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How to Help Your Kids Visualize Spending Decisions

Visualizing Spending Impact with a Balance ChartHow do you encourage your kids to be less impulsive and more thoughtful when it comes to spending decisions? Recent FamZoo dad, Mike R., has a wonderful, visual approach that he uses with his youngsters. Here’s how he described it to me in an email exchange last week:

From: Mike R.

I’d like to make a small feature request and hope this is the right place. We’re fairly new to FamZoo and it is working well for us, but I’ve found that it really helps my kids visualize the impact of their spending by seeing a line graph of their balance. I find myself copying the transactions into excel and creating a line graph so they can see their balance go up/down and relate it to their decisions. If you could add something like this to FamZoo, it would be appreciated.

Thanks, Mike

At first, I thought Mike might have just missed the Balance History page in FamZoo which shows a plot of your child’s monthly closing balance over time. So, I responded with:

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From: Bill D.

Mike,

First, thanks so much for using FamZoo with your family. We’re delighted to hear it’s working well for your kids.

Thanks also for taking the time to describe your feature request. I just wanted to check to make sure you’re aware of the Balance History page that shows a bar chart of the closing balance for each month. Here’s a screenshot:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/famzoo/4661379261/in/set-72157624184830688

If you are, and it isn’t filling the need, can you tell me a little more about the line chart you’re creating? Do you compute a closing balance for a certain interval - like a day - or do you just have a point for each transaction and not worry about evenly spacing things in time? I’d love to see a screen shot if you’re comfortable sharing.

Many thanks for your feedback!

Regards,
Bill

Mike was kind enough to include a nice screenshot along with a thoughtful, eloquent description of why his approach is so much more compelling than our summary chart for youngsters:

From: Mike R.

Bill,

Thanks for the quick response. I have seen the bar chart and maybe it’s because my kids are pretty young, but the bar chart is hard for them to grasp — “X transactions combined over the last month to result in Y.” The feedback/correlation just isn’t there for them.

I attached an example of what I make for them. The conversation is generally: “you had $15 but you chose to buy that book at the book fair so you went all the way down to $1. Then you started saving your allowances until you decided to purchase X.” Etc, etc. They see how their individual decisions directly impact their bottom line. Something like this for the last X (10?) transactions would be wonderful.

Mike

Visualizing Spending Impact with a Balance Chart

Awesome. I absolutely love Mike’s approach! I can clearly see how it is more tangible for the kids, and how it facilitates a more meaningful discussion. There are also lots of neat ways we can enhance Mike’s approach when we build it directly into FamZoo. Just a few quick ideas that come to mind:

  • Color code the plotted points for each transaction — red for debits and green for credits.
  • Show the detail of the transaction — description, amount — when you fly over it with the mouse.
  • Jump to the appropriate transaction in the Transactions page when you click on a plotted point.
  • Perhaps make the size of the plotted point proportional to the amount of the credit or debit to make it easier to discern relative amounts.
  • Allow the user to easily adjust the date range interactively using the same pagination controls we use on our Transactions page.

We can’t wait to get started!

How about you? Do you have a clever suggestion for how we can improve the way we help parents teach kids good money habits? If so, please leave a comment below or contact us anytime.

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