We started trying something about a year or two ago with our kids. Like many kids they had something like a piggy bank. But this is a system rife with problems. For example, sometimes they would find money – loose change (probably mine…) , or get a dollar for an odd job , or from a birthday card, or for a lost tooth. And it was hard to keep track of. Maybe if you only have one kid some of theses problems don’t arise, but that is not our scenario. One kid left his money out and another kid just took it, because of course they would. Or someone wanted to spend some of their money while we were at the store, but surprise surprise, they lacked all foresight and didn’t have the money with them.
So we decided to try something different, and it has worked out so well it felt worth sharing.
Use Google Sheets with a different sheet (sheet meaning the tab at the bottom thing, not a whole separate file) for each child as a simple ledger system. An entry for each debit or deposit with a small note. This has an advantage of keeping things in sync, the Sheets app works on my and my wife’s phones and computers without installing anything extra or signing up for a new account. One of us has the document in our drive and we can share it with the other – if / when kids get a phone or google account we could share it in read only mode with them too I suppose, but by that time it might not be something we as parents would really need to manage.
We tend to have our phones with us, so adding some money for a quick chore is easy. Checking if they have enough for some item they spotted while at the store? No problem! Buying online? same. Deduct it right at the point of purchase, no need to have them hand you a bunch of loose change you will subsequently loose into the cushions of the couch for them to recover later. As a kid I never even had the thought of buying stuff online with money from my piggy bank, but my kids know that plush toy they want can be found on eBay or whatever.
This system also has the advantage of leaving a audit trail. “What did you spend this money on?” “Where did it all go?”, “Where did it come from?”, were questions we used to have to ask with no hope for answers. No more! And, ya know, have as much fun as you want with excel reports I suppose, but even just glancing at the list provides some insight.
At a meta level it also works a lot more like how bank accounts and credit cards work in real life. Today my wife and I use cash sometimes, but not most of the time, and the kids seems to understand this ledger system very intuitively because they see us using that all the time. Feels like good prep for how credit and banking systems will work for them down the road. Even if bitcoin takes over or whatever – It’s just a ledger basically.
Here is a link to a template sheet with some examples. Should be easy to copy this and run with it. Google sheet kid bank example