and pull on the jeans and sweater to get everyone out the door and on with our day on time.  Now, I am happy to say that I don’t own “mom” jeans and I don’t think I’d be corralled into some mom makeover, but I have come to stop thinking about any fashion identity or style since becoming a mom.  It was a gradual decline led by the fact that having twins made me more housebound in the beginning, and then by the hours, days and years spent at the playground.  Lets face it, when your main criteria for shoes is can they get doused by sprinklers, or will my feet hurt after pushing a double stroller up and down the city streets all day, you stop looking at the 3 inch wedges and start looking for the supposedly cute “athletic-inspired” ones.  Yuck.

There is of course another side to the fashion malaise and that is good old fashioned stay at home mom guilt.  The guilt that says I’m not earning any money so how could I possibly spend it on “frivolous” clothes.  And moms are a judgmental bunch.  I’ve heard the sneering at the mom who shows up for drop off decked out like the latest Neiman Marcus catalog, or the head shaking over the mom teetering in heels at the playground.  I’m not sure when, but at a certain point a momiform has set in for the stay at home mom and, like any uniform, its pretty much defining me as my job.

Now my daughters are in first grade leaving me free to be an adult, a writer, a woman – not just a mom – for a good portion of the day.  I can no longer blame my fashion doldrums on having to be completely practical.  Now I have to refocus on me, on who I want to be and what I want my clothes to reflect.  I still have the same financial guilt over shopping for myself, but I have also come to realize that if I want to start considering myself as a serious writer once again, as a woman engaged in the world not just the playground, then I need to dress the part.  Its not a role with a clearly defined uniform, but that is what makes it more interesting and quite honestly, fun.  I’m not tossing the jeans just yet, but hopefully I’ll look forward to deciding what to wear each day and not see it as a waste of time.  And who knows, maybe Einstein would have had a richer life if he had had a striped tie in his closet after all.

This is an original nycmomsblog post.

This post was nationally syndicated by McClatchy/Tribune

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