Help! My Money’s Running Away!

Money running away

A common saying is “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. This holds true in just about any aspect of life but is particularly true of money. If you do not have a spending plan for your money, your money will fail to do its job for you. In other words, if you do not plan your spending, your money will run away from you just as fast as you earn it (and sometimes even faster).

A humorous example of this is in the comedy, “Dumb and Dumber”, where two not-so-bright friends both lose their jobs on the same day and only have a couple bucks left between them. One friend takes the money to go shopping. His friend admonishes him, “Only get the bare essentials! It’s the last of our dough.” The very next scene we see the friend loaded up with an oversized foam cowboy hat, two cases of beer, about 5 pinwheels, and a new ping pong paddle. Without a spending plan, his money ran away really fast.

Unfortunately, a lot of us are the same way. Have you ever earned money, but it quickly disappeared and you had trouble even remembering what you spent it on? Later, when you went through your receipts trying to solve the mystery of the missing money, you were surprised to realize that silly impulse purchases had actually eaten up all the money? Have you then kicked yourself as you thought of other things you could have spent the money on that would have been much more important to you? If so, you are not alone.

Fail To Plan?

The fact of the matter is, anytime money is spent without a plan in place beforehand, the money magically manages to run away and get lost. In fact, stores actually capitalize on this vulnerability. They have all sorts of techniques to trick you into spending your money impulsively. They use colors, images, and product placement (overpriced candy in the checkout line, anyone?) to get you to part with your hard-earned money. It is almost as if they have invisible salesmen placed throughout the store. They literally have this down to a science.

There is only one way to avoid being manipulated into spending money on stuff you did not really want: have a spending plan. Ideally, you want to have a plan in place before money even reaches your pocket.

Anytime money is spent without a plan in place beforehand, the money magically manages to run away and get lost.

For example, I have always been in charge of the grocery shopping for my family. However, I have often worked with very tight grocery budgets. I noticed early on that the trick to stretching a grocery budget was to create a menu and a shopping list to match before going shopping. Then when I walked in the grocery store, I simply focused on finding and buying the things on the list. (It also helped to avoid shopping when I was hungry.)

Plan Ahead

If I did this small amount of pre-planning, not only would our family have plenty to eat through the end of the week, but the meals were delicious, unique, well-balanced, and very satisfying. If I got lazy or too busy and just ran to the store without any planning, however, I would spend all the money but the food I bought would disappear quickly. I would find myself struggling after the first day to figure out what in the world to make for dinner with the random ingredients languishing in my fridge.

There is only one way to avoid being manipulated into spending money on stuff you did not really want: have a spending plan.

In contrast, when I had a plan, even a simple plan, it seemed like my grocery budget was almost doubled. The food I bought went so much farther, and the meals were so much more satisfying. A little planning ahead of time was the difference between starving and eating like kings.

This principle of planning is not just true for grocery shopping, it is true for any time you spend money. If you have a plan, even a simple plan, you will be WAY more satisfied with your purchases. You will not feel like your money simply ran away. You will feel in control of your own money. It will seem like you actually have more money because your money will go a lot further.

Money And Motivation

girl dream of ballet
Money only has meaning when it is attached to something we want.

So, when setting up Moneypants, every family member has to come up with a spending plan. This will this help your family members spend their money in a much more satisfying way. Plus, these plans will actually help motivate them to work and achieve their goals.

But why a spending plan? Isn’t money a good motivator? Interestingly, no. Money in and of itself is a surprisingly weak motivator. After all, who cares about little strips of green tinted paper? No one. Nobody cares about money in and of itself. However, when you create a spending plan, all of a sudden that money is translated into something exciting: ballet classes, headphones, membership to a school club, the basketball team, drum lessons, a summer camp, or helping out a friend in need. When you create a spending plan, you are attaching meaning to the money.

Motives And Villains

In one of his Master Class lectures, the famous author Dan Brown (“DaVinci Code”, “Angels and Demons”) teaches how to create strong motives for characters in a story. Contrary to popular belief, he explains that money by itself is actually a really lousy motivator for any character. His advice was to never use money to explain the motive for your villain or your protagonist.

Money in and of itself has little meaning until it represents something someone wants.

