Use Halloween to help your kids learn about money

A candy-induced stomach ache might be the ultimate lesson

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Halloween is a hectic time for parents and an exciting one for kids. Costumes and candy! What could be better? How about some financial literacy? Sounds like a bummer, but this October 31, see if you can use the spooky celebration to instil your little ones with some key financial concepts. Here are some tips from Kelley Keehn, personal finance expert and author of The Prosperity Factor for Canadian Kids.

All those bite-sized candies could be a great way to preach the virtues of delayed gratification, says Keehn. Teach your kid about the value of saving those Caramilks and spreading them out, savouring them, so they last them well into December. “It’s like how we’d be mindful with our money…delayed gratification is a good thing and it’s smart when it comes to candy. You’re going to get sick.” Studies show that indulging on stuff that makes you happy all at once won’t have as great a positive effect than if you spread those indulgences out over months and months. It’s a good precursor lesson to teach your children about the benefits of self-control.

So how exactly do you do that? Encourage asserting willpower. “Kids really like structure,” says Keehn. If you’re really serious about helping your kid make smart decisions, make a ‘candy plan’ together. Sit down with your child and figure out together how much they’re going to barter off, how much they may bring in to school to give away to friends, and how much they should be permitted to eat in a day. Telling them they can have two pieces of their favourite candy after dinner may be a good call. Of course, your kid might not be having any of that, in which case it may be best to let them binge and when they’re sick to their stomach, take the opportunity to explain the consequences of their actions.

Now, strategic consumption aside, if your kids come back overloaded with the sweet stuff, it’s time to introduce the idea of giving into the candy conversation. If your kids haul home two pillow-cases full of candy each, explain to them that it is more than enough and may be way too much for them to eat. Instead of hoarding the loot until mid-May when half of the sweets are stale and not worth consuming, why not give some away now while they’re still fresh and can be enjoyed by someone else? It may be to a neighbour or the retirement home down the street. This may be a great time to teach your kid about the benefits of charity and giving.

Of course, you don’t have to turn Halloween into a teaching moment, but some parents would say it’s a good way of controlling the chaos after the ghoulish costumes and banshee masks come off.

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