Candy Tax and other Childhood Grudges

Tax day has come and gone. Congrats to those of you with hefty returns you’re already excited to spend, or better yet, save. My shove into the world of taxation didn’t come during my sophomore year of college when I worked my first legit job. The first memory I have of taxation (pretty sure it was without representation) occurred Halloween night 1993.

Dressed in my finest green felt with an orange feather stuck in my cap, I made the rounds of Heritage Woods as the cutest Peter Pan you ever did see. My one year old sister held court in her stroller dressed as Tinker Bell. Between her huge blue eyes and my endearing wit, we were really bringing home a substantial candy haul.

Optimized-Cailin in bonnet
(Seriously, could you resist those baby blues? And no, this isn’t her Tinker Bell costume.)

When we got home I ran to the living room and dumped the contents of my cloth pumpkin bag onto the floor. Oh the candy. So much yummy candy. Unfortunately, our two big dogs came running and I had to defend my stash. My Dad called off the hounds and I eased up my defensive stance realizing, a moment too late, a bigger threat had entered my candy territory.

Optimized-Higs&murph

Optimized-Summer

(Attempts to steal my goods aside, they were my best friends. Besides my sister of course.)

Leaning down to pluck a fun size bag of Skittles from my pile, my Dad said the two worst words I had ever heard, “candy tax.” My mouth dropped open and I yelled, “put it back!” Those Skittles were my hard earned income. I shoved my body into a green-felt Peter Pan costume for those Skittles. I told jokes to the cranky lady down the street for those Skittles. THOSE WERE MY SKITTLES! My Dad looked at me and said, “We took you trick-or-treating, so we get some of your candy.”

Optimized-Halloween

 (This was two years before the candy tax law of ’93. I really should have anticipated that one.)

Granted, I was four and much too young to truly understand taxation, but in my mind it stood for someone coming in and unjustly taking something I had worked hard to earn. Almost 20 years later when I received my first “real job” pay check and saw Federal, State and New York City taxes taken out I’m pretty sure I opened up to my mouth to yell, “put it back!”

Optimized-holding candy

(I became increasing suspicious of everyone and guarded my loot carefully after Lollipop-Gate.)

Apart from my financial origin story, I learned about net profit by selling Krispy Kreme donuts at a yard sale*, candy tax is my earliest memory about finance and perhaps my biggest childhood grudge. My other grudges include the dogs getting to eat a whole cake on their birthday when I couldn’t. My sister finding the golden egg at Easter five years running. My eyebrows inexplicably turning from blond to black. And ruining my awesome Pocahontas sneakers because I dragged my feet trying to slow my bike down during a family outing.

Childhood grudges aside, I’m blessed to have two parents who were committed to making sure I had an understanding of finances early on in life. An understanding and respect of money is empowering and, in my opinion, one of the greatest gifts parents can give their child.

Even when we were little, my sister and I weren’t handed much. Sure, birthdays and Christmas were elaborate affairs filled with glorious toys, but in between we learned how to earn what we wanted or helped pay for it ourselves.

If I pointed out a toy at the store and asked for it, my Mom or Dad would ask if I was willing to pay for half. If I met them at 50 percent, then I could have the stuffed animal (it was always a stuffed animal). Nine times out of ten I wasn’t interested in paying the $4.50 it usually cost for a cuddly creature. However, this tactic taught me to evaluate purchases and prevent impulse buys at an incredibly early age. It’s a tough skill to learn later in life, especially when you have bills to pay.

Now, that I have reached “later in life” I’m pleased to be a millennial with a basic grasp on finances. According to mainstream media, the millennial generation is in big financial trouble. We can’t land jobs, with or without college degrees. We’re collectively drowning in student loans. As of October 2012, the average student is graduating with $26,600 of debt. And to top it all off we’re apparently all self-indulgent whiners who want to rely on parental welfare, well, forever.

