Wrapping up our series on online allowance trackers, today’s post looks at virtual family bank, FamZoo.com.
FamZoo was started back in 2006 by Bill Dwight to help manage allowances for his five children. Friends and family soon got to hear about it and clamored to use it too, starting in 2007.
Bill and his partner, Chris Beaufort, then spent a few years refining the site based on feedback from everyone until they finally launched it to the broader world in January 2010. Bill and Chris have written all the software themselves so are really hands-on founders.
I love the personality of the site. There are fun cartoons and little slices of humor come through all over the place.
FamZoo has some great videos to show you the site in action and get you up and running quickly. Here’s one which takes you on a quick tour of the site:
Probably one of the best things about FamZoo is its flexibility. If you like the Spend-Save-Share approach to kids allowances, you can easily set this up so that the allowance is automatically split between three accounts (Spending, Savings, Charitable). If, like us, you prefer to give your kids full control of how they allocate their allowance, you can direct 100% of it into the Spending Account. The kids can then transfer money between accounts according to their plans.
You can set up additional accounts beyond Spending, Savings and Charitable. For example, maybe your teenager is saving for a new laptop. You can set up a dedicated account for this. Or for college savings or a big trip. If your child is an budding entrepreneur, you could have an account to track the money they earn from this and how they spend it.
The flexibility continues with the automatic allowance payment. You can set the allowance to be paid weekly, monthly or even yearly! And you can set the date that this all starts. So, if you want an allowance paid on a Tuesday rather than a Sunday, you can do that.
There are also flexible automatic interest payment options: you can set up interest for each account rather than being limited to just the Savings account. You could even have different levels of interest for each account depending on how you want to encourage savings in each area.
Another aspect of FamZoo’s flexibility is the way the site allows you to introduce new approaches as your child gets older. For teens, you can create an account for paying off a loan from you to your teen, they can create budgets ($x for clothing, $y for entertainment, $z for gas, etc) and learn how to manage larger amounts of money for multiple needs.
The biggest reason to use an online allowance tracker is to automatically manage your child’s money. It’s amazing how easy it is to lose track of whether you have paid the allowance. Another great FamZoo feature is the automatic debit. If your child pays you every month for their share of the cell phone plan, for example, you can set up an automatic debit.
Helping kids to set savings goals (which reinforces delayed gratification, one of the most important principals in personal finance) is something that many online allowance trackers do. Famzoo has an excellent option which shows what percentage of their goal they have saved but also the difference that interest makes as well as giving a deadline when they will reach their goal. Kids can play with different assumptions to see how they can get there faster. All valuable lessons in managing money. Here’s what M’s savings goal looks like for his Nintendo DS and game. The green part is his weekly allowance and the yellow part is the 5% interest we pay.
If you are parents that link allowance to chores, FamZoo also makes it super easy for your kids to be accountable and responsible for getting their chores done. They have a checklist feature where kids can track completion of chores. You can then link payment (or deduction!) of the allowance based on whether the chores are done.
We don’t link allowance to chores as we’re in the camp of “you’re part of the family team so you help do things around the house without payment.” But, I did realize that the checklist might help us with our daily problem of having to continually remind our first grader, M, about staying on track with his morning routine. I’ve created a checklist which he can look at each morning and update as he gets each item done. It stops us nagging and might make it fun for him. We’ll see ….
A great way for children – and let’s face it, adults – to learn about money is to understand where their money is going. FamZoo has a nicely designed Transactions page and you can include notes on what the money was spent on. You can see my frustration with The Claw was showing on one day!
A common parenting dilemma with allowances is knowing how much money your child has in their account while you are out and about. It’s handy to be able to confirm whether your child can really afford something or not. It’s even handier to be able to withdraw the money from their account while you’re still in the store and don’t have to remember to do it later. With FamZoo, you have two mobile access options: you can access your account (designed for mobile screens) through your phone’s Internet browser or, if you have an iPhone, you can download their free app. (Also available for the iPad and iPod.)
FamZoo makes its money from subscriptions. The monthly subscription is $5.95, but you can easily bring this price down by buying an annual subscription for $39.99 (or $3.33 per month) or a two year subscription for $59.99 (or $2.50 per month).
There’s a really generous free trial period. You get two months to try it out and see if it’s a good fit for you and your family before you decide to buy. FamZoo is also pretty open about encouraging you to search for coupon codes for additional discounts.
Overall, FamZoo.com is an excellent site and it meets all of our criteria for what makes a great online allowance tracker or virtual family bank. Well, except for it not being free. But that was a tad demanding of me!
In the interest of full disclosure, I should note two things. Bill was one of the first people I connected with when I started this site. He has been incredibly supportive as I’ve tentatively dipped my toes in the blogging world. We’re also kindred spirits when it comes to liking The First National Bank of Dad: A Foolproof Method for Teaching Your Kids the Value of Money and the San Jose Sharks! So, I am big fan of his.
The second thing is that, based on all my research reviewing online allowance trackers and virtual family banks, Z and I decided to sign up with FamZoo. I was not paid to write this review (or any of the other reviews), but I have now signed up to be an affiliate of FamZoo.com so I earn money when people sign up with FamZoo after reading about them here.