My wife and I are mostly cash-free: We do all our shopping and dining on a rewards credit card, often using Apple Pay to avoid even pulling out the card. All but a couple of our bills are paid automatically through our bank or the vendor’s website. As a result, I carry very little cash.
Until recently, though, there was a glaring exception to our cash-free lifestyle: the kids’ allowances. Our two daughters each earn $1 per week for their age, but we keep 30 percent of that and put it in their savings accounts. We also round things off to make it easier, so the twelve-year-old gets $8 and $4 goes into savings; the nine-year-old gets $6 and $3 goes to savings.
Every week, we’d need to scrounge up $14 to pay their allowances—four ones and two fives, in order to pay each one properly. Some weeks we’d forget to go to the bank and we’d have to double-pay the next weekend. Sometimes we didn’t have the right change. In short, it was a big hassle. If they wanted to buy something, that too was a big hassle, as they’d have to remember to take the cash with them before we left home, or we’d have to remember to collect it when we returned. And, of course, it would never be the correct change, so that led to more scrambling.
There had to be a better way, so I turned to the iOS App Store in search of an allowance management solution—I wanted to get my kids off cash and have my wife and I act more like their bank. We’d make the purchases using our credit card or cash, and then we’d remove the amount they spent from their allowance balance.
I wanted an allowance manager that would let the kids see their balances on their own iOS devices. I also wanted both my wife and I to be able to manage their accounts, adding and removing funds. I wanted to include chores, and I didn’t want to have to worry about forgetting to pay their allowances in a given week.
Note that this was a personal project, not a Macworld-sponsored shootout, so I don’t have a large list of apps I tested. I basically downloaded a bunch of free ones, paid for a couple of cheap ones, and then tested them all. While many were good, I only found one app that met all my criteria and was easy for everyone to use: Allowance & Chores Bot, which sells for $3, but has a free lite version so you can try before you buy.
Allowance Bot may not be the prettiest app out there, but it works and works well. Parents create accounts for their children and set a lock code. Without the lock code, kids can only view the information; enter the lock code and you have full access to add and remove funds, etc. Each child gets an avatar, either from a provided set of cartoonish figures (which my kids loved and chose) or via the camera or photo library. Each child can have their own chores and allowance amount, of course.
The childrens’ balances and chore status are visible from the home screen; tapping a child’s name takes you to a details screen, where you can see a graph of their balance over time (and notes associated with spending) and chores to be done.
You can also enter allowances or spending, as well as rewards and punishments, which add or remove funds. Changes made to one device sync quickly to all the devices, so the kids never have to worry about being out of sync with the master database.
The settings screen lets you define how often allowances are paid, whether that payment is automatic or manual, and some options for how accounts and currencies are displayed.
There’s also a per-device settings page, where you can enable and disable reminders, and set which children are visible on a given device—so we set up each kid’s iOS device so they can only see their own allowance info. This makes for a simpler interface for each kid, and helps reduce the “but she has more money than I do!” discussions.
The learning curve for our kids was basically zero; they ‘got it’ as soon as we showed them the app. (The toughest part was getting them to give up their cash hoards in exchange for a number on a phone.) Now when they see something they want (and that we approve of), we buy it, and deduct that amount from their balance. We also enter a note, so they can remember what they spent the money on when they see it in the graph.
No longer do I fear allowance weekends and we are closer than ever to being cash free. The kids love the spending flexibility Allowance & Chores Bot provides and we love not having to deal with actual currency. At only $3, we’ve found Allowance & Chores Bot to be well worth the cost.