Stereotypes aside, I have come across a fair amount of my fellow millennials who have a crippling fear of money, largely because they don’t understand how finance works. Those friends of mine were my motivation for creating #BrokeMillennial. Hopefully, this blog not only continues to develop my own financial literacy, but helps other fledgling adults learn some basics about budgets, saving and investing.  Plus, I think some real-life grownups find my stories pretty entertaining too.

P.S. If you ever think you see me out shopping, yes, I am the woman wandering aimlessly around the store clutching a stuffed animal cute blazer, trying to decided whether or not it’s worth my money. Unless it’s 50 percent off, then it seems like an obvious yes.

P.P.S. Don’t let the tough love with finances or candy stealing fool you. My Dad is an amazing father.

Optimized-with Dad

*For my financial origin story please read Donuts and Dollars.

Please join me and my fellow personal finance bloggers as we celebrate Financial Literacy Awareness Month. Hosted by Shannon Ryan from The Heavy Purse, you can read why financial literacy matters to all of us. Just visit The Heavy Purse and click on the participating bloggers’ links.

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Follow the journey on Twitter @BrokeMillennial or subscribe for emails about new posts. Email feedback or topic requests to brokemillennials@gmail.com.

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50 comments on “Candy Tax and other Childhood Grudges
  1. cashrebel says:

    Your childhood sounds a lot like mine. My favorite costume was a pumpkin that was way too big for me. The pictures are adorable. My parents also taught us how to shop wisely early on. We’d get an allowance and that’s how we were expected to keel ourselves appropriately clothed. If we spent it all on candy then we might look like a hobo for a while, but it really taught me to value my money.

    • My Mom was such a champ tracking down all those photos and emailing them too me.

      Sounds like your parents were quite wise too! That’s awesome that y’all had to keep yourselves clothed and could end up looking like hobos. It reminds me of my little cousins that want to exclusively wear costumes to school.

      Do you plan to use the same tactics when you have a family (or with your kids if you already do)?

    • LOL! Love it. We definitely learn how to value money when everything isn’t handed to us, but we have to prioritize – even if candy trumps clothes! 🙂

  2. Awww, great story, and love the pics. You are blessed to have parents who taught you well financially. It sure isn’t that way most places these days. And don’t tell my kids your parents paid for half of what they wanted – we make them pay for the whole thing! 🙂

    • Sounds like you’re passing on some great lessons too!

      I tease my Dad that he almost ruined a surprise party my parents were throwing me for my 9th birthday, because he took me to MediaPlay to get me out of the house while the guests arrived and as we were leaving I asked for some Bubble Tape gum. He paid for it without asking me to pay 50% and I knew something was up!

  3. Debt RoundUp says:

    Great story. My parents taught me about money, but I decided that they didn’t know what they were talking about, which ended up poorly for me. I was such a stubborn ass and have learned my lesson more times than I wish to count. Glad to hear that you were brought up with the right mindset and it has paid off for you.

    • Thanks Grayson! (Btw, I don’t think I’ve told you how much I love your name.) I know from reading your blog you’re all over financial literacy these days!

      I’m lucky my parents were on the same page about money from the get go so finances never caused any tension in their marriage. As a result I never saw money as something to fear. Not sure why something about saving money just clicked with me early on. My relatives think it’s genetic.

  4. Great story and love the pics! It’s awesome that your parents took the time and effort to raise you with a good financial base to work from. So many parents do not do it and I think it terribly short changes the children. I think one of the most loving things to do is teach a child about money and how to handle it.

    • Thanks! Yeah, I truly lucked out in terms of my young financial education. I’ve still got quite a ways to go though. I’m really impressed that you’ve taken your financial literacy story and turned it into motivation to raise your children with the tools you weren’t given.

      I know some people (especially other millennials) think my parents were being mean, but I see all the love and thought that went into those lessons. Title of the post aside, I don’t have any resentments.

      • I run into this all the time. Parents think they are being mean by saying “no” or making their child earn money to buy something they want. It’s always interesting when I tell them it’s the exact opposite – buying your child everything they want disables them financially, but when you teach them to value money and understand how to use it – you help them forever.

