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Using Halloween to Teach about Taxes (aka Candy Tax)

   Posted On: October 30, 2013  |    Posted In: Personal Finance 101  |     Posted by: Broke Millennial®

A modified version of the post Candy Tax and other Childhood Grudges

Literally taking candy from a baby….

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 wearing a matching Tinker Bell ensemble. Between her huge blue eyes and my endearing wit, we were really bringing home a substantial candy haul.

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.

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.


My Dad looked at me and said, “We took you trick-or-treating, so we get some of your candy.”

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!”

Apart from my financial origin story, I learned about net profit after selling Krispy Kreme donuts at a yard sale, candy tax is my earliest memory about finance. 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 for money is empowering and, in my opinion, one of the greatest gifts parents can give their child.

holding my loot
I got defensive of my loot a little too late…

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.

I have many peers who feel some of my financial tales are cruel at best. They see it unjust that a parent would take candy from a baby, take the seed money back from donut stand profits and require a child to pay 50% of the cost of a toy (or later in life, the cost of college). Many of those peers are the same ones who don’t have any grasp on personal finance. Instead, they choose to rely on mom and dad or simply live in ignorance hoping they can pay the bills each month.

With Halloween coming up this week, I encourage those with children to consider using the holiday to teach about taxes. It might result in some tears, at first, but perhaps it will leave a lasting impression that could be the foundation for a life of financial literacy.

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26 responses to “Using Halloween to Teach about Taxes (aka Candy Tax)

  1. Great idea! I definitely plan on taking advantage of things like Halloween to teach my kids about finances (and life! haha). It makes sense for parents to get a piece or two if they are willing to bring their kid to all those houses.

  2. Ha! I guess I charge my kids the candy tax too. We always eat their candy after they go to bed for a few weeks after Halloween. But, they’re 2 and 4 and they don’t need that much candy!

  3. That’s a great idea if you have kids! I might have to do this to my nephew in a few years.. he’s just over a year old now. But taking a “candy tax” kills two birds with one stone – you get to teach a little financial lesson AND you keep the kids from completely gorging themselves on crap. Win-win!

    1. Oh the sweet sugar-induced high and the awful crash of Trick-or-Treating. Once I got wise to candy tax, I’d eat some of the good pieces while out trick-or-treating.

  4. Haha! This is fantastic. Come to think of it, my dad had a similar candy tax — although he notably only took the candy we didn’t want, so I guess he was a benevolent dictator.

    1. Wow, that is quite benevolent! Skittles were usually targeted in my house. They’re my Dad’s favorite candy.

  5. I would eat my children’s candy if only to make sure they weren’t eating 10 pieces a day for the next month. I appreciate the lesson here though. So many things to think about as a parent. Between obesity and financial responsibility, trick or treating, sounds like a parental nightmare

  6. I remember the candy tax. My parents were good at collecting too. Much like the IRS! It is a good lesson and one you don’t think of much once you get older. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. I like the candy tax. It’s a neat way to show the realities of adult life to a child. The toy idea is also a really neat idea. It reminds me of something a friend of mine had to go through when they got new toys for birthdays and christmas. For every new toy they got, they would have to choose an old toy to donate to charity. This helped the parents from gaining a lot of clutter and forced the kids to appreciate what they have and know when to let something go.

    1. I’ve heard of doing the toy donation too. I really think that’s a great way to avoid clutter and teach kids to be giving.

  8. Candy tax. Harsh!

    But I’m a huge proponent of the 50% thing. My mom did it with me, and it taught me some valuable lessons. I saved up for ages to get a Baby Heather doll, which was around $100. After a couple of hours, she’d more than lost her value.

    In fact, while playing with her in the hotel room that day, I found a Chuckie movie. As I watched it for a couple of minutes, the computer in my doll malfunctioned and started spitting its phrases on its own. I put the doll away for the rest of the day.

    Point being, I was very, very careful after that to make sure the toy would be worth it. I was much better about putting thought into toys after that.

  9. Its said only death and taxes are certain, well, guess that applies to young kids as well :) Yours is a lovely idea, using grand occassions such as halloween, Christmas, birthdays etc to teach kids about money is a sure way to impart lessons they won’t be forgetting for a long, long time.

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