I recently came across the website ThreeJars, where you can set up an allowance account for your children. I found the site to be both intriguing and innovative, so I thought I would crystallize and share what I found out about it with you.
The Basic Concept
ThreeJars has some pretty neat concepts and ideas behind it. Basically, what it says is that there is a certain disconnect involved with setting up an allowance for your children and then simply forking over the money so they can go off to buy whatever. This is the exact concept discussed in our recent post about how to design an effective child allowance by using the “work-reward” concept.
ThreeJars also feels that, as a parent, you are missing out on a golden opportunity to get your kids familiar with some solid money habits by not fully taking advantage of an allowance system.
I am not definitively saying that this particular system is better than every other system, and you are well within your rights to give money to your children as you see fit.
But ThreeJars does offer some unique features and benefits that could help your child on many fronts that you should at least consider.
I’ve already signed up for their free trial offer, so I’ve had a chance to dig around the site.
ThreeJars allows you to set up an online allowance account for your child. You can set it up where you “give” your child a certain amount of money each week. If you choose to offer your child a weekly allowance for just “being a kid,” then that’s a fine place to start. If you link allowance to chores in your household, ThreeJars will send you a weekly chore reminder. If your child has not completed their chores as assigned, you can make deductions to their allowance through email!
You can also set up the online allowance such that your child can volunteer for or sign up for additional projects to earn more money. This is the feature that I plan on using the most. Sure, I think my child deserves some money to have and to spend just as part of my responsibility of providing for him. But I also think that explaining to him that he has the opportunity to earn more money by actually performing work is a key to getting him started on the correct financial road. I plan on setting up an unlimited amount of projects that he can do, and will probably pay him quite handsomely for the completion of these projects.
No Credit Cards or Payments Are Involved in Paying Allowances
Real money is never actually accepted or given out by the site. It is all tracked by IOUs. So, if you thought you might have a credit card getting charged by the month for the money that you plan on giving to your children, don’t worry. It is more of a tracking type of thing where your children have an account there, and you can add “funds” or the kids can earn “money” which increases the amount of your IOU to them. Although your child gets practice managing their money, you always stay in control. Here’s what I mean: if your child wants real cash, they send a request through the site to your email address. If you approve the request, the site will automatically keep track of the running IOU total and you would give your child the cash out of your own pocket. Parents always stay in control and no more bookkeeping for parents!
The name of the site, ThreeJars, comes from an added benefit of the website. The site allows you to target where you, or your child, wants his or her little nest egg to go. The “three jars” are the Spending, Saving, and Sharing jars. When I was a child, the first and only thing I ever wanted to do with my allowance was to spend it. Sure, my parents instilled into me some saving habits, but it was tough to do on my own. With ThreeJars, you can visually explain to your child the trade-off between spending and saving, and you can also begin to explain to him the concept of sharing in a financial sense. Sure, you can instill in your child the habit of sharing his toys with other children on the playground, but what about the concept of sharing money with a charity? Or of sharing with people less fortunate than us? ThreeJars is a great way for your child to experience that concept first-hand.
ThreeJars even has a user-friendly section where you can make donations to a variety of different charities, so it makes it that much easier to explain to your child the expanded concept of sharing and giving. Also, donations made through ThreeJars are all tax deductible, which offers you another way you can positively impact your 2010 income tax return.
Other Features and Costs
The site can be accessed from all of your mobile devices, making keeping up with it a snap. They also have the ThreeJars Daily Blog, which I found to have a great deal of relevant, informative articles on a variety of topics dealing with all things financial. They offer an Allowance Calculator which give you suggestions on how much money to set your kids up with.
If you’re trying to find a way to begin teaching your child the right money habits and the basics of spending and saving, ThreeJars is the place to go. The site is completely safe and secure and it never handles any of your money other than the $30 annual fee after your free trial ends. This $30 fee covers your entire family for an unlimited number of children.
Would I Actively Use ThreeJars?
I would and have already begun exploring the site. However, I will probably not begin using it intensively at the moment. Why? There is a long running debate about when you should introduce your children to the concept of money and saving. Some parents want to start explaining all of this stuff to a kid before he or shecan even talk. I’m not sure where I fall in the discussion, but I tend to think that childhood is more about having fun than anything else. Don’t get me wrong, my son has a firm understanding of what’s right and wrong, but I think that for a boy whose just reached age 3, explaining how to save his money and how to share it may be just a little too advanced for him.
I could be wrong on this and it is just my opinion. I think the concepts and the lessons that you can give to your child from ThreeJars are fantastic; you just need to choose the right time ti introduce your child to these topics. I probably will wait until sometime after the age of four before I begin really trying to teach my son about money. I can honestly say that at that point in time, I’ll definitely be using ThreeJars as part of my arsenal to explain to him the right way and wrong way to handle money. I’ve already got a working list of projects going that he’ll be able to sign up for!
Anyone out there had any experiences with kids and teaching them about money? Feel free to share with us below.