Remember those giant, plastic piggy banks? They stood about two feet tall, had a slit in the top, and there was no way to get the money out without cutting into the flimsy plastic. Mine was blue and shaped like a little girl. It was agonizing to watch her sitting there, only a few coins scattered on the bottom of her dress. As the weeks went on, she got heavier and heavier.
I begged and pleaded with my parents to let me get my money out when I "needed" a new toy, piece of candy, or other childhood essential. I dreamed of the day when she would be full, right up to the top of her head. The wait was almost unbearable.
Fast forward 30 or so years, and it's still agonizing to sit and watch your savings accumulate at a slow rate. Americans have a tough time saving money. Perhaps it's because so many of us have little disposable income to begin with, or perhaps we are caught up in lifestyles which encourage us to spend, spend, spend.
Recent economic research shows that savings rates in America are actually rising. This has economists speculating as to the reasons for this rise in the hoarding of cash. Some believe mindsets might be shifting a bit toward more thrifty attitudes. Others feel perhaps the rise in savings rates isn't quite as it seems, with decreases in payroll taxes, and the willingness to sell assets instead of take out loans factoring into the equation.
Apps Make Saving Easy
Whatever the reasons, online apps make saving the easiest it has ever been. SmartyPig is one of those apps that help consumers save toward specific goals. It's a lot like those giant piggy banks, without the plastic. SmartyPig is free. It allows you to easily set up an account for any savings goal, whether it is a down payment on a new home, a car, a vacation or a new flat screen TV.
Set your account up to automatically withdraw a predetermined amount from any account, and SmartyPig starts saving. It offers a competitive interest rate, as well as other cash back rewards or discounts from popular retailers.
No More Plastic Piggy Bank
With SmartyPig, consumers can also broadcast their savings accomplishments on social networking sites. Others can even donate to your cause, which reminds me a lot of grandma and grandpa contributing a few bucks to my plastic girl on a regular basis. Ultimately, you can reach savings goals faster, and get the most for your money. Your plastic piggy bank just can't compete with SmartyPig.
It also lets you load up a card with spending money for junior, which he can access by using it like an ATM card. He can make PIN based transactions anywhere bank cards are accepted as a form of payment.
The Down Side
The toughest issue with SmartyPig is that you can't open a custodial account the way you can at a traditional brick and mortar bank. Parents looking for a way to control their kids' finances without being overly obtrusive won't get that from SmartPig. You cannot give your child any amount of control over the account unless you hand over full control. If SmartPig could let you give your kids control of the account, but require you to authorize transactions before they went through, it would be a perfect system. For now, it's a handy savings tool that gets everyone involved in helping you and your child save.
Jessica Bosari is a freelance writer and blogger for various publications and her own blog. You can read more of Jessica's work here. If you have any comments or questions about SavingTools or about saving money, leave your comments in the form below or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!