He says the solution is to give the money a purpose. If the character has a sister who needs an expensive operation or will soon die, all of a sudden the motive for money takes on meaning. A lot of meaning. Money equals saving the life of a sister. Money in and of itself has little meaning until it represents something someone wants. If a writer never translates the money into the need for an operation and something meaningful, the money motivator will actually be too weak and generic to be a believable motive.

In Moneypants, money is used as the reward for a person’s hard work and progress. Money is measurable and it is the most versatile way to reward. It is extremely generic and can mean completely different things to different people. That is why the app uses it. However, without the help of a spending plan, the reward of money is a very weak motivator. So, in order to motivate action, the app has each family member come up with their own unique spending plan. That way the money gets attached to something that DOES matter—to them.

Get Input

This is why it is important to get your children’s input when creating the spending plan. It needs to be something they are excited about. That way when they are doing their chores (when they would rather be reading a book or relaxing), they will be thinking, “Basketball shoes! Basketball shoes!” And conversely, if they are sorely tempted to do something that will result in a fee, they are thinking, “No, I better not. I want those basketball shoes.”

Creating a spending plan is what creates a strong motive. Money by itself simply does not cut it.

If your children are thinking that work and chores just mean more money, it will be easy for them to say, “So what? It’s just a dollar. I’ve got other money.” Without the attached reward, the system will not work very well at all.

Creating a spending plan is what creates a strong motive. Money by itself simply does not cut it. Do not think of your spending plan as a boring budgeting exercise. Instead, think of it as creating a custom rewards plan that is going to help motivate you and your kids even when the going gets tough.

Now let’s talk about some of the benefits of creating a spending plan.

Goodbye Budgeting Headaches

woman headache budget computer

When my husband and I were poor newlyweds, my husband was pleased when we finally managed to save up a whopping $1,000 in our bank account. Awesome! However, there was a problem. He had no idea whether or not we could spend any of that money. We knew we had more money coming in, but we also knew there were all sorts of bills coming up. We could not spend any money without experiencing a bit of stress and anxiety. We would end up wondering if we would have enough money to pay for all our upcoming bills. Even years later, when our incomes went up, there was still a constant feeling that it was not exactly safe to spend any money. We were never absolutely certain how much we could spend.

Similarly, when parents move over to the Moneypants concept of having their kids take responsibility for saving up for things like soccer registration, the kids experience the exact same anxiety about spending their money.

Poor Trixie

For example, years before the Moneypants app was created, my 10-year-old daughter Trixie was saving up for soccer registration. It was due a couple of months later. She was a hard worker and had a lot of cash saved up, but it was not enough to pay for soccer yet. One weekend, a friend invited her to go to the movies. Trixie wanted to go with her friends, but she did not know what to do. She was worried if she went and bought a movie ticket for $12, she would not have enough money when soccer registration was due. She did not feel comfortable spending any of her money because she was not sure whether or not she could! She ended up not going.

If you do the work up front to set up a spending plan in the Moneypants app, you can then sit back and relax for the rest of the year.

The Moneypants app is designed to get rid of all that anxiety. When you are setting up your spending plan, you can tell the app what you are going to spend your money on and when. The app takes it from there. For the rest of the year whenever you are paid, the app organizes your money for you so you do not have to worry about it. It does all the calculations to make sure there is enough money set aside for upcoming expenses. Just set it and forget it.

For example, if you want to spend money shopping for clothes, you can glance at the app and know exactly how much you can spend that day without jeopardizing your other financial plans. If the money is in the piggy bank, then you can spend it that day. No anxiety. No stress. And no budgeting headaches.

This is similar to how I would put in the work to create a menu and a shopping list at the beginning of the week. It would make it so I could relax and enjoy a week full of delicious meals without any stress. If you do the work up front to set up a spending plan in the Moneypants app, you can then sit back and relax for the rest of the year (yes, an entire year!) and not worry about your budget. In fact, it is so easy even a 4-year-old can manage a Moneypants budget with ease, once a spending plan is created.

How To Create A Spending Plan

woman life vest income expenses
Pro tip: when creating your spending plan, play it safe by estimating your income low and your expenses high.

After you have entered in all the family members into the Moneypants app, assigned out all the household jobs, and each individual has come up with the ten habits they want to work on, the final step is to identify the rewards by setting up a spending plan. “What are you going to do with all the money you earn this year?” That is the question.

Once you have reached this point in the setup, the app can calculate how much money you can potentially earn that year from completing chores and achieving personal goals.

