Making Halloween a teachable moment

Here are a few basic financial concepts you can introduce to your kids this Halloween, without spoiling any of their fun.

Aside from his birthday, my son’s favourite day of the year is Halloween. And who can blame him? Dressing up, visiting all the neighbours, coming home with a huge stash of candy — for a six-year-old, it’s sheer bliss.

Whenever children are this enthusiastic about anything, I think parents should take it as their cue to look for possible “teachable moments.” You know you’re going to have their full attention, right? So, in that spirit, here are a few basic financial concepts you can introduce to your kids this Halloween, without spoiling any of their fun.

Efficient use of resources

Put tweens or teens in charge of treat shopping — provide a budget, say how many pieces of candy, chocolate or bags of chips you need and let them figure out the best deal. Remind them to calculate the sales taxes before hitting the checkout line and, as an added incentive, let them keep the change if they come in under budget. Give younger kids a lesson in efficiency by showing that a pumpkin isn’t just for decoration — toast the seeds or bake a pie after carving the jack-o-lantern.

Charitable giving

For decades, Halloween trick-or-treaters have collected funds for UNICEF, The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, to help children around the world who suffer from famine or disease. Talk to your kids about why it’s important to give to those in need. Just don’t attempt to have this discussion as you head out the door to collect candy — your kids will be too excited to hear a word.

Delayed gratification

It only took one tummy ache before my little guy recognized there is value in waiting. Now he knows if he limits himself to a couple of treats each night, not only will he avoid some serious pain and discomfort, but he can also enjoy the delights of his bounty for weeks to come. It’s also a great way to introduce the concept of a monthly budget — will the month run out before the end of the candy, or vice versa?

Supply and demand

Be sure to point out the deep discounts on candy and decorations in the days following Halloween, and explain how stores lower prices when supply is high and demand is low.

About the Author

Tamar Satov

Managing Editor, CPA magazine
Tamar is a journalist specializing in business, parenting and personal finance. She blogs regularly in this space with advice and anecdotes on her efforts to raise a money-smart kid.