Several, actually. These smartphone apps are automating the allowance process to help parents and kids more closely manage this weekly ritual.
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Get started with a free financial assessment.
But how good—and necessary—are these tools? I test-drove three of the most popular ones to see for myself. Then I had my 13-year-old son do the same. See if you agree with our assessments.
What It Is: Allowance Manager is an online tool that allows parents and kids to track how much money they have in their allowance account (think: accounting ledger in kid speak). There are two versions: Basic and Pro.
What It Does: Basic is a free app that provides parents with an ongoing tally of how much money their child should have and how much is owed to him. You can set it up to automatically “deposit” the regular allowance each week. No money is actually exchanged electronically here—this is simply a tracking device. Kids then let parents know when they want to “withdraw” their money. For example, parents can break out their own debit card to pay for a child’s purchase or dish out the cash.
Allowance Manager Pro, the paid version of the app, is intended for older kids and works just like a debit card. Here, parents can set up electronic deposits into their kids’ accounts each week for their allowance, and give them a prepaid debit card to spend their earnings. Much nicer than, “Mom, can I have $20?” Or worse, “Can I borrow your credit card?”
Parents can also restrict its use at certain stores, such as video arcades, fast food restaurants or wherever else you don’t want your kids going. The card is PIN-protected, and since it’s prepaid with their allowance money, kids can’t spend more than they have.
Getting this version of Allowance Manager runs $6.75 a month (plus a $10 activation fee) or, if you want to pay annually, $69 a year.
How We Liked It: Truth be told, neither my son nor I found the basic app especially helpful. Sure, it was easy to use and provided automatic updates each week, but having one more app to manage seemed to complicate the just-hand-over-$5-every-Sunday routine.
But Allowance Manager Pro is a different story. Despite the price, this is an app that my son and I would potentially use year-round since it acts like real money versus just a tracking tool.
“I like the idea of having my own debit card,” my son said. “Then I don’t have to carry around so much money and worry about losing it all the time.” That's something that has happened in the past due to a gaping hole in his jeans pocket.
What It Is: iAllowance is a more sophisticated allowance tracking, reward and spending tool for parents and kids, and it’s free.
What It Does: With this app, allowances can be scheduled to be paid automatically every week or whenever you’d like, just like with Allowance Manager. Additional credits can also be posted automatically on special occasions, like birthdays and holidays. Not only can you add money to your child’s account, you can deduct it too. Hmmm, remember that room that never got cleaned or that cell phone they promised to pay for?
You decide if a chore gets paid when it happens or if the entire week’s worth of chores need to get done first.
It’s pretty simple to keep a tally of how much your child has received and how much he’s owed with iAllowance, but you have to input the transactions yourself.
How We Liked It: I actually liked this app better than the free version of Allowance Manager because it seemed more user-friendly and offered additional features—like the ability to track household chores. Bye, bye, refrigerator chart!
Allowances can be directly tied to your child cleaning his room, taking the dog for a walk each day or mowing the lawn. You decide if a chore gets paid when it happens, or if the entire week’s worth of chores needs to get done first. “This is an easier reminder of what I have to do, and I like the chalkboard design,” my son said about the way this app was laid out.
'This is an easier reminder of what I have to do, and I like the chalkboard design,' my son said.
The other thing I really liked is its ability to set up different “bank” accounts. With each week’s allowance, you and your child decide what portion of the money should go to spending, savings or charity—a good way to teach financial management and philanthropy. Now remember, this is still just a tracking device, so no real money is ever exchanged—it simply serves as a reminder of how much they have and how much is owed.
If you don't want to use money as rewards, you can use stars—something my 13-year-old was not excited about, but a younger kid might be. You can also get an email summary of the amounts received and spent, like a bank statement, although that seems a little like overkill to me.
What It Is: The third allowance app I tested was Tykoon, which is free and aimed at younger kids, ages 8 to 12. It’s another ledger-type app that allows parents to make virtual deposits into their child’s savings, spending or giving accounts. Like iAllowance, you can track chores and tie allowances to them by using Tykoon's pull-down menu and clicking on “set the table” or “wash dishes.” You can also apply noncash awards that can be redeemed for things like TV time, computer time or video time when chores are completed.
What It Does: What is different here is the ability for kids to cash out online. Tykoon has its own Amazon.com store where kids can spend their allowance (via a direct debit to Mom or Dad’s checking account). They can also take money from their “Give” account and choose one of the charities through Network for Good. Tykoon then subtracts the money from the account using the app. This was actually my favorite feature because it allowed kids to choose their purchases and charities and then electronically move their allowance money.
How We Liked It: The big downside here was the limited choices of products and charities. My son didn’t find the Lego set he wanted or the local nonprofit he likes to donate to. “It doesn’t really feel like I have any money with this,” my son said after he realized that he wouldn’t get any cash. “Plus, I think I’d rather go to the mall and pick out my own toys because I like to look at them first.”
The Bottom Line
Overall, if you’re a techie and enjoy having as many things as possible automated, then any of these apps could be a convenient financial tool for you and your family. Of the free apps, I liked iAllowance the best because its interface was the easiest to use. But my favorite was the Allowance Manager Pro, even though it is the most expensive.
Sure, the paid app costs $69 a year, and that would increase the money I spend on my son's allowance by nearly 13% annually. (I give my son $10 in allowance each week.) So that is an expense I will have to consider.
However, as a parent, I am concerned that these apps won’t give our kids the experience of working with “real” money or the chance to interact with a real bank and even earn interest.
But my biggest concern is that these apps feel like more work for me.
Instead of forking over a $5 bill every Sunday (when I have one in my wallet), I now have to track my child’s earnings and spending on my iPhone and dole out the money when he wants to buy something—as opposed to him emptying his piggy bank and bringing its contents to the toy store himself.
There is something uniquely satisfying about handing over a wad of bills to the cashier, counting to make sure you have enough, and knowing that it’s your hard-earned money you’re using to buy that latest gadget. To me, this teaches real life money lessons. Maybe in today’s digital age, all of that is changing, but I'll keep handing out an analog allowance to my son.