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Homeschool Crew Review: Family Mint

 

 

 

Now here’s a product, Family Mint, that falls directly into the ‘whatever will they think of next’ category.  How does a computer banking system for your kids sound?  With you fully in control, as banker, approver, and encourager?  And all this for free!  Can things get better than that?  Yes, they can!  We discovered that Family Mint can even be used as a powerful learning tool.   

 

This free, online program is a ‘parent-bank’ system to help you teach your kids to manage their money and have fun doing it.  It works very simply:

 

Instead of using the local bank, with Family Mint parents are the bank.  Children manage their own money and enter their own transactions, like at a real bank.  They set financial goals, decide when they want to reach them, and whether they want to save monthly (or weekly).  Then the program tells them how much they will need to deposit each month (or week), and will show them a bar graph for each goal, saying how far they have come in achieving their goals. Children can log into their own accounts to withdraw money, but a transaction is not finalized until mom or dad approves it. 

 

Mom and dad have another role to play as well.  They can motivate their children to save by paying interest, at whatever rate they choose.  They can automate allowance deposits, or put in matching funds for a child’s goal.  They can also lock a certain goal account, so that a child cannot remove money from it.  This is especially important if, for example, Mom and Dad match contributions to a college account and Junior changes his mind and wants to spend that money on roller blades or whatever.

 

You can use Family Mint for a child’s real money, which is especially useful if your children have regular allowances or constantly beg or borrow from you.  Or, if you just want to use it to teach a child about money, you can set it up as a game with imaginary money.  We used it both ways.

 

For more information about the program, including screen shots, you can see the list of features.   If you are concerned about privacy and security, visit the help page.  

 

 

How We Used It, for Real and for Fun

After watching the introductory videos, I was able to set up accounts for the children very easily, and the children had no difficulty beginning to play with the program.  They loved personalizing pictures for their accounts. 

 

Our children have savings accounts at the real bank, so we entered that amount in ‘general savings’ in Family Mint.  The little ones also have piggy banks, so we called that account ‘piggy bank’.  Our Little Misses have almost no income except for the tooth fairy and birthday money, and when asked about financial goals, Miss 7 said she wanted to buy a pair of sunglasses from the dollar store.  Smile.  I’m not about to encourage an obsession with money or stuff by getting them to set goals for other purchases.  So every time they make a bit of money, they can enter it in their account, and if they want to buy something, they can withdraw it from the piggy bank account as well as from their piggy bank itself.  We also took them to their real bank to deposit some of their piggy bank money—patient teller, counting out so many pennies!—and  transferred the money in their  Family Mint account from their ‘piggy bank’ account to their ‘general savings’ account.   The Little Misses have fun with this and are starting to understand what it is all about.

 

The older children already have their own systems going and are not too keen on trying this.  Miss 17 did give it a good whirl, setting up as a parent with imaginary children, and she had a blast.  That was not the real purpose of the program, obviously, but still it gave her a chance to think about goals, savings, and more.   She has set up her own personal book keeping program in Excel and is happy with that, adjusting it as she learns more accounting.

 

Miss 12 and Mr 14 have shown no real interest in their accounts, but Family Mint is a good fit for their egg business.  For the chicken account, of course, the focus is on tracking expenditures and income, not on achieving goals.

 

I gave myself an account, too, and played around with it for a while, setting up goals.  Pipe-dreams, actually.  But isn’t there an old saying that if you write goals down you’ll be more likely to make them happen?  One can only hope.  Smile.

 

Family Mint is very adaptable.  You can use it as intended, to teach your children about money.  Or you can use it as a learning tool in a completely different way. 

 

That is what Miss 9 did, after watching Disney’s Robin Hood for the first time in her life.  We set up an account for Robin Hood, and used the goal categories as people.  So there was one category for Robin Hood, one for the sheriff, one for the poor, and one for Prince John.  Step by step she went through the story.  For example, she transferred money from Prince John to Robin Hood after the carriage scene (transaction description: stealing from the rich to feed the poor), and from the poor to the sheriff (transaction description: collecting taxes), and she even let the poor lay up a bit of money (transaction description:  scrimping and saving).  At the end Prince John had nothing, and the poor had it all.  Yippee!  Miss 9 wants to make a category for King Richard as well, so that he can have some money and the story can continue.  I’m wondering what King Richard will do with his money, and if Robin Hood will have anything more to do. 

 

This application of the program is really exciting me.  Suddenly there are so many options!  For example, I think Family Mint would be a great tool for my teens to analyse the next Canadian budget.   As the old saying goes, “Money makes the world go round,” and many current and historical events lend themselves to in-depth financial analysis.  Family Mint can easily be tweaked for this purpose.

 

My Opinions

I really like the fact that the company philosophy is based on timeless principles.  The core of the program is the importance of setting and managing goals.  After all, “A goal without a plan is just a wish!”  That’s not only true for kids; we moms need an occasional reminder as well.  Sigh!  The foundation of the program is another age-old truth especially for us parents:  “It’s my job to educate my children.”  In the area of finances, this is true for all parents, whether they homeschool or ‘school-school,’ because schools do a notoriously poor job teaching children how to manage money. 

 

Family Mint is super-easy to use, both for its intended purpose and for general learning, and it’s obviously also very flexible.  This is a very visual program, and I encourage you to check out the website, sign up, and watch the introductory videos.  Remember that the current version is free.  Plans are underway for a more elaborate, paid program to be available in the near future, but the free version will remain.   

 

I think Family Mint is great.  To see what other parents are saying, please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog.   

 

Family Mint is available for free.  

 

Policies

Disclosure Policy:   As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received the same free version of Family Mint that you can sign up for.

 

Dial-Up Friendly Policy:  For the sake of my dial-up readers, this blog avoids visuals. 

 

 For more great ideas, visit Tuesday’s Toolbox, Tightwad Tuesday, and Works for Me Wednesday.

 

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7 Comments

  1. Midwest Mama says:

    I especially like the Robin Hood activity.:-) Thank you for linking it to Tuesday's Toolbox.

    http://homeschoolheartandmind.blogspot.com

  2. proverbsmama says:

    Very interesting! I'll have to send the link to dd and let her look it over. I'll bet she will be interested in it.

  3. AnnieKate says:

    Yes, we had a lot of fun with that Robin Hood activity!

    And I'm sure your dd will enjoy this program; she's so organized it should suit her.

    Annie Kate

    Edited by AnnieKate on Mar. 2, 2010 at 3:19 PM

  4. IllinoisLoriH says:

    Very, very cool! This is one important skill to teach our kids, I'll tell you what! Nicely done, dear!

    Blessings,

    Lori at Plans4You

  5. jenn4him says:

    Thank you, that seems like a great site and free is for me!

    Jenn

  6. Anonymous says:

    I love the way you used it to analyze Robin Hood. How Fun!

    Debbie L (crew)

  7. Anonymous says:

    Seems like a really neat program! Thanks for the review.

    Melissa

    http://coffeewithme.com

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