Responsible (and safe) holiday shopping for kids with Virtual Piggy

During the holiday season, when everyone seems to be spending with abandon, it can be challenging for parents to teach kids about responsible financial behavior, especially when the urge to spend -- on presents, decor, lavish parties, rich food -- is so tempting for us as well.  You want to buy everything for your child, but you don't want to give in to (or show your child that you condone) unrestrained spending or being overly materialistic.  You want to teach your child financial responsibility but you're reluctant to give them too much financial freedom.

Enter Virtual Piggy, a new service that can help parents give kids a safe, easy way to save, spend and give online.   It's perfect for today's ecommerce world; parents do so much of their shopping and spending online, so why should kids be any different?  And why shouldn't their allowances be managed online as well?

With Virtual Piggy, parents can create a parent account and set up preferred shipping and payment methods (credit cards or even PayPal).  Kids don't have access to any payment information, and nothing is charged or deducted unless your child actually makes a purchase.

After parents create a parent account, they establish accounts for each child.  They can specify controls for each child's account:  allowance amounts, spending limits, monthly saving accounts, approved merchants, parental notifications.  You control how much money your child can spend, when and where he spends it.

Kids can use the balance in their Virtual Piggy accounts to shop at online sites with a special Virtual Piggy payment button.  Over 80 online sites have signed up, and Virtual Piggy is working hard to get the Virtual Piggy payment button up and running on all of them (head to Virtual Piggy's website to see their list of merchants).  Current sites that support the Virtual Piggy payment button are K'nex, O'Neill, Super Sprowts, MusicSkins and Blee Inara.   Kids can also use the balance in their Virtual Piggy accounts to purchase gift cards to popular retailers or sites, such as Barnes & Noble, Sephora, Zappos, American Eagle Outfitters, even Domino's or Papa John's Pizza. (hey, how else will they be able to treat the gang to lunch?).  If the purchase meets parental guidelines, it's approved.    What a great way to give kids the freedom to spend money online, within parent-approved limits, while protecting them from unsafe online transactions!

This holiday season, families can also use Virtual Piggy to manage their kids' holiday wishlists.  Kids with a Virtual Piggy account can create a Wishlist and add the products they want to either save up for, or receive as gifts.  Parents can view their kids' Wishlists and share it with extended family and friends.  Virtual Piggy even has discounts with their online partners, exclusively for Virtual Piggy account holders, just for the holidays (All discounts will end by January 15th).  You can see the list of merchants and the holiday discounts on the  Virtual Piggy Member Value Program page -- but you won't see the promo codes unless you've logged into your Virtual Piggy account!

Here's another great reason to create a Wishlist with Virtual Piggy:  Virtual Piggy will be selecting ten lucky children to win the contents of their Wishlist, up to a value of $500!  Their Win Your Wishlist contest is open till December 7, so hurry up and create that Virtual Piggy account and Wishlist ASAP.

Happy holidays, and happy spending and saving!

Disclosure: I received compensation from Virtual Piggy (via Splash Creative Media) to try the service and write this post.The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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