For as long as we’ve been having two-way conversations with our children, my wife and I have been very forthright with them both about most things in life, money included. Whether it is donating it, saving it, spending it extravagantly, or spending it to put food on the table and keep the lights from flickering, my kids are leveled with when it comes to the family’s finances, and also the fiscal difficulties of others. We want to help whenever we can, and we want our kids to know, from a very young age, that it is important to help others in need if you’ve got even the slimmest of means to do so. The result of this frank discourse, when added to an intentional lack of commercial television programs on their eyes and brains, are children who never whine for material things and who are super generous with their own money. I’ve written about this kind of thing before here, here, and here.
It probably goes without saying that my girls aren’t big shoppers. They frequently turn down things we offer them, like t-shirts of their favorite bands when we go to kindie concerts, and we can stroll through stores for fun and to look at things without any fear of a greedy meltdown. And aside from the Bear going through a funny spell where she’d talk about ‘online shopping’ when she was 4 or so, neither of my young daughters has ever expressed a wish to log on to any site with the intention of buying something, for themselves or for someone else. That will eventually change, and when it does, it’ll be nice to know that a service like Virtual Piggy exists.
What is Virtual Piggy? Well, it is simple really, so simple I cannot believe something like it hasn’t already been in place. Virtual Piggy is a safe online way for children to save, spend, and give. It is a website and a service that gives children some financial independence, and parents a clever 21st-century way to teach real life lessons in personal finance. Here’s how it works:
Setting up a Virtual Piggy is beyond easy, which is important because no one needs a single additional complication in their life. I set up a parent account with a child sub-account for the Bear with a $10 monthly spending limit in less than 5 minutes. I chose not to do so for the 5-year-old Mouse, but you can certainly have multiple child accounts under your one parent account. The Bear’s account is tied to my Paypal and only valid between now and the end of the year, because you can set authorization amounts and time limits with an end date for authorized purchases. This is great for allowing your kids some freedom in buying holidays gifts for their friends and family with some level of secrecy (crucial for gift giving, of course) but with constraints on how much in total, and how much per month. Another neat feature, for those who use the internet but are never 100% comfortable with online security: your child’s name — it doesn’t need to be used at all. I used Bear, her nickname, and that is all. Virtual Piggy and the online merchants associated with the site do not know her name and will not know it even when she makes a purchase. This is a very nice touch, if you are concerned about such things. Also clever, being able to turn on and off individual merchants, giving you the parent full control over where your child can spend their Virtual Piggy allowance. You can even require your own approval for each purchase, or just some of them.
Here’s what it looks like inside the Virtual Piggy system — a very clean platform with easy to understand menus:
Once you sign up for a Parent Account and set up a Child Profile, you and your financially independent kiddo can create their wishlist from the available merchants and products and enter Virtual Piggy’s Win Your Wishlist promotion that runs through 12/7. Also available are special discount offers only for VP users, like 20% off K’Nex toys! And free Fatheads! Woot!
Nothing is perfect and Virtual Piggy still has a ways to go to be a prime online destination for families and kids looking to manage their money and make purchases online. For one thing, the special offers and coupon codes that go along with them are only displayed in the parent’s account and I cannot figure out how to share them with my child, in her account, which is where you’d think they’d be located since the idea here is that the youngsters are making the purchasing decisions themselves. Also, the merchant list itself is not terribly exciting. Yes, K’Nex is cool and some of the unknown-to-me clothing and accessories companies linked up with Virtual Piggy have some nice merchandise, but it is hard for me to see kids getting pumped up for this level of independence without more of the brands and merchants they already support, wear, and play with. They may end up buying stuff just to buy it, because it is all that is there, and that isn’t a good thing for them or for you. (note: Barnes & Noble, Aeropostale, Regal Movies, and more are options for gift card purchases using Virtual Piggy…a step in the right direction!)
But, but! The idea of Virtual Piggy is a fantastic one for teaching kids the life skills of financial independence, planning, saving, budgeting, and empowering them with decision making power. Where we once could only lecture, we can now show in a lab setting the real life application of online shopping, and saving, and donating with real money. Our kids, and us, will be better off for having this kind of safe & secure financial experience.
Once more online retailers come on board in offering a Virtual Piggy option at checkout, then this unique service will take off and we parents will have another tool at our disposal to impart knowledge, wisdom, and online coupon codes — you know, the essentials!
*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post from Splash Creative Media on behalf of Virtual Piggy and I received compensation to try Virtual Piggy. All opinions expressed above are honest and unbiased, as always.