By Kathy Day
Dan and Kim Meader’s two boys are about to share a lesson with a national TV audience about how far giving a little bit of their allowance can go.
Will, 11, and John, 12, and their parents are featured on the Dec. 10 edition of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” the ABC show that focuses on a family with a special story and a cause that needs some sort of assistance.
The Meaders became involved as a result of software that Dan designed to help parents and children manage their allowance, aptly named Allowance Manager. A former Apple engineer and senior operations manager who also has worked for Francis Ford Coppola Presents, Adobe Systems and VeriFone, the Rancho Santa Fe resident readily admits that he’s never used his economics degree from UC Berkeley.
During high school, he realized that computers were “pretty cool,” he said so he started programming Macs early on and gained expertise in user interface. Since his “life-changing” days at Apple where he worked with “a lot of smart creative people … who fundamentally have an entrepreneurial spirit,” he also has started two companies. One of them, InPlace, provides 360-degree virtual tours for real estate and travel sites.
With all of that background, it was a trip to Costco that set him on the newest venture.
“The boys and I sort of collectively had a light bulb moment,” he said, noting that outings to Costco are a family affair. Kim heads for the food side of the store; he checks out the sporting goods and technology side, and the boys go to the middle where they pour over books and DVDs.
One day, when they reconvened, the boys — as usual, he laughed — had something in their hands.
When they asked if he would buy them a video game, he replied that they already had a lot of them.
“Then they asked me, ‘Can we buy it ourselves with our allowance?’” he said.
But he couldn’t remember how much they had or were due, he added, because he didn’t pay them regularly. When he asked them if they remembered, John said, “I think you owe us each $90.”
Dan challenged him and got the answer: Three months earlier he had said he would give them a dollar a day so he owed them each $90.
“You get an A+ for math, but didn’t you buy something last week?” was his reply. And, maybe, just maybe, their mom had deducted from their take when they didn’t clean up after themselves or for some other transgression.
At that point, he said, the boys suggested I write a program for us that would track deposits and take it out when they buy something or add it when they got money from their Aunt Julie.
So he “dashed off the basic functionality,” and the kids said it worked.
“Will ran back to his bedroom and grabbed the money he had,” Dan said. “He thrust it into my hand and said put it in Allowance Manager.”
, features an allowance tracker and chore charts. It’s not a bank but, according to the site, is “designed to allow parents to reward good behavior, discourage misbehavior, track chores, and enter miscellaneous allowance entries that are otherwise difficult to remember.” The charts help monitor what’s been done or not.
Only parents can add or delete information. The children get logins so they can see what where they stand.
It worked so well at “deflecting the emotional stuff” that goes with giving children an allowance and keeping track of it, that “the nonsense went away,” Meader said.
Although he “polished it up and put it up to the outside world,” he said he didn’t plan to make a business out of it. Early on, he did some early marketing through Google AdWords. Today Allowance Manager has more than 100,000 users.
“It’s just being adopted through the App Store and Google searches,” he said.
That’s the story of Allowance Manager; to get to “Extreme Makeover” takes another chapter.
“There are only two things to do with our money – retain it or relinquish it,” he said.
In other words, save and invest or spend and donate – all things that can be tracked through the software. “We thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we could take the users and encourage them to make contributions to a collective gift and do some good.”
So they pitched the idea to the producers of “Extreme Makeover,” but it didn’t take hold until they had a story where there was a fit. They came across the Friday family and their three children who had cared for dozens of foster children through the years. Recently, a young boy named Chris came to stay with them, bringing a DVD of his four siblings.
Meader said Chris told the Fridays he showed it at every home where he stayed “with the off chance that if I get adopted you would consider adopting all of us.”
The Fridays¸ who ran a storefront consignment store, primarily for the benefit of their Lincolnton, N.C. community, did just that.
“Their family went from five to 10 overnight,” he added. To accommodate the new family members in their very small house they had to turn the garage into a bunkhouse.
The idea of children giving to children seemed to fit in with the producers’ concept, so they invited the Meaders to join them and worked out the details. Each of the newly adopted children had attended the Crossnore School, a 100-year-old boarding school about an hour from the Friday’s hometown. Originally for impoverished children of the surrounding mountain communities, it is now is home to a K-12 charter school for children in need.
By donating through Allowance Manager and the company’s 501(c)3 division, kids from all over the country were able to provide gifts for 102 foster children who reside at Crossnore including roller duffels, towels and blankets embroidered with their names, MP3 players and video cameras and “other things that appeal to kids who live that life,” Meader said.
For the Rancho Santa Fe family, who spent a week with the Fridays and the production crew, it was an “amazing experience.” The boys got a lasting lesson that they share with viewers, the Friday family got a new home and 102 children got their own security blankets.
See the Meader family on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” at 8 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 10 on KGTV.