A good rule of thumb is to estimate your income low and your expenses high.

The app automatically follows the 10-10-10 rule. It sets 10% of that grand total aside into a piggy bank designated for tithing. 10% goes into a savings piggy bank. And 10% goes into a “fun money” piggy bank. These three piggy banks will appear in the bottom row of piggy banks. At the top of the screen, there will be the remaining amount of money that hasn’t been assigned yet. That is where you come in. Assigning that money will be your job.

Estimate High And Low

But what if you do not know your income or your expenses? A good rule of thumb is to estimate your income low and your expenses high. Think about how much you earned last year, and then take a little bit off of that. Then think about how much you spent last year, and add a little more to that. If you do it this way, you will not be disappointed. Chances are, you will have a little more money than you needed.

As we talked about in the directed spending video, Moneypants isn’t a free for all. Each family will have boundaries and requirements for where that money should go. Within those boundaries, there are going to be lots of options to choose from. For example, one family may require that each child develop a musical talent. But that individual needs to decide which musical talent they want to develop: singing, cello, drums, piano, trumpet, and so forth.

When that individual creates their spending plan, it is time for them to make those decisions within their family’s guidelines.

Say your son wants to take cello lessons. The lessons are going to cost $500. All your son would need to do is go to the music piggy bank and enter in the dollar amount and type in the words “cello lessons”. That is it. Yes, there are other categories listed in that piggy bank. However, those categories are mainly just there to help jog your memory on what expenses to consider. You can just ignore them and they will disappear once setup is complete.

Once the $500 is entered into the music piggy bank, the app will tell you at the top how much money you still have left to assign out.

With the remaining money, you will then decide how much to spend that year on clothing or personal care or sports.


In each piggy bank there are prefilled subcategories. For example, under clothing there are categories for underwear, shoes, belts, purses, dresses, swim wear, and so on. This feature is simply to help you remember what things you might expect to buy that year. It is actually easier to just put all your clothing into one big lump sum. We recommend this approach. However, you can split it off into smaller categories if you want.

If you are not sure how much you spend on clothing, or any other category, give it your best guess. And when guessing, it is a good idea to estimate high. That way you will not be disappointed.

Just be aware that the more categories there are, the slower they will all fill up. This may be a problem if, for example, you want to buy a dress for $50. You see that you have $50 in your clothing piggy bank ready to spend. However, that $50 is subdivided up in “shoes”, “underwear”, “belts”, and so forth. You would then have to wait to purchase the dress or take the money out of each of the individual categories. That is a bit tedious. So, the rule of thumb is: try to keep your piggy banks simple. Combine expenses when possible and only assign due dates if necessary.

Due Dates

due dates piggy banks earnings
The app automatically calculates and distributes money to where it needs to go.

But what if something has a due date? For example, what if you have to pay for soccer registration by August? How can you be sure you will have enough money for that?

If there is a hard-set due date, you have the option to enter in that due date.

And what exactly happens if you enter in a due date? Any items with due dates are given VIP priority treatment by the app. So, if you have that August soccer registration due, the app will make sure the money you earn gets funneled into the sports piggy bank before your other piggy banks. This all happens on payday. All piggy banks with due dates are given priority over the other piggy banks.

Of course, this may mean that some piggy banks get filled while others remain empty. This is to ensure that the VIP piggy banks with due dates have enough money at the right time. Do not worry. Once the VIP piggy bank gets filled, all the other piggy banks will get their budgeted amounts. It will all work out.

Recurring Due Dates

What if something like music lessons has a monthly due date? The app can take care of that as well. All you have to do is enter in the monthly amount due. Then tell the app that the due date repeats monthly. Then choose which month this repeating payment will end. Once again, the app will prioritize the piggy banks with due dates so that money earned will go to those expenses first (after 10% tithing is deducted).

The benefit of having this due date option is that you and your kids will not have to worry whether or not you will have enough money to make payments that are due. For example, let’s say you are shopping for clothes. The the app says you currently have $40 in your clothing piggy bank. That means you can spend that $40 without having to worry about not being able to do the other things you had planned. You can shop with complete confidence.

It is kind of a “set it and forget it” budgeting system.

If money shows up in a piggy bank, you can know that you can spend that money today without any problems. It really simplifies spending. And the opposite is also true: if you do NOT have money in the piggy bank, that means you cannot spend money today. You have not earned enough. Time to get to work!

