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7 Apps to Teach Your Kids Personal Finance Skills

Via US News : Help your children understand valuable savings and budgeting lessons using a smartphone.

Before the age of smartphones and online gaming, teaching kids how to save came in the form of a piggy bank sitting in their bedroom. Now, that age-old piggy bank is moving to the digital world, powered by apps.

Mia Wenjen, the blogger behind Pragmatic Mom, says the current financial climate, with the Great Recession still fresh on our minds and students dealing with high debt loads, makes it more important than ever to teach children how to save and budget. “You sort of realize you have to teach it at a very young age,” Wenjen says. She recommends parents begin teaching children about finance around 5 or 6 years old, or at least when the child can start noticing money and asking about it.

However, studies show that parents feel awkward when it comes to talking to their children about money. Although the best way for children to learn finance skills is to handle real money, says Nancy Phillips, author and financial blogger of Zela Wela Kids, apps provide opportunities for parents to start discussions with their kids about saving and budgeting.

“Apps play an important role in that … they’re getting the parents to open up this topic in the home,” Philips says.

Below, personal finance experts recommend apps that help children learn smart money skills, which will put less stress on mom and dad’s wallet.

1. Savings Spree

Developed by financial education company Money Savvy Generation, Savings Spree teaches children important finance skills. The app includes six games that allow players to earn money and either save it or spend it in a virtual piggy bank, with the goal of building a nest egg.

“Savings spree is very visual,” says Susan Beacham, founder and CEO of Money Savvy Generation. “It’s an interactive app that actually allows the kids to frost the cupcakes, so they can see there is an action required to earn the money.” By making decisions on how to save, spend and invest their money, children learn the consequences of each money decision.

Cost: $5.99. Available on iOS devices.

Recommended ages: 7 and up

2. PiggyBot

This app takes the clay piggy-bank experience and moves it into a digital medium. According to Christine Elgersma, a senior editor of apps and digital learning at Common Sense Media, PiggyBot gives children a direct role in managing their allowances and helps them visualize how much money mom and dad give them.

A simple, visual piggy bank is ideal for children, Wenjen says, since they can see exactly how much of their budget they earn and spend. “For kids, hands on is better, because money is already an abstract concept for them,” she adds.

Cost: Free. Available on iOS devices.

Recommended ages: 6 to 8

3. Green$treets: Unleash the Loot!

This game allows children to rescue their favorite endangered animal while learning financial literacy along the way. Using a budget, players can buy an animal food, shelter and toys to play with before the animal is released back into the wild.

Neale Godfrey, CEO and president of Green$treet Commons, says the game helps children form a relationship with the animal, which gives them an incentive to budget wisely and reach their goal. “They are emotionally engaging with this …” Godfrey says. “We have longer game play [time] than most apps.”

Cost: Free. Available on iOS and Android devices.

Recommended ages: 5 to 8

4. Renegade Buggies

Renegade buggies is a fast-paced shopping game that challenges children to save as much money as they can. As kids complete stages within the game, they accumulate “buggie bucks” that they can use to make saving and investment decisions.

Philips recommends the​ app, explaining it was developed by the National Center for Families Learning to encourage money discussions between parents and children. “And it’s a race, so it’s fun,” she adds.

Cost: Free. Available on iOS and Android devices.

Recommended ages​: 6 to 11

5. FamZoo

Using prepaid credit cards, this app allows parents to create ​bank accounts that record their child’s saving, spending and giving habits. FamZoo tracks​ allowances, money earned through chores, purchases, loans given to children and more.

Dan Herbert, director of professional development at the Jump$tart Coalition, a nonprofit focused on teaching young people personal finance skills, recommends the game.​ He says ​the app gives parents a direct role in teaching kids frugality and responsible budgeting.

Cost: Free. Available on iOS and Android devices.

Recommended ages: 13 and older. Parents may track purchases for children under 13.

6. Motion Math: Cupcake!

With this app, children can act as business owners and make important decisions to keep their customers satisfied.

Players create cupcakes using ingredients they buy and then set a price for the treats. “Even though it’s pretend money, you start to understand that if you blow all your money on sprinkles for your cupcakes, you won’t have enough to meet all the customers’ needs and you lose money in the end,” says Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children’s Technology Review​. Children are also responsible for delivering orders and managing costs and revenue.

Cost: $4.99. Available on iOS devices.

Recommended ages: 8 and up

7. Celebrity Calamity

This app​ allows children to act as financial consultants for spendthrift, out-of-control celebrities. The goal is to manage the celebrity’s budget to keep him or her from overrunning expenses, while also making sure the celebrity remains happy.

Timothy Flacke, executive director of the Doorways to Dreams Fund​, a financial literacy-focused nonprofit ​that has sponsored competitions for developing financial mobile apps, says the game allows children to see the consequences of celebrities’ saving and spending decisions.

“Instead of just saying, ‘You know, be really thoughtful on what you put on your credit card,’ it’s a lived experience, like, ‘Ugh, when I bought the sixth iPod, that put me over the edge, and I couldn’t make the payments on my card, and that led to all these consequences,’” Flacke says.

Cost: Free. Available on iOS devices.

Recommended ages: ​6 and up

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