October 2023

Halloween Money Lessons – Cash or Candy

Halloween Cash or Candy

Halloween is just a week and a half away. This is the time of year for witches, ghosts, candy, and kid money lessons. Wait, kid money lessons?


We all know how Halloween night is supposed to go. Kids get dressed up in costumes, and they go door-to-door ringing bells, saying “Trick or Treat,” and get some free, delicious Halloween candy.

What if, instead of just giving candy, the response was “cash or candy?”

That’s what Chuck Jaffe has done since 2016. It’s worth reading the article. I’ll wait.

If you cheated and didn’t go read the article, then:

  1. Shame on you
  2. I’ll give you a little summary

Jaffe has played games with kids where they either forgo candy or trade candy they already have. In return, they can have a guaranteed cash prize and/or a chance at a bigger cash prize.

The idea is simple… get kids thinking about value.

Almost all the kids took the money when the offer was simply cash. That makes sense; they can get candy from every other house. Over the years, the kids visiting Jaffe’s home seem to know he’s “the money house.” The kids almost always take that option, even when it’s just a gamble. And why wouldn’t they? It’s fun.

What if kids were given big candy bars? Everyone knows that the houses that give out the big bars are rare. They’re more valuable.

Experiment: Would Kids Choose Cash or Big Candy

I found this YouTube video about how one house offered kids a $2.50 giant bar or a dollar bill. Clearly, the giant bar of candy has more value. However, kids can still get candy from everyone else, and cash is rare. It turns out that about 25% took the dollar bill. There are a few other interesting things that the person learned. I don’t want to give it all away, so watch it below:

Final Thoughts

I’d love to try out some of this stuff at Halloween myself. However, we only get two or three groups of trick-or-treaters every year. I’m not sure I’d learn too much or increase the financial literacy of too many kids.

One of the more interesting side effects of Cash or Candy is that kids walk away with less candy. That’s less sugar, cavities, and obesity.

Finally, if Cash or Candy isn’t your thing and you find yourself with too much candy, you can always try “Cash FOR Candy.” This program run by HeathyWage will give you cash for sending your candy to overseas troops. They have limited cash to give, so you need to act fast.

Brian MacFarland has reached more than 10 million people on his personal finance journey to financial independence.  He’s been featured in the Washington Post, U.S. News and World Report, and Lifehacker.

Read more on the About page.

If you enjoyed this article please Support Kid Wealth

Teach Kids How to Budget

Teach kids budgeting

Teaching kids how to budget is essential. It’s a skill they’ll use their whole lives. It’s a great way to start kids on a financial independence path and make your kid a millionaire.

Many adults need to learn how to budget. If they don’t, their lives can become more difficult as they build debt. That means they spend much of their paycheck simply paying interest to the bank.

Fortunately, when you start teaching younger kids, they can build good budgeting habits before bad ones set in. One of the problems with teaching budgeting is that it can be quite boring to kids. Kids are often a little interested in how much things cost, but they don’t really want to know where the money goes.

They’d rather play a game. So let’s give them what they want – a game!

Budget Project for Kids

In my son’s fourth grade class, the teacher used this specific Wants and Needs Budget Project. It’s free from Teachers Pay Teachers. Since this one is free, maybe I should call it “Teachers Don’t Pay Teachers.”

The student is “hypothetically” dropped off on an island. They are given $1450 to spend but must get needs (shelter, clothing, food) and wants (entertainment such as internet access, game station, tablets, streaming service, Legos, dolls, etc.)

The shelter has three options: a mansion, a house, and an apartment. The mansion has entertainment, such as a movie theater and playground. However, it eats up most of the budget.

There are two clothing stores: a fancy store and a normal store. According to my son, very few students picked the fancy store. Given the context of being dropped off on an island (presumably alone), why would anyone choose the fancy store?

Next, the kid has to pick out food to bring to the island. Most kids will pick a lot of their favorite foods.

The problem with the food and clothing instructions is that there needs to be an indication of how much to bring. You have to eat and wear clothes for a month. If you choose to spend $6 on bacon… is that going to last a month? It’s unreasonable to expect anyone to know exactly how many shirts or pants to buy. Does the housing have a washer and dryer for laundry? Shoes are a clothing option. Do kids need to buy shoes? Or can they skip them since they are likely already wearing shoes when getting dropped off on the island?

The teacher (or parent) should provide some guidance on how much to buy of each. Perhaps the food should be normalized to a 30-day supply. Or maybe the food should be simplified into three choices: a meager (bread and water) tier, a middle tier, and a fancy tier (a 30-day supply of their favorite foods)

Finally, there is the “Want” store. This is the fun stuff that kids love. Kids can buy art supplies, game systems, tablets, internet access, streaming services, Pokemon cards, Legos, books, etc.

I wish I knew what my son picked for his “wants.” Maybe he remembers, and I’ll update this article later. If it were me, I’d go with the Kindle, internet access, and a streaming service. I would choose Netflix, but I bet both kids would choose Disney+.

Final Thoughts

The creator of this budget project specifically noted that it’s useful for math. I think the idea was to create an interesting scenario for kids so that doing all the addition isn’t dull. That’s probably why all the foods are listed separately rather than three plans. It’s more math to add up the cost of bananas, chicken, and bottles of juice than it would be to choose one price for a tier of a food plan.

There may be better tools to teach financial literacy than this budget project. However, it’s a great introduction to financial literacy.

Brian MacFarland has reached more than 10 million people on his personal finance journey to financial independence.  He’s been featured in the Washington Post, U.S. News and World Report, and Lifehacker.

Read more on the About page.

If you enjoyed this article please Support Kid Wealth