Entering in due dates into your spending plan makes it so the app can relieve any anxiety on your part about budgeting your money.

Anxiety Relief

Remember Trixie’s example from before, where she was worried whether she could go to the movies with friends and still have money to pay for soccer later? Well, if she had had the app, there would have been no anxiety. The app would have shown her that she had plenty of money to go to the movies and that she was still on track to pay for soccer in the fall. She could have went out with friends and had a great time–anxiety free.

It is kind of a “set it and forget it” budgeting system. You put in some work up front to decide where you want your money to go and when you want it to go there. Then during the rest of the year the app takes care of the rest. All you have to focus on is achieving your goals and completing responsibilities at home.

Spending Plan Subsidies

parents subsidy kid budget
Parents only subsidize an expense if the family member cannot earn enough money in time to pay for it themselves.

When we first started introducing Moneypants to other families, we ran into a problem over and over. There was always an issue with transitioning into this new system of having your kids start paying for some of the things they wanted. Here’s why: when you start this new program, there may be upcoming expenses that your child will not have enough time to earn before the money is due.

For example, let’s say you just set up Moneypants and the very next month $600 cheerleading registration is due. Your daughter Emily was really looking forward to cheerleading but will not have enough time to earn the full amount before it is due. So, what then? Do you just go ahead and pay for cheerleading? Well, would that not be fair to the other kids in the family who have to work for all their activities that year. Or, do you make your daughter forgo cheerleading? Well, that would not be fair to Emily who was looking forward to cheerleading but wasn’t given a fair opportunity to earn it.

What is a good solution to this problem?

A Simple Subsidy

The Moneypants app handles Emily’s situation by creating a subsidy. It calculates how much Emily CAN earn before the due date. It then calculates how much money Emily is going to be short.

Once Emily’s parents are finished helping Emily set up her spending plan, the app will ask Emily’s parents to subsidize Emily’s account with the amount of money Emily will not able to earn in that time frame.

The app will then during the remainder of the year slowly recollect up the subsidy money from Emily. The app will lock that cheerleading subsidy repayment account so Emily will not be able to use it for any other purchases. By the end of the year, Emily will have saved up enough in her cheerleading piggy bank to pay for the next year herself. No need for the parents to give her a subsidy. Nice! Of course, if Emily chooses to forgo cheerleading the following year, she can give the subsidy money back to her parents from the beginning. It is fair for everyone.

Subsidy Trust

dad daughter payday table
If you hold payday every week, you will prevent a lot of problems.

It is possible that Emily could take that subsidy money and try to spend it on something else. However, if you the parent are doing payday every week and having your children show that their cash total matches the cash total on the app, this issue will be recognized and addressed quickly.

If Emily does not participate in cheerleading, then Emily can pay back the subsidy and spend her money on something else. Also, if Emily participates in cheerleading but then does not earn enough for the following year, then the parents can simply refuse to subsidize any other expenses until the trust is restored and the subsidy is earned. Until then, Emily will have to create a spending plan that does not require additional subsidies from her parents.

The budgeting portion of Moneypants is designed to make spending plans easy, simple, and fair.

Wrap Up

spending plan pie chart
The spending plan: lots of benefits

In summary:

  • Money is a weak motivator unless you know what that money is for, and that something is of value to you. Only then does it have meaning.
  • The spending plan is where each individual family member gets to decide what their rewards are going to be for all their hard work.
  • Setting up a spending plan will make it so everyone is way more satisfied with the purchases they make.
  • The spending plan takes a little upfront work to set up but makes it so you can take the rest of the year off from doing budgeting work. It is totally worth it! The Moneypants app will make sure the money you make goes to where it needs to go and when it needs to go there. You do not have to think about it.
  • It also creates a fair solution for situations where children in the family do not have enough time to earn the money for an activity they were planning to participate in.

The Moneypants spending plan is one of the main stress-relieving perks of using the app over using a paper system and really sets Moneypants apart from other chore and allowance apps.


What about you? Do you have a spending plan for your family? What about a personal spending plan? Do you think a plan is of value, or are we completely wrong? Leave a comment below.

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Hannah Judd

Hannah Judd

Hannah is the co-creator of Moneypants and is the mother of 15 amazing kids.

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