Having Kids Identify ‘Happiness Factor’ in Halloween Activity Helps Teach about Money, Professionals Say

cash for candy

As an example of financial literacy games, Cash for Candy offers an excellent opportunity to help kids identify the ‘happiness factor’ in trick-or-treat candy, claims Denise Downey of Financial Trex. That is, for any given object, have kids decide how much happiness it produces. “How many hours of fun can you have with it?” she asks. A mother of two young children herself, Downey recommends dumping the big bag of candy on the table and asking kids which would provide more fun for them: all this candy, or an item/toy on their wish list? “Helping your children understand this concept will help them with impulse purchases later in life,” adds Downey, “They will remember this exercise, especially if you incorporate it into your everyday decisions.” Mary Alice Hughes and Lisa Bamberg, co-owners of Insurance Advantage and LMA Financial Services in Jacksonville, AR echo this concept, suggesting parents might pour out their children’s candy onto a table and divide it up according to value. “For example, a Snickers bar has more value than a Tootsie Roll. The children could choose 10 pieces of candy to keep and then sell the rest of it to their parents.” Once the sell has taken place, Hughes and Bamberg suggest, parents can talk about the importance of giving, saving and spending using the 10% giving, 10% saving and 80% spending rule of thumb. “This could spark conversation about the importance of charitable giving and what charities the child would choose, the necessity of saving and the opportunities for spending,” they conclude.

Kelvin Jiang, CFA of Buyside Focus claims the Cash for Candy activity illustrates three key financial concepts: trading, saving, and budgeting. “Parents can ask their children what other toys they’d like to buy and sell their candy to fund the purchase,” Jiang says, “Children would learn the concept of money through exchanging one treat for another.”

As a self-identified former “Army brat,” military spouse, and veteran, Accredited Financial Counselor® Lacey Langford is an expert in personal finance for Service members and their families. Langford believes the candy buyback is a great idea to promote financial literacy for youth, especially if parents and kids set clear goals and expectations beforehand. “What percent will be saved and spent? Do you want them to save part for college? What do they want to save for? How will they divide the money up? It is better to have a plan before the cash is in their hands.” Another creative idea Langford contributes is for parents to write a “mini job description” for Halloween that outlines the compensation kids can expect for completing the task. “After the candy spree is over and the payment made, talk with your kids about their thoughts on the experience,” Langford proposes. “Find out how they felt being in control of making decisions about their money.”

Katie Ross, Education and Development Manager for the nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling, feels the candy buy back is a gesture that can highlight the value of children’s wants versus their needs in family literacy programs. “Candy buy back can have its own perks and can be a good starter point to financial conversations with the kids,” Ross mentions. After buying back the candy, Ross suggests that parents direct their children to a proper spending plan. “For example you can guide them to save a portion of the cash and spend a portion of it on something that they really wanted, like a toy or a pair of shoes or a video game CD.” David Bakke of Money Crashers agrees: “They can talk about different ways that money can be earned by the child, such as helping out around the house, since they are essentially earning money,” he mentions. Parents also can talk with kids about how they’ll spend the money – suggesting various possibilities like saving or charitable donations as alternatives to spending. If the child wants to buy something that costs more than what they earned,” Bakke goes on, “The parent can also mention how important it is to continue to save their money until they have enough to pay for it in cash rather than taking on debt.” Bakke believes teaching debt avoidance will set kids up for financially successful futures.

Kirk Du Plessis, founder of OptionAlpha.com and also a father, says he plans to use the candy buyback as a chance to talk with his two daughters about the importance of money as an exchange medium. He will stress “the importance of saving their money so that they can ultimately afford to purchase other toys they want more…the need for patience and delayed gratification is an essential learned skill that all parents should be teaching their children as it’s the foundation of building wealth,” adds Du Plessis.


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