  5. You learned a very important financial lesson when you were young. How smart of your parents to have you pay 50% for the things that you wanted or thought that you wanted.

  6. Oh my goodness, your pics are so adorable!!! Honestly, your dad’s parenting skills are the way to go, and probably how I’ll model my skills if I’m fortunate to have children. You were brought up well and it shows in your character and how you’re handling life. Kudos to your parents and you!

    • Thank you so much. That is really kind of you to say. Plus, I know those pictures are a bit pandering, but I couldn’t resist!

      I plan to use the same skills if/when I raise my own children too. It might seem mean to them when they’re young, but hopefully they would appreciate it the same way I do now.

  7. I can tell you are Daddy’s Little Girl 🙂 Your parents did such a wonderful job raising you and your sister and instilling financial literacy at a young age. I’m so happy to see that you are paying it forward and trying to teach other millenials the same thing. Thank you for sharing your story Erin 🙂

    P.S. cute baby pictures!!!

  8. I love the pictures!! You and your sister are so adorable!! I think we all probably yelled “not fair” when we saw how much Uncle Sam and his ilk take out of our checks. 🙂 Your parents did a phenomenal job raising you right and are undoubtedly incredibly proud of you. It’s always amuses me how eager kids are to spend their parents money, but when it comes to their own – they really slow down and weigh their options. We need to continue that behavior and mindset as adults. I’m thrilled other millennials (and us grown-ups too!) have a strong, positive voice to follow. Thank you again for participating and sharing your story.

  9. Rachel Gall says:

    He’s literally stealing from the mouths of babes! Grr! Great post, I’m more financially literate than I was a few years ago.

    • Yeah, I figured “Stealing Candy From A Baby” would be too cliche for a title. 😛

      I’m financial literate in terms of saving and budgeting but have a long ways to go with investing.

  10. Awesome lessons from your parents! I’m definitely going to use trick-or-treating as an opportunity to teach my kids a few finance lessons 😉

  11. This is a great story. I remember those days as well. At least you saw the tax man. I think mine came after I crashed from my sugar high. Your lessons sound a little similar to mine except that yours appear to have began a lot sooner. I was asked to pay for half when I was 13. My parents thought since my 18 yo sister wasn’t going to get things unless she paid for it herself, it was only fair to do the same for the rest of us. Since I was the baby I got the 1/2 price deal. Granted I was already mowing lawns, raking leaves and shoveling snow so I had an income. At the time it stunk but looking back I am glad they did what they did.

    • That’s really great to hear! Parents seem to think their kids will resent them saying no or making children take responsibility for finances. Maybe that’s true in the short term, but eventually they’ll appreciate it, like we do!

  12. Mrs. 1500 says:

    I think most parents don’t teach their children about money and finances because they themselves have NO IDEA what they are doing, thanks to their parents not teaching them about finances, and so on and so on.

    I still remember that first paycheck from Dairy Queen when I was 15. “What the hell is FICA?” Ahhh, the glory days of making $3.35 an hour. (Does that show my age?)

    This is an excellent post, and thank your dad for the Candy Tax idea I will implement into Trick-or-Treating this Halloween…

    • I think I need to write a blanket apology to the next generation of trick-or-treaters….

      Yes, certainly there is an issue with parents not passing on knowledge because they are they aren’t financially literate themselves. Hope I help educate millennials and fix that for the next generation.

      P.S. Minimum wage was $3.35 in 1981…so…yes?

  13. neil combs says:

    Another fun and wonderful article! Nicely done Erin!

  14. The dreaded candy tax has befallen many a trick-or-treater. I too was victim of that tax… then I made a tax of my own and did a re-distribution of wealth between me and my siblings… I made out like Buffett.

  15. Candy tax, yes the Mrs. said her parents took their cut from her candy stash growing up but they didn’t quite call it candy tax. When I read your story especially the part about buying a toy at the shop and how you and your parents handled it reminds me exactly of my parents and I. My parents did the same thing and 9 times out of 10 I chose not to spend my own money. I learned early about money and it was the best thing my parents ever did for me. Cheers! Mr.CBB

    • Happy to meet another candy tax victim!

