Review: FamZoo – Flexible Enough For Every Family

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.

Phew! This series of reviews was a lot of work, but totally worth it. You can also read reviews of Moneytrail, FamilyMint, ThreeJars and Zefty for additional information.

16 Responses to Review: FamZoo – Flexible Enough For Every Family

  1. Suzanne,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to conduct such a thorough review of the top allowance tracking / virtual family bank sites. I’m pretty sure it’s the first of its kind – i.e., one in which the reviewer seriously test drove and compared each one.

    I hope your review will convince more families to set up their own virtual family banks – whether using FamZoo, one of the other excellent online tools you reviewed (sincere kudos to all you founders – I know how much work it is), a spreadsheet (that’s how I started out), or just a ledger on paper. Either way, setting up a virtual family bank is a really terrific, systematic way to teach your kids the personal finance skills they’ll need to thrive in the real world.

    If anyone has questions about FamZoo, please don’t hesitate to contact us (just click on the Contact Us link at the top of our site). We’re always happy to help.

    Regards,
    Bill Dwight
    Founder & Chief Dad, FamZoo.com

    P.S. Did you have to mention the Sharks?! Still smarting from the loss to those darn Canucks…

  2. Kellyology says:

    Really great review. Makes me think that our manual version of things could be greatly improved. Will have to check it out. Thanks!

  3. Candace says:

    You’ve done the footwork for me and I appreciate it so much, Suzanne! Your reviews are thorough and unbiased and I am so thankful I don’t have to begin at square one. I’m giving FamZoo a go…

    :) – Candace

  4. […] Keeping track of the allowances on FamZoo is a cinch.  The boys love being able to get an update on their financial situation when we’re out and they see something they want to buy (we just check via the iPhone app).  Z loves being able to track all their spending and saving so effortlessly.  And I love the fact that the allowance is paid automatically so it’s one less thing for us to think about each week. […]

  5. […] I couldn’t quite figure out the matching funds. I clicked the box for automatic matching funds of $1 towards whatever T saved and it shows up in the Recent Activities box but I’m not sure when it gets applied.  When he receives his allowance?  If that’s the case, then he’s not really saved anything. As bankaroo is missing a specific balance for savings – it’s all just one general account – it’s hard to tell what he is saving. Key items that are missing for our family, though, are the ability for kids to divide their allowance into spending, savings, charity and other accounts like saving for college and the ability for parents to pay interest automatically on some or all of these accounts. Kudos to Danielle for coming up with an idea for a business and spending time and effort into designing it. Even more praise and admiration for her parents for turning this into a family project and helping her get this off the ground. For our needs, however, bankaroo doesn’t meet our checklist. We’ll continue to stick with FamZoo. […]

  6. MJS says:

    Thanks for the reviews – this was really helpful in sorting out the options!

  7. Anne says:

    Do you happen to know if all the allowance trackers you reviewed work on Mac? I just tried the Three Jars one, and can’t seem to figure out how the kids mark off completed chores. I’m wondering if it’s a compatibility issue.

  8. Barb says:

    Does famzoo have an iPad app? I didn’t see one when I searched the App Store. Any idea if one is in the works?

  9. Chris says:

    Does the itunes app allow separate access for different kids? I can foresee some “discussions” about who has more in their account if my two kids can both see each other’s accounts.
    Appreciate the work you did to review the different options and agree with your philos0phy about not paying for completing chores…

  10. Alyse says:

    Suzanne,
    I got all the way through your very helpful reviews and based on your recommendation was seconds from trying out Fam Zoo when i read your final disclosure. You simply cannot accept money for referring people to a product and try to claim that the review and your choice of that product is completely neutral. Like or not, you are a journalist and you should feel bound by journalistic integrity. I hope you don’t teach your own kids that your way of doing things is okay- it is a slippery ethical slope and it is rampant in the modern blogosphere.
    I’m disappointed and hope that you will consider changing your practices. At the very least you should disclose this UP FRONT at the BEIGINNING of your first post where you say you settled on FamZoo. I would not have wasted my time to continue reading.
    Alyse

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Alyse,

      Thanks for your comment. I try very hard to be as transparent as possible with readers (approving your comment is part of this transparency) so I’m sorry that you are disappointed that I’m an affiliate of FamZoo. I don’t get paid to write the blog posts here and there are costs involved with operating a blog. This is a way to cover those costs and still provide people with information. I do make it clear before giving the link that it is an affiliate link.

      I’m glad you found the information helpful. I’ve been a happy customer of FamZoo for a few years now (I pay for my subscription like everyone else) which is why I’m confident that it’s a good recommendation for people.

      Suzanne

  11. Anne says:

    I can’t thank you enough for your effort. excited to try out this app.

  12. Pamela says:

    We came across FamZoo on an internet search and fully researched their website before deciding to give it a try. Just before signing up, I did a quick search on “FamZoo Reviews” and found your review. Well written.

    Being 2014 now, there is a great feature of FamZoo that now exists called prepaid account cards. That’s what I was looking for and it looks like FamZoo ties them in perfectly with the online allowance plan.

    And I’m happy to use your affiliate link to sign up. :-)

    • Suzanne says:

      Thanks Pamela! I’m glad you found it helpful. Yes, looks like it’s time for an updated review now that FamZoo has prepaid account cards.

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