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Posted on Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 9 p.m.

One mom implements her own Halloween candy 'buy back' plan

By Eva Johnson


What goes in the cart, nobody knows...

photo by flickr user Jeremy Brooks

Instead of freaking out as I have mentioned in a previous post, I thought I would take on this candy problem in a different way.

After a week of many candy meltdowns (pun intended), one resulting in a full stomach emptying vomit, I announced that I was buying back my kids' Halloween candy. With large, ridiculously sad eyes (resembling Precious Moments figurines), my kids looked up at me in surprise.

"You are taking our candy away, mommy? What are you going to do with it?"

"I am going to throw it away. However, I will pay each of you $25 for it and take you to Target to spend it. You may not buy candy with it."

Though they seemed sad, they were plucky as we piled into our car and drove over to the store. It was then that I decided to introduce their first lesson in tax law.

I said, "By the way, you can only spend $23, because of sales tax. The government takes some of the money when we spend money, and since I am giving you each $25, we have to allow for that."

Let the first lesson begin! My oldest shouts, "That's not fair! I don't like our government! Why do they take away money?" I simply reminded him that our government needs to have money to make laws and keep us safe.

To that he replied, "Why don't we get to spend like the government does?" I didn't answer that because I wanted to say,

"Why, indeed..."

So, into Target we went. I let each kid have his or her own cart so that I would hopefully avoid fights and also keep their loot separate. It was amazing to watch them try to reason out what they could spend money on and make priorities. Here were some of my favorite quotes, with my thoughts in parentheses....

"I want walkie talkies!" (Sorry, they are $50.)

"Really? I can buy this for only $1?" (Yup, the dollar section is awesome!)

"I want a Christmas tree headband!" (Okee dokee...)

"I want to put these markers back. I am getting the squishy!" (This is as my youngest picks the skull shaped gumball dispenser with squishy characters. Random doesn't begin to describe this toy...)

"I want a spycam so that I can catch people stealing stuff in my room!" (How can he tell anything is missing? I can't see the floor!)

After the kids picked their stuff, we checked out and headed home. The whole trip was fun, light-hearted and very educational! Since our outing, I haven't heard a peep about the candy. They love their new stuff, and I no longer have to hear them beg for sweets.

Yes, $25 seems like a lot of money, but they ran around for hours collecting it on Halloween, so I figured that I would give them a good rate of return. It was a lesson learned in taxes and opportunity cost. Plus, it made me feel less like a mean mommy, at least for now...

Did anyone else buy back their kids' candy? How did your adventure in finance go?

Eva Johnson is an ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified personal trainer who really does allow her kids to have treats! (Really!) She lives in chaos with her husband and two boys. To see her complete blog about how to stay sane and in shape in the real world, visit



Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 4:40 p.m.

Wow! What I read from this is: Throw away what you get for free, If your neighbors are giving you's junk, Mommy is a money tree, Let's spend money on crap from Target/China, Our government is evil for implementing taxes, Let's waste food (even if it is candy), Moderation is not tolerated (let's eat all the candy to make ourselves sick and then let's spend all this money on toys that we probably won't even look at in two minutes), Halloween is boring and not worth my (parents) time. What happened to Halloween being a community get together event or let's visit the neighbors event? How about making baskets with some of the candy/with Halloween artwork and then delivering it to a senior home (for those that can have candy still)? Humanity, community and compassionate lessons are much more valuable then let's spend money on materialistic goods that are made by slave labor from overseas.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 2:58 p.m.

I think the most fun of Halloween is dressing up, showing off your costume, and following the ritual. When I was a kid we'd say "Trick or Treat, trick or treat, give me something good to eat." My kids were only allowed to pick one or two pieces of the candy they collected and any non-candy items. But I didn't allow them to eat much candy and sweets anyway. I paid then a penny (probably would now need to be adjusted for inflation) for each piece of candy left. To this day, and they are all grown up, they still love the costuming and makeup. The candy is negligible. They loved the stash of coins, and they could do whatever they wanted with the money. Any no belly-aches or sugar highs.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:15 p.m.

Hey, I'm an older guy who lives alone so I avoid giving any food stuff or candy lest I get accused of giving something contaminated. So for years I have given my accumulated nickels and dimes at Halloween. The little kids freak out yelling; "Momma, he's giving money!!!" Much more excited then candy or chips. The older kids sometimes are put out being given ten cents rather then a Dum dum sucker that costs .01. At any rate this saves me and a roll of dimes($5.00) goes a long way. Good for everyone so why not start with the coin first & save the whole hassle?

Buster W.

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 12:53 p.m.

I think you wind up with another problem...tons of junk from the $1 bin.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 12:39 p.m.

Two of our grandchildren have food allergies but my son and daughter-in-law want them to have fun on Halloween! So the night of Halloween, the "switch-witch" comes, takes their candy (except for a few things they could eat) and leaves them a small toy! They were so excited with what the switch-witch brought, they didn't think about the candy! I'm not sure what happens to the candy though!


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 6:33 a.m.

Geez people, way to suck all the fun out of Halloween. What is the point of the kids getting all dressed up and walking around the neighborhood for hours just to have their parents steal it? Hey kids, have a big bucket of candy but you can't eat any of it. That's just cruel. Does anybody here remember being a kid?

Russ Witte

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 6:20 a.m.

Although we had our share of 'I want candy!' fits, we used the opportunity to think about others and donated part of the candy to the local food bank and most of the rest to the Blue Star Mom's to send to servicemen/women. They got to keep any toys (plastic spiders, mice and pencils mostly). No tummy ache's and only minimum fuss. We also limited the trick-or-treat time to local neighbors and once the bucket was full, we were done. Worked well this year, we'll see how well we make out next. :)

Anthony Clark

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 6:02 a.m.

I'm sorry, but this is nuts. You just throw the candy away? What does that teach the children? So wasteful. Why not give them the choice to keep the candy or take the $25? Why even let them trick or treat if you're just going to take it away from them. How silly.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 5:40 a.m.

What a load of fun you sound like. Let the kids have fun. They will never learn lessons about life if you shelter them. This will only lead to excess when they leave the nest. You deny them of the lesson of a sick stomach now, and they will discover it during binge drinking in college. Maybe a few lessons learned will prepare them for real life later. Nobody will be there to save them from a tummy ache when you're not there (well maybe Obama promises it).


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 4:48 a.m.

Why even bother getting them all custumed up and taking them around then? Why collect candy you are going to throw away? If you insist on them participating in Halloween then maybe tell them ahead of time they get to keep a certain amount, you'll "buy back" a certain amount and then donate the candy you don't want. So wasteful.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 2:50 a.m.

My kid is used to me being very strict about sweets. She gets them, sure, but not all the time. So on Halloween, she gets to pick one or two candies she wants to eat afterwards on that day. When she goes to bed I throw out most of it and just leave a few nice pieces. And most of that she eventually forgets about! She's four, so I can get away with it for now.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 2:48 a.m.

I did it a couple of years ago. I let her keep a few of the best pieces and paid her $20 for the rest.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 6:40 p.m.

Halloween is an excellent time of year for lessons in economics. One of my favorite parts of the holiday were the bartering that occurred between me and my siblings after a night of trick or treating. You could encourage that as well as buying back candy at that time if the kids choose to sell it. Set up some kind of Snickers standard or something? I doubt that kids will sell back all of their candy but if you work this market correctly you can end up with the kids selling you most of their candy while keeping those bits that are the most valuable to them (and thus, the most satisfying). And since it will all seem like something they wanted to do rather than something they were forced to do, they'll probably be even *more* satisfied.