‘One of the Best Decisions as a Parent.’ Why This Single Mom Gave Her Kids Debit Cards

A family pose outside against a white wall.
Dr. Brandee Ramirez, second from left, who lives in Orange County, California, wanted her kids to learn about responsibility, so she got her kids the Greenlight card, a debit card for kids that comes with parental controls. Photo courtesy of Jessica Bodas Photography
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Four kids is a lot to handle. A full-time job teaching middle school is a lot to handle. Being a single mom is a lot to handle.

Dr. Brandee Ramirez, who lives in Orange County, California, wanted her kids to learn about responsibility. So it made sense for them to do household chores and earn allowances. The only problem was, it was starting to be a hassle to keep track of. Kind of a bear, actually.

“After school, the kids will walk down the hill from our house to a shopping center, and they’ll want to get fries or a smoothie or whatever,” Ramirez says. “They’ll buy things like that with the money they earn from chores. But it was me constantly doling out a buck here, two bucks here.”

“I was like, ‘I need some sort of system.’”

When her oldest, a 14-year-old, asked for a debit card, Ramirez found a solution — the Greenlight card, a debit card for kids that comes with parental controls. It lets parents set spending limits and gives them tools to help their kids learn how to manage their money.

Ramirez got four of them.

‘One of the Best Decisions as a Parent’

So, how’s it working out for her?

“I’m obsessed with it,” she says. “I’ve told so many other parents about it. Greenlight card is one of the best decisions as a parent I’ve made lately. It’s been life-changing with regards to financial literacy for my kids — and me.”

The Greenlight card is an efficient way to make sure your kids will have the money they need when they need it — without the danger of them draining your bank account. And the bigger picture is, it’s a smart and strategic tool for raising financially savvy kids.

Like Ramirez, you can set up Greenlight to automatically pay your kid’s allowance. Additionally, you can set up chores in the app and tie those chores to the allowance.

You can put money into two different categories on the debit card. One is a “Spend Anywhere” bucket that allows your child to use the money anywhere that takes Mastercard. The other category lets you dedicate a set amount of money that can only be spent at certain places, like gas stations or restaurants.

You can also encourage your children to save by paying them interest on the card’s balance.

As a parent, you can have Greenlight’s app send you real-time alerts telling you where your kid is spending money. Ramirez likes that she gets these alerts even when her kids are staying with their dad.

You start out with a one-month free trial, then it’s $4.99 a month — though it’s a flat fee that covers up to five children in your family. So Ramirez, with her four kids, doesn’t have to pay extra.

Saving Up for Clothes, Computers, Lacrosse Sticks — and Harry Styles

Children pose for a photo in a field.
The Ramirez children have all embraced the Greenlight card. They buy various things with their cards, including clothes, computer parts, Harry Styles posters, tchotchkes and a lacrosse stick. Photo courtesy of Jessica Bodas Photography

Ramirez has a 14-year-old daughter, a 12-year-old son and 11-year-old twins — a boy and a girl.

They sweep and mop and vacuum. They do the dishes and take out the trash. They feed and walk the dog. They make school lunches. They’re learning they have to earn their money.

Naturally, they all use their Greenlight cards in dramatically different ways.

The 14-year-old daughter buys clothes. The 12-year-old son is building his own computer. The 11-year-old daughter saves up for Harry Styles posters and tchotchkes. The 11-year-old son is saving up for a nice lacrosse stick.

They keep close track of their money — a laser-like focus, really. They’ve totally embraced their Greenlight cards.

“They got a bunch of cash from family members for graduation,” Ramirez says. “Immediately, they handed it over to me, and they’re like, ‘Can you put it on my Greenlight?’ It’s weird because when I was a kid, I loved to see the cash. They’re just so digital, so they like to see it on their screen.”

Ramirez keeps recommending the Greenlight card to friends of hers, and they keep signing up. “I’ve heard nothing but good things,” she says.

It takes just minutes to open an account, and your kid will be learning how to responsibly spend money before you know it!

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.