Use Halloween To Teach Your Child About Finance

Pumpkin_FieldsmWhat is your child learning from your Halloween financial habits?  Why not use Halloween as a (sort of) fun way to grab some teachable moments for personal finance.  Teachable moments are those where you use a current activity to share a lesson on something.  Sometimes they are spontaneous, but they can be planned.

This year, as you go about your Halloween fun, think about using the occasion to teach your child or grandchild about money and finances.  Below are some suggestions for your consideration.

Halloween Then and Now

Celebration of and spending on Halloween has been on the increase since I was a girl.  Back then, the only purpose adults served at Halloween was to open the door and give me treats.  They didn’t have parties, dress up or sit out in their front yard around a fire pit drinking as they gave out treats!  Kids made their own costumes and limited their ghostly visits to areas within walking distance and to families they knew.

Today Halloween is big business, second only to Christmas for spending in some categories.  According to the National Retail Federation’s 2011 survey, 68.6% of surveyed respondents intend to partake in some sort of Halloween festivity this year – up almost 5% from last year.

Halloween Teachable Moments
The Pumpkin(s)

As you ride the hay wagon out to the local farmers (commercialized) pumpkin patch

  • Point out ways the farm is making money off the patrons
  • talk about how a pumpkin is raised and what costs there might be.

 As you carve up the jack-o-lantern

  • Ask them what you should do with the insides and the shell – talk about using as much of a product as you can.

After Halloween

  • Talk to them about how most pumpkins end up in landfills or compost heaps, unused and
  • show them how you intend to use yours.

The Costume

What are you going to be for Halloween is becoming as popular a question as what are you asking Santa Claus for this year.

Kids may have come to expect you to supply them with a store bought costume. Popular ones can cost between 20 and 40 dollars for a one time use costume!

Comparison Shop

  • If you are willing to spend money on a store bought costume, let them know well ahead of time what you are budgeting for that and have them do comparison shopping.

  • To sweeten the deal, you could offer to give them the difference between the budgeted amount and the one they want – or alternately, make them pay the difference.

  • You could also suggest that they could make their own, buy one second hand or visit a thrift store to come up with one.

The Decorations

Spending on decorations for Halloween is second only to Christmas – according to the National Retail Association.

If you already have decorations

  • Share what was spent on them with your kid as you hang them up together.

  • Compare the prices to something they care about and talk about what else could have been done with that money.

  • Share with them why you bought the decorations instead of using the money for something else.

  • Talk about what your family did when you were growing up.

If they are wanting new decorations – give them the gift of want.

  • Take them to the store (or have them go online and browse) to check out prices – but be sure and tell them ahead of time that you (nor they) will buy any today, or this year, but that they can budget and plan to get it next year.

  • Let them show you what they want, write it down, along with the store and the price.

  • When you get home, talk with them and make a list together of all the ways and places they could get something like what they want – such as making it, comparison shopping to get the best retail price, looking in thrift stores and shopping at garage sales. Heck, they could even ask Santa for it!

The Treats

When I was a kid – in the fifties – homemade Halloween treats were the norm. Bags of Halloween candy did not start showing up in the stores right after Labor Day, but that was then and this is now.

Show them the cost

  • If you have young children, they may not realize that you are giving away candy – just like the houses they go to on trick or treat night.

  • Talk with them about the number of trick-or-treaters you usually get, the amount of candy each one typically gets and the cost per trick-or-treater as well as the total cost.

Teach them deferred gratification

  • After they get their loot and dump it on the living room floor, help them learn the value of deferred gratification. Of course they will eat quite a bit of their candy the night they get it and the next day. I always gobbled mine down as quick as possible!

  • Show them by example, and point out that you are doing it – that candy consumption can be over a period of weeks.

  • Not only is it a good financial lesson, but it may help them from spiking blood sugar levels!

Build a budget for next year 

  • After the day is all over, sit down with them and have them write down the categories where the family spent extra money for Halloween – along with the amount spent.
  • Together, tuck that away to use as a basis to start a Halloween budget (explaining what a budget is and why it is needed along the way) for next years festivities.

Have you used Halloween to teach your kids about money?  What have you done?


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