      Isn’t great to learn how to curb impulse purchases at an early age? Although, it may have almost gone too far in the opposite direction. The only thing I am happy to spend money on without tons and tons of analysis is travel.

      • I used to travel all over the place when I lived in the UK. Now that I live in Canada that’s a thing of the past. I was frugal when it came to booking the flights and accommodations but I always got great deals.

  16. My parents used to pull that candy tax stunt as well, and not really to teach me a financial lesson either. They are the reason that we have to have a “Financial Literacy Month”, because if everyone were well-versed it wouldn’t be necessary. I’m glad you had parents that wanted you to be able to survive in a world where pensions were non-existent and jobs weren’t guaranteed. My mom literally bought me a pair of $140 sneakers one day, because she didn’t look at the price until we got the register. I then learned that money was for buying stuff. I now think about that day in Sports Authority and remind myself about how not to teach my kids about money.

    Great post Erin, as always. We may not be a part of the most financially-literate generation, but at least we are on the front lines spreading the word.

    • Just realized I wrote a reply to this last never and never hit “post comment.” What do they say about millennials being technologically savvy?

      Thanks for the support, as always, JM!

      Have you written a post about that sneaker story that I’ve just missed? Otherwise, I think you’ve got a good little nugget there. It’s amazing how our parents’ relationship with money influences us so much. It’s a good think you didn’t have the pay 50% rule in effect because that would’ve been a big chunk of change!

  17. This is such a fun post! I was smiling the whole way through. The meeting your parents at 50% is a great lesson (although perhaps, it didn’t seem much like one then :). It’s good to hear you were raised with a good financial mindset. I know I certainly was. My dad worked at a chocolate factory, and candy was probably the last thing he wanted. So I luckily avoided the candy tax.

    • Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for reading! I really do like to have people laughing when they read my posts. Hopefully, it helps millennials see money as fun and easy to grasp.

      Lucky you to avoid the candy tax, but I’m not sure even working in a candy factory could deter me from eating it all day. The smell of your Dad’s workplace must have been AMAZING!

  18. Pauline says:

    There was a fair rationalization to the candy tax. They took you, they deserve some. I would have grabbed that concept. What I hated was anything unfair, like saying they would take you but just because they don’t feel like it (not because of a real emergency), you don’t get to go. Did you see the hidden cameras of parents telling their kids they ate all their Halloween candy? they are hilarious.

    • In my defense, I was four. Four was a little young to be grasping fairness of taxation, especially when candy was at stake! Then as I got older I started stashing the good candy in my pockets along the way so they only had tootsie-rolls and gum drops to pick from!

      And yeah, the Jimmy Kimmel videos are priceless. Did you see the bad Christmas present ones? Loved it.

  19. What a funny post! Now I have the urge for candy, preferably something with chocolate 😉
    Oh, and I loved stuffed animals when I was a kid. Teddy bears were my favorite!

    • I’m not ashamed to admit that I still have stuffed animals on my bed. I’m also not totally ready to admit that I’m a grownup yet! Financially independent, sure. Just not a “real adult.” 😛

  20. Wonderful story and super cute pictures. 🙂

  21. Great story, and one of the ways my parents indirectly taught me about finances also. Sneaky but a good one. Cute photo’s by the way

  22. LOL. The candy tax. Does seem a little rough on a 4-year old! I suppose they were lovingly preparing you for the tax man, huh? Really enjoyed the post and the loving photos!

  23. I totally would have thrown a fit too, but you know what, it was the right choice. Seems like you made the absolute best of it. College is for sure what we make of it and it looks like you had a great time!

    • #BrokeMillennial says:

      You’re spot on about college being what you make of it. I went in with a positive attitude and had a great time! Plus, I got a quality education and built a great network that helped me secure a job in the real world.

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